Fort Totten (Queens)

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Coordinates: 40°47′31.3″N 73°46′33.9″W / 40.792028°N 73.776083°W / 40.792028; -73.776083

Fort Totten
Queens, New York in United States of America
Fort Totten is located in New York City
Fort Totten
Fort Totten
Fort Totten is located in New York
Fort Totten
Fort Totten
Fort Totten is located in the US
Fort Totten
Fort Totten
Coordinates 40°47′31.3″N 73°46′33.9″W / 40.792028°N 73.776083°W / 40.792028; -73.776083
Site information
Owner New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (primarily)
Site history
Built 1862; 154 years ago (1862)
Built by  United States Army
In use 1862 (1862)-1974 (1974) (US Army); 1974 (1974)-present (Army Reserve)
Fate Active use by U.S. Army Reserve. Portions converted for use as public park. Other portions converted for use by NYPD, FDNY.
Abandoned fortification (Endicott era batteries) [1][2]

Fort Totten is a former active United States Army installation in the New York City borough of Queens. It is located on the north shore of Long Island, on a peninsula.[3][4] Fort Totten is at the head of Little Neck Bay, which is also the place where the East River widens to become Long Island Sound.[5] While the U.S. Army Reserve continues to maintain a presence at the fort,[6] the property is now owned by the City of New York.[7][8]


Construction began on Fort Totten in 1862, after the land was purchased by the U.S. Government in 1857 from the Willets family. The fort is close to the Queens neighborhoods of Bay Terrace, Bayside, Beechhurst and Whitestone. The original purpose was to defend the East River approach to New York Harbor, along with Fort Schuyler, which faces it from Throggs Neck in the Bronx on the opposite side of the river entrance. The fort was named in 1898 after Joseph Gilbert Totten and new gun batteries were built under the Endicott Program as part of the Harbor Defenses of Eastern New York. However, these were superseded by the Harbor Defenses of Long Island Sound, and most of Fort Totten was disarmed by 1935.[9]

In 1954, the fort became a Project Nike air defense site. Although no Nike missiles were located at Fort Totten, it was the regional headquarters for the New York area; administrative offices and personnel housing were located at the fort. By 1966 the fort was home to the headquarters of the 1st Region, Army Air Defense Command. Fort Totten was also headquarters for the 66th Anti-Aircraft Missile Battalion and the 41st AAA Gun Battalion.[10] The 66th Anti-Aircraft Missile Battalion's missiles were placed at nearby Fort Slocum on Davids' Island. The 90mm cannon batteries of the 41st were located throughout Long Island. According to rumor, Fort Totten was the location of the safe house where Joe Valachi, the Genovese family mob turncoat and subject of a book called "The Valachi Papers", was hidden in 1970, when he was away to a Federal prison in Texas where he died the following year.[citation needed]

In 1974, as part of defense budget reductions following the end of the Vietnam War, Fort Totten was closed as a Regular Army installation and the remaining military presence assumed by the Army Reserve.

Current status[edit]

NYPD K9 training building

The current military presence at Fort Totten is centered on the 77th Sustainment Brigade, its subordinate units, and the 533rd Brigade Support Battalion of the U.S. Army Reserve.[11]

Much of the fort has become a public park and is open for tours by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. It is accessible by the Cross Island Parkway and Clearview Expressway (I-295). The Fort Totten Visitor's Center has been refurbished and houses a museum with exhibits about the history of Fort Totten.[12] Parts are used by the New York Police Department and the New York Fire Department as a training center.

During the winter months, a large variety of migratory waterfowl can be observed in the surrounding waters: Little Bay to the west, Long Island Sound to the north, and Little Neck Bay to the east. Most buildings are dilapidated and unused. Fort Totten is also a sports complex, with an outdoor pool, baseball fields and three soccer fields used for youth soccer.

Fort Totten is designated as a New York City Historic District.

Fort Totten Officers' Club[edit]

Fort Totten Officers' Club, now home of the Bayside Historical Society

The Fort Totten Officers' Club, known as "the Castle", is home to the Bayside Historical Society, which hosts events, historic exhibitions and cultural programs. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.[13]

The club building was designed by Robert E. Lee in his pre-Civil War capacity as a military engineer, although some historians believe that the actual design was done by a subordinate and merely approved by Lee. The building was designed in the neo-Gothic style popular at the time and was not created specifically for Fort Totten but rather was a generic design approved by the Army for use at military installations. Identical structures were built at other Army forts and the Castle design was adopted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as their insignia, although the reason for this action is murky. A local tradition is that the Corps of Engineers symbol derived from the Fort Totten building, but the reverse is more likely: the building design was based on a Castle in part because this symbol had long been identified with Army engineers. When Fort Totten's Castle was restored in the 1990s, the Corps of Engineers was contacted in the hope that they would participate, particularly since the Fort Totten Castle was occupied at one time by the Corps of Engineers, but the military failed to show any interest.


  1. ^ AbandonedNYC Print Shop Photo Keywords fort totten, Fort Totten Endicott Battery
  2. ^ Fort Totten Tour, Historic New York: The Fort Totten Tunnel Tour
  3. ^ Bayside Historical Society, Brief History Of Fort Totten, 2006
  4. ^ United States War Department, Annual reports, Volume 2, Part 1, 1902, page 817
  5. ^ Federal Writers' Project, New York City Guide, Volume 1, 1939, page 572
  6. ^ Peter Jun, U.S. Army Public Affairs, Unique Army Reserve Unit Activates With State-of-the-Art Mission, October 15, 2009
  7. ^ New York City Parks Department, Fort Totten Park, accessed April 28, 2013
  8. ^ National Park Service, Fort Totten Park, accessed April 28, 2013
  9. ^ Fort Totten (3) at
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ History Comes Alive At Fort Totten Park
  13. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 

External links[edit]