Society Has Called Fort Home For 50 Years

BY JORDAN GIBBONS
Staff Writer

Fort Totten was originally built during the Civil War to protect the East River approach to New York Harbor.

Now, its Officers’ Club, also known as The Castle, is home to the Bayside Historical Society.

The historical society celebrated its 50th anniversary this year and currently features an exhibit about the construction of the Throgs Neck Bridge.

The exhibit focuses on the impact the bridge and the Clearview Expressway has had on Bayside.

The Castle was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 and still has the same structure as when it was originally designed by Robert E. Lee, pre-Civil War when he was a military engineer. It was restored in the 90s.

The Castle at Fort Totten houses the Bayside Historical Society.

The Castle at Fort Totten houses the Bayside Historical Society.

Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War, made the original presentation before Congress for its construction, prior to the start of the Civil War. Davis went on to be President of the Confederate States of America and Lee commanded the Confederate Army of Virginia.

The Fort is a City Historic District and the Club is a designated landmark.

“The main office was originally the cigar room,” Alison McKay, executive director of the society, said. “And the exhibit space was the bar and the lounge.”

The society features rotating exhibits such as the Throgs Neck display, which will be up until the end of the year.

There is also an exhibition space and work lounge for children to study or work on projects for the educational programs the society offers.

During the first World War, the Fort served as a staging point for troops on the way to the war zone.

During World War II, the Fort was the headquarters of the Antiaircraft Command of the Eastern Defense Command.

It was the headquarters of the North Atlantic region of the Air Transport Command, which was in charge of troop movements flying out of LaGuardia Field.

It was also the location of major army hospitals since the Civil War.

After more than 100 years, Congress approved the closing of Fort Totten in September 1995.

Many of the original structures are still standing The former United States Army installation still has an Army Reserve presence on the property.

The City Fire Dept. controls one-third of the property as a training center.

There is a public park that is open for tours by the Dept. of Parks and Recreation.

There is also a sport complex with an outdoor pool, baseball and soccer fields.

The Historical Society also has a holding space for other local historical societies, such as Douglaston and Little Neck, that do not have their own buildings to come and study.

On Sunday, July 27, they will be hosting their first Jazz Brunch at the Castle during the summer. Brunch is served in the ballroom of the Castle with a trio of jazz musicians who will perform for two hours.

“It’s a nice afternoon,” McKay said.

“They were so successful, so we decided to have one in the summer.”

Pre-paid reservations are required by Friday, July 25 and they cost $20 for members and $25 for nonmembers.

Reach Jordan Gibbons at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123, jgibbons@queenspress.com or @jgibbons2.