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.
Posted on October 25, 2011, in NYC past, Uncategorized and tagged abandoned, civil war, fort, fort totten, fortification, history, new york, new york city, queens, totten. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.