Constructed in 1862, Fort Totten served as a defense buffer for New York Harbor during the Civil War. Although the fort was never attacked during those years, it serves as an important training area and supply base- a role that continued after the war. The Fort was named in honor of General Joseph Totten, who served as the Chief Engineer of the United States Army from 1838 until his death in 1864. In 1987, New York City was given the fort along with 10 acres, which was turned into a park. The rest of the land around the park was used by the Army and the Coast Guard. Then, in 2001, the park expanded when 93 acres of land was acquired by park planners.
Backstory and Context
Fort Totten is located in an area of Bayside first settled by colonists during the American Revolution. Before colonists moved into the area, Matinecock Indians lived on the lands. During the Civil War, the North needed a way to protect the East River, so builders completed plans for the fort, which were actually designed in 1857 by Robert E. Lee while he served as a captain. Across the East River, Fort Schuyler sat in defense of the River as well. Fort Totten never saw any action during the Civil War, and after the war ended, the Fort became obsolete because technology had developed beyond the Fort's capabilities.
In 1987, New York City was given Fort Totten as a gift along with ten acres of land, which the City turned into a park. The actual Fort has been used for a range of purposes from a fire department to a theater. In 2001, the City received another 93 acres of land, which extended the park and allowed the city to add sport's fields, areas to eat, and other accommodations for the public to enjoy.
"Totten, Joseph Gilbert, 1788-1864." Tulane University. Accessed Web, 7/9/17. http://specialcollections.tulane.edu/archon/?p=creators/creator&id=733.
"Madison, Jennifer. Pictured: Inside the Abandoned Military Fortress That Guarded New York Harbour During the Civil War." Daily Mail. 2/24/12. Accessed Web, 7/9/17. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2105677/Fort-Totten-Inside-abandoned-military-fortress-guard....
Thayer, William P. "Joseph G. Totten." University of Chicago. Accessed Web, 7/11/17. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/America/United_States/Army/USMA/Cullums_Register/10*.html.