Places that Matter

Fort Wadsworth

Overview, Chester Burger
Overview, Chester Burger
19th century harbor fortifications
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Place Matters Profile

The forts at either end of the soaring Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge are among the oldest military installations in the country, guardians of New York Harbor for more than 150 years. Fort Hamilton, on the Brooklyn side, is still an active army base. On Staten Island, Fort Wadsworth is a massive polygonal fortification occupying 226 acres on a grassy hillside overlooking the Upper and Lower New York bays.

This location was first fortified by the British in 1779 and later taken over by the American military. The granite and brick buildings that survive today were built between the years of 1859 and 1876. Because of its strategic location, Fort Wadsworth remained important through the 19th and 20th centuries, updated as military technology evolved. During the Cold War, it served as the control center for New York City's Nike missile defense system.

Even though parts of the fort remained in continuous service, the old structures deteriorated until in 1995 they were rehabilitated to become part of  the National Park Service’s Gateway National Recreation area. Today most of Fort Wadsworth, including a spiffy visitors center, is open to the public.