The War of 1812 revealed how defenseless the United States coast was so construction of Fort Macon began in 1826. The Army Corps of Engineers built it over eight years according to General Simon Bernard's design. It was named for Nathaniel Macon, an important North Carolinian of the time.
Beaufort had been attacked several times over the previous years. The first time was by Tuscarora Indians, then Blackbeard and in August 26, 1747, by Spanish privateers. During the American Revolution, the British attacked in 1782 and during the War of 1812, British ships would demand supplies from the town.
There had been a previous small fort at the site, but it was washed away by a hurricane in 1825.
Fort Macon was a five-sided star fort built of brick and stone. Its outer walls were 4.5 feet thick.
It was leased by the U.S. government from the state during World War II. It became North Carolina's second state park in 1926 (Mt. Mitchell was the first one). The park consists of 424 acres.