“We are on the Essex side of Forth Ethan Allen,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “So, I think a lot of people drive by here; they see there’s a fort. What does that mean? What happened here? There’s a museum you can go visit, so we’re going to go inside and we’re going to talk to William Parkinson, who’s the curator.”

“(Vermont) had a powerful (U.S.) senator (in the late 19th century), Sen. Redfield Proctor,” Parkinson said. “He had been Secretary of War, he was in charge of military appropriations and he wanted to bring a fort to Vermont. Basically, it was a training base. When you’re trying to get a bill passed (to create a military base), they used the excuse that ‘it’s an international border just a little ways up there, so we really should have a military base there’.

“When the Congress passed the bill in 1892, they said it had to be between Burlington and Canada, and it had to be on a railroad line. In 1894 — in September of 1894 — we got our first troops here, 500 men and 400 horses. In the early 1900s, (midway through the ’00s decade), the 7th Field Artillery came in.

“It was built for a peak (complement of) 8,000 men. During World War I and World War II, (the fort experienced) two massive peaks and (at those points it) had more than the 8,000 men. It basically was a town of its own. We had our own post office; tailor shop; post exchange, of course. Later, we had a movie theater; later, we had our own chapel.”

“Fort Ethan Allen hosted what we now commonly call Buffalo Soldiers (African-American soldiers during an era when the U.S. military was segregated by race),” Perkins said.

“From 1909 to 1913, the Buffalo Soldiers, (the) 10th Cavalry — they came in here and were stationed here,” Parkinson noted. “In general, by the time they left, everybody sort of said they’d been just like anyone else.”

“My grandmother used to tell me that as a young girl — we’re talking 19-teens now — she rode the trolley from Burlington to the fort to watch demonstrations, baseball games,” Perkins observed.

“A lot of the regiments, every single Saturday, would invite everybody from the local community — Chittenden County in general — and they would put on an exhibition,” Parkinson replied. “They had the bandstand, the gazebo in the park; the band would play.

“(The fort was at risk of closure) in the 1920s; we had another powerful senator, this time Frank L. Green. His son actually served here and was an officer here, and he convinced the federal government to buy 12,000 acres in Underhill, Jericho, Bolton. It’s referred to now as ‘the range’, which is still federal land, and buying that 12,000 acres made us a viable base that kept us alive for another 40 years.

“Right after World War II, when the United Nations was being formed and hadn’t been formed yet and hadn’t been determined to go to New York — there was a whole big proposal about the fort being the home of the United Nations! Can you imagine? Yeah! The museum has documents about the proposal of making this the home of the United Nations.”

“Avenue of the Americas? Nah,” Mike Hoey joked. “We’ve got Route 15; we don’t need that!”

Parkinson said, “Can you imagine what that would have been like? After World War II, the fort was closed for a little while and then (in 1952) it became Ethan Allen Air Force Base for a few years. They did finally do the shutdown in (1960).”

“After it finally closed there was some talk, I understand, of adjusting the Towns of Essex and Colchester lines geographically around it,” Hoey said.

“It seemed silly to cut it in half — actually, it’s about a third in Essex and two-thirds in Colchester — so there was talk about just moving the line, moving the Colchester line to the edge of the fort and having it all be Colchester,” Parkinson added.”But it wasn’t accepted and it wasn’t done.”

Perkins asked, “So, if people want to learn more about the fort, how can they do that?”

“The museum is open when we’re here — but we are here every day, at least some,” Parkinson said. “If you’re not living close by and just happen to see it open, the smartest way is to call us and just say ‘when will you be open?’.”