Shadows of the past look different by candlelight at Fort Vancouver

People who enter Fort Vancouver are walking in the same place where Hudson’s Bay employees went about their business — fur-trading — some 170 years ago.

But a daytime stroll during normal visiting hours is not a totally immersive experience.

For that, come back after lengthening shadows have melted together into evening darkness. That’s when modern visitors have the same experience as the 1840s occupants of Fort Vancouver.


Ranger Avarie Fitzgerald, foreground, and volunteer Matt Dalimata light candles in lanterns that will be issued to visitors for An Evening at the Fort, a tour at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Amanda Cowan/The Columbian

They share the night.

Providing an after-dark experience is the heart of lantern walks at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

The 7 p.m. tours — An Evening at the Fort — bring visitors into several replica buildings, where people portraying Hudson’s Bay employees reflect what was going on in the autumn of 1845.


Visitors carrying lanterns wait outside the replica Hudson’s Bay Company counting house during an evening tour offered by Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Amanda Cowan/The Columbian

While costumed re-enactors and building tours are fixtures at the historic site, night brings other dimensions.

“It’s a timeless feeling,” participant Avarie Fitzgerald said.

There are some practical aspects to it.

“At night, there is less noise, not as much traffic and fewer airplanes,” noted Fitzgerald, a National Park Service ranger who was part of the season-opening Fort Vancouver tour on Oct. 28.

But it’s not just turning down a busy city’s volume knob. While you might be on the same piece of ground, you’re in a different place. It’s the difference between an exhibit and an experience.

Lantern-carrying visitors can immerse themselves in an environment that echoes the day-to-day lives of our 1840s predecessors.

And that, Fitzgerald said, “is way more valuable than reading a sign.”

The next lantern tour — the second of five monthly candle-lit walks — is on Saturday. There also are two remaining lantern tours through Vancouver Barracks, a former U.S. Army post that now is part of the national park.

— Photos by Amanda Cowan and story by Tom Vogt

read more: