Fort Totten Park

Fort Totten

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This park, located along the Cross Island Parkway off Totten Avenue between Totten and 15th Roads in the Queens neighborhood of Bay Terrace, is named for the modernized Civil War fortress in which it resides.

Originally inhabited by the Matinecock Indians, the neighborhood of Bayside was first settled during the American Revolution. This site was first named Willets Point, but later renamed for General Joseph Totten (1788-1864) who died in Washington, D.C. in 1864. Plans were initially prepared by Captain Robert E. Lee in 1857, and construction of the fortification began in 1862. Built across the East River from its counterpart, Fort Schuyler, Totten was initially charged with defending the eastern approach to New York Harbor. Soon after its completion, however, with the rapid advances made in fortification design by battlefield engineers and commanders fighting the Civil War in the South, Fort Totten became obsolete as a defensive structure and its facilities were remanded to the position of casualty support and hospital care (1864-1965).

After the war, the fort housed the Engineer School of Application (1865-1901), Eastern Artillery District Headquarters (ca.1901), Electric Mines and Army School of Submarine Defense (1921), a prototype anti-aircraft installation (1922), the Anti-Aircraft Artillery Headquarters (1941-1944), the North Atlantic Wing of the Air Transportation Command (1944), the New York-New jersey Sub-Area Command Headquarters (1949), First Region ARADCOM for the Nike Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense System (1954), and most recently has served as a U.S. Army Reserve post (1974).

After nearly two decades of community lobbying efforts for a new Bayside area park, in 1987 New York City and Parks accepted the gift of ten acres of surplus Fort Totten land from the U.S. Department of Defense. Though other areas at the time were still being utilized by the Department of the Army and the Coast Guard, the City land grant included the site’s historic fort, an 19th century artillery battery, and a grassy tree-lined stretch of property with long winding footpaths. Since the 1980s, Fort Totten’s facilities have been used by the New York Fire Department, St. John’s University, Bayside Historical, and it has also been used as the Queens Theater in the Park.

In 2001 Parks secured a large portion of the former federal military base’s 93 acres for parkland development. The remaining acreage will continue to be utilized by the U.S. Army and Coast Guard. In June 2001 plans were proposed for the recreation of a restaurant, snack bar, promenade, swimming pool, soccer fields, sitting and strolling areas, a waterfront esplanade, and additional visitor parking areas. Fort Totten Park is also home to a "Greenway,” a park area designated exclusively for Bicyclers and pedestrians.

Directions to Fort Totten Park


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