Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island

October 22, 2021

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Welcome to Fort Wadsworth, here on the northeastern shore of Staten Island–all 226 acres of it.  This Fort was strategically located here situated on The Narrows of the NY Bay–the narrowest section of the Bay separating Brooklyn from Staten Island.   The Narrows divides NY Bay into upper and lower halves–Manhattan being in the upper bay. 

This Fort is actually one of the oldest military installations in the country!   In fact, at one time, Fort Wadsworth was the longest continually operating military fort in the Nation. Now it is a public park and part of the Gateway National Recreation Area here on Staten Island.

It’s open everyday from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. but due to the pandemic the Fort Wadsworth Visitor Center, the Fort Wadsworth Museum and the Mont Sec House are all currently closed to the public.

Facilities at Fort Wadsworth include the:

-Visitor Center, currently closed

-Mont Sec House–situated on The Fort’s Officer’s Row dating back to 1890.  Currently closed.

-Walking and biking trails–OPEN and Welcoming You!

-Campgrounds–there are 7 tent sites and hot showers here (during normal times this would be open during the summer

months), and

-Fort Wadsworth Overlook, which may have the best and most peaceful  views of our New York Harbor on  

 all of Staten Island.  See for yourself!      Seriously good!    Picnic…

-Museum is at the Visitor’s Center.    You can learn the history of this Fort from the American Revolution though the Cold

War era.     If it were open, admission would be free.

And currently limited Ranger programs have resumed.

You know I am a dog lover and Tabu, my GSD, wants me to be sure to mention the rules for our 4 legged companions at the Fort and the Gateway National Recreation parks on the Island:   The Staten Island Unit encompasses Miller Field, Fort Wadsworth and the Great Kills Park. Your dog is prohibited at any of the swimming beaches at Great Kills Park during the busy season from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but can enjoy the sun and sand the rest of the year. Your dog is also not allowed on the campgrounds at Camp Hudson inside Fort Wadsworth.

When you go visit…remember, please:  Masks ARE required for everyone regardless of location and/or vaccination status in all buildings, crowded outdoor spaces as well.

HISTORY

Between 1776 and 1783, Staten Island as well as the rest of NY City–and State Island was not par of NYC during this period, were both occupied by the British.  In 1779, the British fortified the area that is now known as Fort Wadsworth, but it was not until the early 1800’s and after the revolution that NY State set about planning and building fortifications there to help defend The Narrows.

Please NOTE:   In 1898 Staten Island, as Richmond, became one of NYC’s boroughs.

Fort Wadsworth was one of several coastal fortifications built during this period–the purpose of protect NY Harbor from foreign interference.   Other forts built include:

Fort Lafayette in Brooklyn,

Castel Williams and Fort Jay on Governor’s Island,

Food Wood on Liberty Island, and

Fort Gibson on Ellis Island.

This collection of forts came to be known as the Second American System of coastal defense.

In 1841, NYS gave the War Department permission to occupy part of Fort Wadsworth.  By 1847 the entire Fort was under federal control, but it was not called Fort Wadsworth in those days!   It was known as Battery Weed.    Battery Weed was re-built from 1847 to 1862 and called Fort Richmond.    Then in 1865 it was renamed Fort Wadsworth to honor Brevet Major General James Wadsworth, who was killed in the Battle of the Wilderness during the Civil War.

Then during the Spanish American War (1898), the Fort was greatly expanded.

In 1907 electric lights, search lights and other electrical items were introduced.

During WW I, guns here were manned by soldiers.

During WWII, operational control of the Fort returned to the Coast Artillery.  The main defense was anti-aircraft guns.

From 1955 until 1960 Fort Wadsworth was headquarters of the 52nd Anti-Aircraft Brigade.

And from 1974 until 1979, the U.S. Army Chaplain School was located on the site in Fort Tompkins.

Then in 1979 the Army vacated the site and the U.S. Navy made it the headquarters of Naval Station New York. That lasted until 1994, when the U.S. Navy turned Fort Wadsworth over to the National Park Service.

FORT WADSWORTH LIGHT

First time it was lit up was the spring of 1903.  The lighthouse is a red brick tower sitting atop Battery Weed. It was de-activated in 1965 when the Verrazano Narrows Bridge made its function obsolete.