Where We Live: Fort Vancouver

Fort Vancouver hosts one of the largest 4th of July fireworks displays in the west

The Fort Vancouver Stockade, file

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — A big renovation project is underway at one the most historic sites in the Northwest: Fort Vancouver.

The Fort Vancouver of today is known for its large 4th of July fireworks display, but it was originally an outpost of the British Empire, the Colonial capitol of the Northwest and the center of commerce in the early to mid-1800s.

Fort Vancouver was established in 1825 as the headquarters for Britain’s Hudson’s Bay Company, an international conglomerate involved in the Northwest’s lucrative fur trade.

Fort Vancouver was the headquarters for Hudson's Bay Company
Fort Vancouver was the headquarters for Hudson’s Bay Company

“This was all about men’s fashions for hats, and specifically for beaver,” says Robert Cromwell with the National Park Service.

Fort Vancouver was part of the Oregon Territory and the fur trade, which is why Oregon is known as the Beaver State.

Dr. John McLoughlin, from Quebec, ran the outpost for years. He eventually retired to Oregon City. McLoughlin Blvd. is named after him, who is considered the ‘Father of Oregon.’

Hudson’s Bay was into everything from logging to commercial fishing to agriculture. It controlled thousands of acres of land.

The fort burned to the ground in 1866, after the British left, but while the US and Britain still squabbled over who owned it.

Today, Fort Vancouver is a National Park, reconstructed to what it looked like in the 1800s. Millions of historical artifacts, from British ceramics to pipes are still being found on the property. But, like everything, it needs maintenance. The fort is undergoing renovation to its wooden palisade and the roof of the fur warehouse.

Alex Patterson, facilities manager at Fort Vancouver, March 2016 (KOIN)
Alex Patterson, facilities manager at Fort Vancouver, March 2016 (KOIN)

“We want to make sure that we’re preserving our heritage,” Facility Manger Alex Patterson tells KOIN 6 News.

While the giant fence surrounding the fort was used for protection, that wasn’t the primary function of the palisade. Fort Vancouver was really the area’s first gated community. Wealthy gentlemen of the Hudson’s Bay Company and their families lived inside the fort. Employees and servants lived in the surrounding area.

Fort Vancouver will stay open while the work is being done. It is expected to finish by late summer.

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