235 years later, Fort Steuben is still a place where community flourishes

Jefferson County
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October 31 2021 11:59 pm

Steubenville, Ohio (WTRF) – A gateway to the Buckeye State—and to the West.

That was the role of Fort Steuben in the late 1700s—and two centuries later, it’s serving that role once again.

These walls may not be the original ones that stood in the Revolutionary era, but they’re a living reminder of the small military base to which Ohio owes its early history.

So who is the fort named after?

We’ll let Baron von Steuben himself explain.

I was hired in Paris by Benjamin Franklin to come and train the troops. And so I did that, a couple of years after that, they named a fort after me, one of the guys that I trained, Captain Hamtramck, built a fort and named it after me and I was so pleased, and that’s why Fort Steuben is called Fort Steuben.

Dr. John Holmes, Baron von Steuben impersonator, Franciscan University professor

While the baron never made it out here to visit his namesake base, he should be proud that it played a huge role in westward expansion.

Soldiers stationed there protected surveyors sent by the Continental Congress to map out the hilly land.

It was the first time Americans were able to make a home in the Northwest Territory, which included not only Ohio, but Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin as well.

It’s vitally important in our national story, but it’s also important for our local story as well.

Paul Zuros, Executive Director, Historic Fort Steuben

So that was then—but what about in 20-21?

Despite its rustic appearance, it’s still one of the main parts of life in modern-day Steubenville.

Visitors stroll by in the summer to enjoy the fountain, the seating area, and a fantastic view of the bridge.

And for the winter months, the Valley flocks to see the nutcrackers that come alive along the walkways.

This has really become the catalyst for revitalization of downtown Steubenville.

Paul Zuros, Executive Director, Historic Fort Steuben

And you wouldn’t expect a historic landmark to also be a music destination, but that’s the purpose of its downhill ampitheater.

Anyone who drives by on Thursday nights in July or August knows every seat is occupied—and the hillside is filled with lawn chairs.

It’s just a great gift that we can give to the community, they’re free concerts.

Paul Zuros, Executive Director, Historic Fort Steuben

In short, the fort serves much the same purpose today as it did when it was built—a place to let community grow.

And Baron von Steuben agrees.

I think that my legacy should be peace. The fort was here to keep the peace, there was no battles actually in Fort Steuben, so I think that would be very important.

Dr. John Holmes, Baron von Steuben impersonator, Franciscan University professor

The wooden fence and log cabins may look like an anachronism next to the cars rushing by on the highway.

But it nicely sums up what Fort Steuben is—a monument outside of time, where history and modern life go hand in hand.

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