Maritime History Museum at Fort Schuyler By Lada Simek
What! One of the largest museums of ships and maritime history is in New York City directly under the Throgs Neck bridge? In the only completely restored pre-civil war fort in the USA? With ship models worth as much as 3/4 of a million dollars! Easy to get to by car or boat! And with free admission? Most people would call that a bargain! Since during the war of 1812 the British got as far as Port Jefferson, it was decided to protect New York City by building four forts, two on the southern approaches and two on Long Island Sound. Fort Totten was built on Long Island side and Fort Schuyler on the north side. These had the potential of blowing any attacking force right out of the water, since the sound at that point is only a half a mile wide and Ft. Schuyler alone was armed with 312 cannon. The construction started in 1833. Ft. Schuyler is arranged in the shape of a pentagon with walls made of blocks of granite 5-11 feet thick. These had to be wrestled in place manually since it was before the availability of power machinery. There were escape tunnels and ramparts to guard against an attack by land as well. The project was finished in 1856, but due to the advances in artillery, it was obsolete the day it was finished. Ft. Schuyler was used to house Confederate prisoners and as an army hospital but soon fell into disrepair and was abandoned in 1870. It now houses the State University of New York Maritime College, which converted the stables into a library, built classrooms and offices. One entire side of the pentagon has become the museum. The cadets who were originally housed in the fort today live in dormitories. The training ship, the Empire State is still manned and part of each cadet’s education. As you enter the museum you are impressed by the solid feel of tons of rock surrounding you. Directly in front of you is a spiral staircase to the second floor, which turns to the right as you go up. This is to give the defender an advantage. A right-handed person has the room to swing a sword but…
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