Located on the side of the Verrazanno-Narrows Bridge opposite Bay Ridge’s Fort Hamilton, Fort Wadsworth was once possibly the longest continually-manned military installation in the country. Since the closure of the military fort in 1994, the National Park Service’s Gateway National Recreation Area has managed the property. It is open to the public daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Built around 1636, the fort began as a Dutch blockhouse. In 1779, the British fortified Fort Wadsworth and used it as the prime defensive location for the rest of the Revolutionary War. Troops occupied the fort during the War of 1812 and the Civil War. However, northern Civil War troops only stood guard.
The original fort structure was replaced between 1847 and 1862. This new design included weaponry that would create a new system of defense in the United States. Following the rebuilding of the fort, the military base was named Fort Richmond. The fort became Fort Wadsworth following the death of Brevet Major General James Wadsworth. He was mortally wounded at the Civil War’s Battle of the Wilderness.
Only occupied by occasional military brigades and branches, the Staten Island fort slowly fell into disrepair following World War I. From 1955 to 1960, the 52nd Anti-Aircraft (AAA) Brigade headquarters were at Fort Wadsworth. This brigade oversaw the Nike Missile firing batteries of the New York Defenses during the height of the Cold War. The United States Army Chaplain School occupied a portion of the property from 1974 to 1979.
Since the Park Service took over the property, the Coast Guard, the Army Reserve, and the Park Police have maintained buildings throughout the property. However, large portions of Fort Wadsworth remain abandoned. Hurricane Sandy caused further damage on the property.
The Battery Weed, an abandoned structure protecting the Narrows, is photogenic against the Brooklyn shoreline and Manhattan skyline. Visitors travel to Staten Island for these views — and haunted experiences.
Many Fort Wadsworth visitors have claimed to see apparitions of soldiers seemingly walking through the decaying walls. Others have seen the same apparitions traveling through moving vehicles on the fort’s property. For some staring at an open field on the property, fallen soldiers suddenly appeared before their eyes. After blinking in disbelief, the apparition disappeared.
The most descriptive haunted experience comes from a woman who claims she traveled back in time to wartime. Occupying the body of a nurse with curly hair, the woman saw an overwhelming amount of wounded and dead soldiers. After a healthy soldier grabbed her arm because of an incoming explosion, she returned to the present.
These allegedly haunted experiences allude to only some of the secrets hidden within the walls of Fort Wadsworth. Before Hurricane Sandy, the public only knew the Endicott Batteries existed within the fort. However, the severe hurricane exposed the entrance to a new battery after a section of a cliff collapsed.
You can visit Fort Washington with park ranger programs and stay tuned on the National Park Service website for updates on opening hours and more.
Next, check out 18 of New York City’s former military forts!