Fort Orange was a Dutch outpost along the western shore of the Hudson River, on the present day site of Albany, New York. The Fort was constructed in 1624 by the Dutch West India Company as a headquarters for their newly established fur trade. Structurally, Fort Orange was very similar to other fortifications that were constructed by the West India Company. Fort Orange became the precursor to the more extensive colonization of the upper Hudson Valley, the settlement of Beverwijck, and the present cities of the Capitol District.
Fort Orange was not the first settlement by Europeans in the area. In 1615, the Dutch built a trading post on an island in the middle of the Hudson River, called Fort Nassau. The island seemed to be a great location to capitalize on the river traffic of the native tries. Unfortunately, the island was also prone to flooding in the spring, and the traders abandoned the fort in 1618.
The Dutch West India Company decided to build a more permanent fort in the area, this time on the mainland. A location was selected just to the north of the island on the western shore. The fort consisted of a wood stockade surrounding the main dormitories and an armory. There were a few structures located outside of the stockade, mostly farms and a few residences. Dutch fur traders would bring back furs fro the interior to stockpile at Fort Orange, which would then be loaded up on larger ships and sent down the river to the port at New Amsterdam.
Fort Orange suffered a setback in 1628, when a group from the Mohawk tribe attacked the captain of the fort and a small detachment of troops. Peter Minuit, the governor of New Netherland, became so concerned about the security of Fort Orange that he evacuated all but a small garrison back to Manhattan.
Instead of trying to control the fur trade monopoly, the Dutch West India Company decided to tax the pelts instead, which led to new settlers coming to Fort Orange to make their fortunes. They formed a settlement just to the north of the fort, named Beverwijck, which quickly grew larger than the fort could safely defend. Governor Peter Stuyvesant requested that Fort Orange be rehabilitated in order to defend the area, but his requests were denied. After a flood in 1656 made the fort uninhabitable, it was abandoned.
The British gained control of the Hudson Valley in 1664, and renamed the settlement Albany. A new and larger fort was constructed on the heights to the west of Albany to defend the area from raids. The old Fort Orange continued to deteriorate on the shore of the river. The land the fort occupied was eventually sold to a Dutch Reformed church to be used as a pasture. In maps in the late 1600's, area is labeled as 'Ruins of an Old Fort.' By 1769, Richard Smith wrote that there was "nothing to be seen of Fort Orange... but the Ditch which surrounded it."
Today there is a growing interest in the city of Albany to commemorate the first years of the settlement of Albany. On the former site of the fort, archeological digs have uncovered several Dutch artifacts, including delft tiles. Governor George Pataki has given the city a $300,000 grant to investigate the construction of the New Netherland Museum on the Albany waterfront. The museum would include a reproduction of Fort Orange, and a permanent mooring for the recreation of Hudson's ship, the Halve Maen.
Fort Orange is aslo the name of a former paper manufacturing company based in Castleton-on-Hudson, New York.