Visited 14 Aug 2010 – Fort Hancock on Sandy hook is one of those coastal forts you just don’t want to miss. There are actually three sets of places you need to see at Sandy Hook.
Begin with the fort itself which is largely intact but deteriorating. There is a long row of turn-of-the-century officer quarters looking very grand from a distance but the closer you get the worse they look. As you get close, you see the peeling paint, boarded up windows, broken porches and holes in the roofs. There is one set of the original 80 man barracks that has been restored and looks terrific, but the other three are falling apart. The unusual BOQ building at the north end of the parade is certainly worth saving. Lots of buildings remain, see them while you can.
The gun batteries are the second main attraction at Fort Hancock, and they are a mixed bag. Battery Potter is the first disappearing gun battery and the only steam powered gun lift battery. Mike gave us an excellent tour because he knows so much about the history of the battery. The mechanisms are all gone, but the battery is truly impressive.
Battery Gunnison is an even more impressive story; it’s a terrific example of restoring a battery to working order. I had heard that they had a breech block for one of the 6″ M1903 Barbette guns, and I was delighted to see it actually operate. The biggest surprise was that I could actually traverse the the gun itself. Inside the battery, I was able to crank one of the shell hoists and to tour the recreated plotting room complete with operating communications equipment. Outstanding job of bringing a battery back to life. Now, if Tom would just let me shoot one round…
The remaining batteries on Fort Hancock are not in as good shape. The main gun line is a magnificent view but not accessible to the public because it is deteriorating and unsafe. Battery Peck is extremely overgrown, and it is hard to identify the features. You can access Battery Peck from the base of the observation tower, but it is so overgrown that it is difficult to see anything. Battery Peck is significant because it was both an Endicott Period battery and a WWII AMTB battery.
There are two large casemated 12″ batteries on Horseshoe Cove that are kind of hidden away but in fair condition (Battery Kingman and Battery Mills). The magazine rooms are not accessible to the public and that is unfortunate. The unusual feature of these two batteries is that the overhead shell tracks are still in place, dangling in some cases but still there. The remains of Battery Arrowsmith are out on the tip of the cove and a bit hard to access.
The third place to visit is the remains of the Sandy Hook Proving Grounds (SHPG) in front of Battery Potter. You can almost visualize hundreds of gun tubes lined up waiting to be proofed and imagine the noise of the firing.
As a bonus, you should visit the former Highlands Military Reservation, now Hartshorne Woods County Park up in the Highlands above Sandy Hook. Two World War II batteries, Battery 116 (Battery Lewis) and Battery 219, are up there with a magnificent view of Sandy Hook. Don’t miss the twin lighthouses either.
This post was written by JohnStanton on August 29, 2010