Fort de Chartres illuminates a side of Illinois
history that many are unaware of. From 1720 to 1763 the French ruled territory
in what is now Illinois and centered their power at a series of three forts
of this name along the Mississippi River. Although erosion from the river destroyed
most of the original buildings, archeologists have brought some of the building
back to life. The Fort de Chartres State Historic Site is the last of these
three forts to survive, and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has partially
reconstructed and restored the fort to provide visitors a glimpse of what life
must have been like under French rule.
Life during other period of Illinois history can also be explored during a vacation to the state, including prehistoric times with a visit to Cahokia Mounds and more American history at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield.
Fort de Chartres Illinois was built in the 1750s and abandoned in 1771. The stone fort also contains elements of historical remains of earlier wooden forts built on the same location. The French government built this fort originally to protect its interests along the Mississippi, and colonial life is reconstructed today through this historical site. Visitors can learn how colonial people lived and worked and about the influence of military presence on their every day lives. The reconstructed fort also displays the emphasis on protection with weapons, from cannons to musket ports.
Throughout the year, Fort de Chartres State Historic Site hosts many events for the public. On the first weekend in May is the annual Kids Day, with specially designed programs to display the life and times of the fort to children. Through eighteenth-century games, crafts for children of all ages, and contests, kids can learn about history over the course of a fun day. The first weekend is June is host to the two-day Rendezvous at Fort de Chartres, where visitors can participate in shooting competitions, military drills, a market of eighteenth-century style goods, and music. Traditional food and drink from that era is also available over the course of the weekend.
One more annual event rounds out the calendar for Fort de Chartres Illinois: the first weekend in October, which marks the site’s French and Indian War Assemblage. On a regular visit to Fort de Chartres, visitors will see structures including barracks, the king’s storehouse, and guards’ house. All rebuilt to reflect their original size and character, these buildings are complemented by a museum on the site that displays artifacts discovered on the site. Used to interpret information about the Fort de Chartres State Historic Site, these artifacts have been studied by archaeologists seeking to understand more about the original French settlement.
Fort de Chartres Illinois is closed on Monday and Tuesday, but it's open year-round the rest of the week from 9 am. The site is closed on most national holidays, and though they do not allow camping on the grounds, exceptions can be made for groups of Boy Scouts. Other special events can be held at the fort as well, including weddings. A picnic area is available to visitors and hunting is also available on the grounds in season.