Fort Wadsworth

FortWadsworth_signature_2007_JeanGleisner_002.jpg
Staten Island, NY
United States
Fort Wadsworth

Landscape Information

Flagstaff Fort

This 226-acre military installation on the northeast shore of Staten Island is one of the oldest military sites in the United States. Its landscape reflects the Second (1802-1815) and Third (1816-1860) Systems of Coastal Fortification, as well as the Endicott Period (1885-1904), and includes Battery Weed (completed 1862) and Fort Tomkins (completed 1876), which were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and 1974, respectively. The Second System of fortification combined agricultural, defense, and recreational landscapes. Despite the presence of military infrastructure, the area remained in use as pastureland and an unsanctioned public park -- a use that continued from the early nineteenth century until the site’s inclusion in the Staten Island unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area in 1995. Third System landscape alterations, designed by Major General Joseph Totten, U.S. Chief Engineer, included extensive grading, installation of large areas of manicured turf, and a moat around the newly built granite Battery Weed. The Endicott Period included installation of a torpedo defense system and access via railroad and streetcar to the newly minted borough of Staten Island.

After World War I, the fort evidenced a brief lull in activity, its use as a park being further encouraged by the construction of three walks extending along the overlook to Battery Weed, until World War II brought new threats of aerial attacks and thus a need to conceal armament under vegetation. After World War II, Fort Wadsworth remained active, and from 1954 to 1966, it operated as the radar command control center for the New York-New Jersey area NIKE missile systems. Construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (1959-1964), which cuts the site east-west, dramatically altered the historic viewshed. Today, the site houses U.S. Coast Guard and National Parks facilities and housing, and is traversed by boardwalks and bike paths along its southern shoreline, which connects a series of parks within the Gateway.