ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. --
Fort Macon State Park is the second oldest and one of the most visited state parks in North Carolina.
The fort was built after the War of 1812 and was occupied during the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War II.
“The fort was built to guard the Beaufort Harbor, one of the two seaports in North Carolina,” said Paul Branch, a park ranger and fort historian at the park. “Beaufort Harbor is the only port which opens directly to the ocean, since the port of Wilmington, the other seaport in North Carolina, is situated up the Cape Fear River.”
When the Army put the fort up for sale in 1923, the state reached out to the public to help secure funds to make it a state park.
In February 1924, legislators introduced a bill allowing the War Department to cede the facility to the state without cost. On June 1, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed the bill into law with the condition that the state use it for public purposes only, said Branch.
The abandoned fort became North Carolina’s second state park on July 17, 1925.
The fort was again occupied for military purposes from 1941-1944 during WWII and was reopened as a state park in 1946.
Cannons are displayed throughout the fort as well as displays that describe what life was like when the fort was in use.
Now, the park is open year round and offers many different free events and places to go.
Some of these events include daily tours, concerts, civil war re-enactments, musket firing demonstrations, cannon firings, nature tours and a protected swimming area.
Tours are offered daily at 11 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. The next summer concert will feature The Carteret Sunshine Band May 31. There will be a Civil War re-enactment July 20 and 21. Musket demonstrations are held Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Coast Guard comes to Fort Macon at 4 p.m. for cannon demonstrations and to fire the evening gun at 4 p.m every Wednesday from June-August. The evening gun is when a gun or cannon is fired at sunset to signal the lowering of the flag.
Visitors can walk around the fort during normal operating hours without a tour guide and view the displays presented.
For more information on Fort Macon or the events offered, call 726-2775.