Forgotten Fort Totten

150 years ago, at the edge of the city, on a point of land where the East River meets the Long Island Sound, where Queens washes into the suburbs, the federal government constructed Ft Totten.  This was in 1862, when the Confederacy was at the height (at least psychologically) of its power.  A paranoid North was engaged in bucking up its defenses for the terrible possibility that its cities would be threatened by the rebels.

Ft. Totten was intended to protect New York City’s northeastern maritime approach.  Its construction was planned soon after the War of 1812, when the British sacking of the capital exposed a glaring lack of sea defense.

Parts of the fort still occupy the edge of the strait.  The surrounding land is now divided amongst the NYPD, the FDNY, the Navy Reserve, and the Coast Guard.  Despite the proximity of these high-powered agencies, the Fort itself is remarkably easy to infiltrate.

On this very stormy day, everything was drenched and water was everywhere – leaking through the cracks of fortified  stone, puddling on time-worn floors, pouring from ceilings.  There are doors that lead to dark tunnels and into cavernous cisterns, where no light penetrates and all sounds that enter are  returned in the sort of echoes that only huge empty spaces could create.

This was sort of a random expedition, and we were not properly equipped with flashlights, otherwise we might have gone deeper.  There are rumors that there exists a tunnel which burrows under the East River to Ft. Schuyler across in the Bronx.

Aside from the rushes of sweeping rain and wind, a damp silence takes eerie hold along the seaward gun turrets.  At the very bottom floor, storm waves crash and spray through the windows and the stone walls respond with reverberant groans.  The fort has been obsolete for a century, its officers long forgotten.  A lonely single gun points to the water- waiting for an enemy that never came and never will come.






About ventilateblog MUSIC Classically trained cellist. Attended Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University - degree in Music Composition, and three years of recording arts and audio electrical engineering. Multiple works for chamber groups and orchestra have been produced and performed. Singer-songwriter with rock and folk roots.. Electronica. Today, it's about mashing together all these things into improbable hybrids. Also, a longtime educator of music. PHOTOGRAPHY Unpredictable and in the moment is what I love. Streets, architecture, and people. Ruined places. History. Frozen moments. Great love for imagines wrought by beautiful mystery of film and vintage cheapy cameras. WRITING The vague, ephemeral. The historical - the ghosts behind the veil of time. Delving deeply into the intricacies of our physical and cultural world. Relaying memory and longing. And sometimes the absurd. Life runs deep. Life

Posted on October 25, 2011, in NYC past, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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