Sunday, November 29, 2009
Fort Totten, formerly known as Willet's Point, is a combination of many things: park with baseball fields and swimming pool, fire department practice site, Coast Guard, military base, research center and a collection of late 19th century buildings, but mostly it is a Civil War era fort. Built in 1862, the fort was built to pair with Fort Schuyler, directly across the river. The two forts protected the entrance to the East River but it wasn't in service for very long, and since then the area has been used for a lot of different things, mostly military. The original fort remains mostly intact. It is made from reinforced concrete, so the bones are in good shape even if there isn't much trace of its contents, because I must assume that the full sized plastic cannon sitting out there is not from the Civil War.
Twice a year the Park Rangers give a tour of the tunnels that housed the ammunition, guns, bullets, artillery and other words denoting fire power. According to the ranger, the strongest gun was able to shoot accurately for 8 miles, and after they installed them, took them out since they were too long range for this location. The guns that were installed here were never fired in combat, and I think only a few times for testing. Apparently, when fired, they blew out the windows of nearby houses.
The tunnels are mostly storage areas, are pitch black (note to self: next time bring a flashlight), and full of cave crickets and graffiti. Nonetheless, it was a fun day out, and a highly recommended tour for any history buff.