Fort St. Joseph to host annual open house Aug. 5-6

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, July 25, 2023

NILES — The Fort St. Joseph Archaeology Project is celebrating 25 years of discovery and is inviting the community to explore the fort.

The Western Michigan University Archaeological Field School has been gearing up for the annual Archaeology Open House. The annual event is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5 and Sunday, Aug. 6 near Fort and Bond streets where the Fort once stood. A celebration event will be hosted at the start of the event at 10 a.m. Aug. 7.

Fort St. Joseph was founded in 1691 and was abandoned in 1781. It was a trading post, mission and garrison located on the St. Joseph River in Niles. The Fort was controlled by three European countries: France, Britain and Spain, and was also occupied by several Native American groups, including the Potawatomi.

The project is a collaboration between Western Michigan University and the city of Niles, with support from the greater community.

Over the last 25 years, WMU archaeology staff and students have worked to reveal the history of Niles’ Fort St. Joseph, to the tune of uncovering more than 300,000 artifacts related to colonial life here: beads, animal bones, religious medallions, weaponry, tools and more. 

“Over the past 25 years, the Project has developed to offer summer camps, lectures  and events and of course the Open House where the community is invited to see history come to life,” said Christina Arseneau of the Niles History Center.  

This year’s event will showcase the information gleaned about the lives at the post and the relevance to the present. During the open house, the archeologists will share their findings as visitors are invited to tour the field and talk with the archaeology crew. All ages will enjoy meeting reenactors who portray “people of the post” and offer fun activities and demonstrations. 

Berrien County Parks Department will be on hand to speak about wildlife at the Fort. Sarrett Nature Center will offer rides on a 30-foot replica Voyageur canoe along the St. Joseph River. The event will also feature an Ask an Archaeologist table, where residents can learn more about items they have found in their own backyards.

Attendance and all of the Open House activities are free, though donations will be accepted to support the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project.

Merchandise and food will be available for sale. Several community groups have helped to sponsor the event including Support the Fort Inc. and the City of Niles.

For further information, visit or contact the Niles History Center at (269) 845-4054.