Stereograph of Fort Hamilton, c. 1850

Contemporary view of one of the buildings now on the National Register of Historic Places

Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton was one of the key installations in the New York Harbor fortification scheme. It was a Third System fort begun in 1825 on the Brooklyn shoreline to work in concert with Fort Lafayette in the Narrows itself, and Forts Tompkins and Richmond on Staten Island, to prevent (probably British) ships from entering the Upper Harbor. A young Captain Robert E.Lee was stationed at Fort Hamilton in the 1840s, the four forts I mentioned and the numerous others as well. Unlike the rest, Fort Hamilton is still an active military base.

Verrazano Narrows from Fort Tompkins

The harbor was among the places on the Eastern Seaboard hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. I was speaking on the phone last week with a friend, a ranger at one of the harbor parks, who said he has been laid off until the cleanup ends, whenever that is. Fort Hamilton seems to have been spared the worst, though many of its personnel have been hit hard personally by the storm. Hamilton is now one of the command centers for the recovery. According to Don Bradshaw, the deputy to the garrison’s commanding officer, “To my knowledge, this is the first time that Fort Hamilton has actually been designated a base support installation.”

(images top to bottom: NYPL, Jeffrey W75, Keith Muchowski)