Staten Island Neighborhood Profile: Ft. Wadsworth
During the early 1600s, the Dutch tried to establish a few settlements on Staten Island. They did this by way of patroonships, which were land grants given to wealthy members of the Dutch East India Company. These people did not actually own the land given to them. They were required to bring over farm workers and their families to work on the land, where their crops would be given to the government as payment. This was meant to persuade people into wanting to settle there. (Photo left. Ft. Wadsworth from Bay Ridge Brooklyn)
On July 3, 1640, Cornelius Melyn was granted a patroonship of all but a small portion of the land Staten Island encompassed. By 1642, a colony was established of a little over forty settlers. This colony settled on the westernmost point of Staten Island, which jutted out nearest to present-day Brooklyn. By 1663, a blockhouse was built on this site to alert Manhattan's Fort Amsterdam, which had been built in 1625 and used as the headquarters for the Dutch, of any ships arriving in the Lower Bay.
In 1776, the British took over the blockhouse, calling it Flagstaff Fort. A redoubt was constructed here, in which platforms for twenty-six cannons were built. By 1783, when the American Revolutionary War had ended, the British had evacuated Flagstaff Fort. By 1806, the site, which was then known as Signal Hill, came into the hands of the State of New York. Daniel D. Tompkins, the Governor at the time, had the stone Forts Tompkins and Richmond constructed, as the War of 1812 was on its way. After the war, the forts were abandoned. By 1847, the area was purchased by the federal government, who razed the forts and erected new ones on the site.
The American Civil War, as we know, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. As we also know many battles took place in the twenty-three states involved in the war. The Battle of the Wilderness, which took place in Virginia, began on May 5, 1864 and ended on the 7th of that same month. On May 6th, Brigadier General James S. Wadsworth was shot in the back of the head while trying to lead his two brigades away from exposure to the Confederates. Wadsworth was captured and died two days later in a field hospital of Confederate soldiers. To honor Wadsworth, the fort at Signal Hill was renamed as Fort Wadsworth, which is the name still applied to it today.
Until 1979, the United States Army was in control of Fort Wadsworth. In fact, in 1954, Fort Wadsworth was one of the forty launching sites during Project Nike, in which the first effective anti-aircraft missiles were deployed. After 1979, Fort Wadsworth was used by the United States Navy, who utilized the fort as the headquarters of their New York Naval Station. In March of 1995, the Navy transferred the site to the National Park Service, who established the area as part of Gateway National Recreation Area.
In 1901, Arthur Von Briesen purchased an area of land above the site of Fort Wadsworth. Von Briesen was best known for helping to establish the German Legal Aid Society, which later became known merely as the Legal Aid Society. His acreage was passed down to his descendants after his death in 1920. These heirs, in 1945, donated the area of land to the Parks Department. The nearly-thirteen acres of land make up what is now known as Von Briesen Park, which is inhabited primarily of flora, as opposed to recreational facilities
Fort Wadsworth is often considered to be its own neighborhood. To the left of the Fort, you have about 130 degrees of land; that is, if you think of Fort Wadsworth as the center of a circle with the diameter ending at Arthur Von Briesen Park to the northwest, you have 130 degrees of land when you travel in the opposite direction in which the hands on a clock travel. The land that is included in your imaginary circle is what most people consider to be the neighborhood of Fort Wadsworth.
If you choose to live in the community of Fort Wadsworth, getting around won't be too much of a hassle. On Bay Street, you have the s51, which travels to the St. George Ferry Terminal and Grant City. Depending on which map you use, this may be the only bus which travels through the neighborhood. However, there are a number of other local buses in the vicinity which are easily accessible; the same goes for express buses. Since the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is right on top of the neighborhood, many express buses come through here to get into Manhattan.
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