6 Must-See Relics of New York City's Military Past
Military strongholds dating back as far as the Revolutionary War offer a peek into New York City’s rich history.
From the Battle of Brooklyn to the Civil War, New York City has been at the crossroads of American military history for centuries. Beyond modern skyscrapers, aging mansions, and lush parks, the city still boasts impressive military forts that once defended the city from invasion — most of which are hiding in plain sight. Plan a day trip to any of these fascinating sites to gain an enriching glimpse into the city’s military past.
1. Governors Island
With over 172 acres of scenic walking paths, pastures, and stunning vistas, Governors Island often plays host to music festivals and art installations — but it’s also a living relic of New York’s military history. This sprawling island is home to sites used by the American military as far back as its Continental Army days. Whether you’re looking for an artistic experience or a taste of our colonial past, a visit to Governor’s Island offers plenty of sightseeing activities for the budget-conscious traveler.
Governors Island is located in New York Harbor between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
2. Fort Tilden
While Fort Tilden has since found new life as a beachgoer’s haunt, if you visited in 1941 you’d have found 1,000 soldiers stationed there while World War II raged in Europe. The beachfront stronghold was initially built in 1917 to defend New York Harbor during World War I, and would later serve as a missile installation during the Cold War. Like many other forts in the area, Fort Tilden has since been incorporated into the National Park Service’s Gateway Recreation Area.
Fort Tilden is located in Queens.
3. Fort Tryon
Uptown Manhattan can feel like an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, and Fort Tryon Park is no exception. A lush park overlooking the Hudson River, Fort Tryon has the feel of a secluded forest and plays host to the Cloisters, an impressive collection of medieval art. While the fort itself doesn’t quite date back to medieval times, the site does have a long history: the Battle of Fort Washington took place here in 1776. Fun fact: Margaret Corbin — the first woman to ever receive a military pension in the United States — fought in this battle.
Fort Tryon is located between Riverside Drive and Broadway Avenue, and runs from 192nd to Dyckman Street.
4. Fort Wadsworth
Fortified by the British in 1779, Fort Wadsworth was Britain’s main defensive location during the Revolutionary War. It was later utilized by the US Army and New York State Militia during the War of 1812, as well as the Civil War. Since then, the fort has served by turns as a National American Indian Memorial, infantry post, anti-aircraft installation, army school, and naval station. Today, it’s simply a great spot to go exploring.
Fort Wadsworth is located at 210 New York Avenue in Staten Island.
5. Ellis Island
Ellis Island is technically located in New Jersey, but its history is inextricably tied to New York. Before becoming a famous gateway for immigrants entering the United States, Ellis Island was home to Fort Gibson. The military installation served as a POW camp and garrison during the War of 1812, and an ammunition supply site during the Civil War. Since then, Fort Gibson has largely been dismantled, but you can still see some of the original structure and learn a bit about its history during your visit to Ellis Island.
Ellis Island is located in New York Harbor.
For history buffs, visiting all of these sites during one short visit to NYC can be a daunting task. Luckily, Affinia is offering a special deal: book four nights for the price of three or three nights for the price of two at any of our centrally located hotels, and you’ll have ample time to explore the city’s military history to your heart’s desire!