In December 1718, the new French Commandant of French Illinois country, Pierre Boisbriant, arrived in Kaskaskia with 100 soldiers and a support team. One of his first tasks was to build a fort, which he named after the Duke of Chartres, the son of the French regent, no doubt to gain his favor. The wooden structure was completed in 1721.
Thirty years later, Chevalier de Makarty rebuilt the fort with stone. The French didn’t get to enjoy it for long. The English defeated the French in the Seven Years’ War/French and Indian War and took possession of the territory where Fort Chartres is located. Still, it took about two years for the first British troops to reach and physically possess it.
They must have had buyer’s remorse, though, because in 1772 they abandoned it, as the Mississippi River kept creeping ever closer to the fort’s walls. When the fort was completed in 1721, the Mississippi was a mile away, but by 1770 it was practically next door. The British moved to Fort Kaskaskia, which they renamed Fort Gage.
Not long after Fort de Chartres was completed, a small village sprung up just outside its walls that was called St Anne (after the church built by Jesuits, St. Anne de Fort Chartres) or New Chartres. In 1764, there were forty families living in the village, mostly soldiers and their families and a few merchants who served them. After the British took control of the territory, the village closed its doors, as folks moved away to St. Louis and Sainte Genevieve.
In 1817, over forty years after the fort had been abandoned, Judge Brackenridge was in a group of tourists who visited the old area. He wrote that the fort
…is a noble ruin, and is visited by strangers as a great curiosity…The outward wall, barracks, and magazine are still standing. There are a number of cannon lying half buried in the earth with their trunnions broken off.
The US government finally disposed of the land in 1849, and a local took over, building a cabin and farm buildings within the old fort walls. The State of Illinois later purchased the property and opened it as a state park in 1913. The powder magazine, the only surviving structure, was repaired shortly after that.
In the 1920s, the gate was rebuilt (and has been rebuilt a couple of times since then), In the 1930s, crews with the Works Progress Administration rebuilt a couple of other buildings. The fort took on fifteen feet of water in the Great Flood of 1993, but a concerted effort from volunteers and the state cleaned it up and put it back together. The fort today is preserved as a state historic site.