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Fort Hancock: A Small Town

Fort Hancock Parade Ground, c. 1910.

The barracks on Fort Hancock's Parade Ground, c. 1910.

NPS/Gateway NRA Museum Collection

The Community

Fort Hancock's mission was to provide support for the soliders manning the Sandy Hook gun batteries. The original fort, designed to garrrison 400 men, consisted of 32 buff brick structures built around a parade ground. Construction of these first buildings began in 1898, with more added in the years to follow.

The buildings at Fort Hancock contained facilities to sustain a town. Single enlisted men were housed in barracks while married NCOs and officers lived with their families in quarters designated for this use. By 1911, the Fort had a commissary, post exchange, bakery, chapel, school, YMCA, laundry and tailor shops for soldiers and dependents.

Colonial Revival Architecture of Fort Hancock

Colonial Revival architecture became popular at the time of the American centennial in 1876. It was a rebirth of Georgian and Federal designs typical of the Revolutionary War era. The style was also a rejection of the Victorian use of excessive ornamentation. Typical features include palladian and elliptical windowns, glazed transoms, dormers, bold denticulated (toothlike) cornices, decorative pilasters and columns.

Captain Arthur Murray was responsible for conceiving the overall layout and architectural look for the post. Murray sought advise for his drawings from his friends, New York architects, John M. Carrere and Thomas Hastings.

The original 1896 plan consisted of 32 buff brick buildings that included officers quarters, barracks, a Bachelor Officers' Quarters, post headquarters, hospital, guardhouse, quartermaster storehouse, and bakery. The heavier, more costly buff colored brick was chosen because it was less porous than traditional red brick. The foundations were either stone or brick and the roofs were slate. The most impressive of the buildings were the 18 homes on "Officers' Row." For these, Murray wanted a simple style not "lacking in beauty." For simplicity and to reduce maintenance, they were without gingerbread work. The four barracks, built across the parade ground from Officers' Row, would have "handsome and massive porches."

Click here to view, "An Old Army Town".


Did You Know?

Jacob Riis

Journalist Jacob Riis was called "New York's most useful citizen," by Theodore Roosevelt. Riis often accompanied Police Commissioner Roosevelt in raids exposing the hardship of life for New York City's poor and immigrant populations and published his photos in newspapers. More...