Fort Wadsworth: The Visitor Center Catch-22

By January 31, 2012blog
Fort Wadsworth: Looking over the tiered granite cannon mounts of Battery Weed to the harbor beyond

This architect finally made the trip to Fort Wadsworth and you should too: it is a magnificent site laced with footpaths that offer incredible views of 19th century battlements, the New York harbor, and the Verrazano Bridge.

Just don’t count on actually getting to enter the forts.

Like contemporaries such as Castle Clinton in Battery Park, Fort Jay on Governor’s Island, or Fort Schuyler at SUNY Maritime, the main structures of Wadsworth, Battery Weed (the eastern structure) and Fort Tompkins (containing the former parade grounds) were constructed with 6′ thick walls to withstand bombardment and the wear and tear of garrisoned soldiers.

But unlike their contemporaries, the staffed visitor facility for Fort Wadsworth is so removed from the historic buildings that Fort Tompkins is generally shown only once a day, and Battery Weed is totally off limits.

So we close and stop maintaining the perfectly serviceable historic forts to build and staff a new strip-mall-like visitor center; its not quite the same as destroying a village in order to save it, but certainly a logic that Joseph Heller would have appreciated.

Fort Wadsworth: Looking over the tiered granite cannon mounts of Battery Weed to the harbor beyondLooking over the tiered granite cannon mounts of Battery Weed to the harbor beyond. 

Fort Wadsworth and Verrazano-Narrows BridgeA terrific juxtaposition of construction technologies, topography & time.

Fort Wadsworth aerial mapSite plan indicating where the visitor center is and where it should be.

Arcade of former Quartermaster offices & shops in Fort TompkinsThe arcade of former Quartermaster offices & shops in Fort Tompkins that bustled with people for decades and is now, inexplicably, abandoned.

Fort Tompkins Quartermasters office interior brick archAn example of the Quartermaster offices, closed to the public except for special tours.
It is one of many spaces within the fort that would have been a fantastic for a Visitor’s Center.

Fort Wadsworth banal Visitor Center with blacked-out windows, an inglorious front door to one of New York City's finest sitesInstead of access to the forts, we underwrite a banal Visitor Center with blacked-out windows, an inglorious front door to one of New York City’s finest sites.