12 July 2021

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The Fort Hancock Experience: The Deep History & Culture

Fort Hancock is a historic site just outside of New Jersey’s Gateway National Recreation Area. It was once one of the largest forts in the United States, built primarily during the mid-1800s. This blog explores the Fort Hancock experience and offers surprising facts about this historic site.

The History of Fort Hancock

As the site of a large fort, the Fort played a role in the history of New York City and the surrounding region. The Fort was surrounded by a 6-mile wall, roughly 3 ft. thick and 10 ft. high. A guardhouse and watchtowers were also constructed. The Fort was home to the largest lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere. The Fort served for over 200 years, and most historians believe the name of the Fort came from “Guard-Hancock,” a popular war chant of British soldiers: at the height of the American Revolution, the British passed through the area, and they made their way to Philadelphia. Still, the commander of the Fort refused to surrender. He was fatally shot in the back.

However, Fort Hancock wasn’t always Fort Hancock. Starting as a simple wooden fortification during the War of 1812 and known as Fort Gates, the area has had profound impacts on American history. Furthermore, at that time, the famous Sandy Hook Lighthouse was armed with a cannon.

The US Army armed the position with several heavy arms spread across multiple gun batteries. However, the Fort was initially left partially unfinished during initial construction. As numerous conflicts and engagements came and went, the Fort became permanent, and modern construction was finished in 1857. It would still be many more years until Fort Hancock as we know it would begin to shape up.

Playing a significant role in World War II, the Fort acted as a mobilization point for American forces deploying to the frontlines in Europe. The Fort also played a critical role in protecting the New York area, as it was armed with a substantial amount of troops and heavy artillery pieces.

As World War II came to a close, the demand for the Fort’s utility wanned. During the Cold War, the base was temporarily transitioned into an AA and missile base before being formally decommissioned in 1974.

Highlights of the Fort Hancock Experience

Immersive:¬†The immersive experience takes you through a re-created 19th-century coastal fort. You will learn about the Fort’s history, its evolution, and its active military and civil defenses during the 20th and 21st centuries.

Guided Tours:

  1. Find out how the military garrison lived, trained, and guarded New York City and the nation during the 19th and 20th centuries.
  2. Be prepared for a lively, informative experience through the halls of Fort Hancock’s historic home.
  3. Check out the historic kitchen where soldiers trained and the arsenal room where troops kept up with their weaponry.

Garden Tour: Observe the lush landscape and stunning view from the secret garden.


Fort Hancock was once a significant base of the American war effort, serving as a place of refuge, protection, and defense in times of war. Fort Hancock has since become a thriving and vibrant piece of history that is easily accessible to the masses.