ANNUAL EXHIBITION 2020
Fort H.G. Wright, Fishers Island, N.Y.
The U.S. Government purchased a 216-acre tract of land at the western tip of Fishers Island in April 1898 in order to establish coast defense fortifications at that site. Fort H.G. Wright, founded in 1900, was a hub of activity through World War II, but was shuttered in 1949. The twists and turns of the disposition of the surplus property and its subsequent conversion to a variety of civilian uses form the core of this section of the exhibition. The restoration of a dilapidated Officers Row, the use of gun emplacements for waste management, and the ecological rescue of distressed grasslands south of Whistler Ave. are but three of the stories told…
National Guard at Fort H.G. Wright, circa 1938.
Courtesy of U.S. Military History Institute.
Howard Best home movies, circa 1954.
Courtesy of Dennis and Roz Pitts.
Charles B. Ferguson home movie excerpt, circa 1965.
Courtesy of the late Charles B. Ferguson.
Silver Eel Cove Building Conversion Galleries
Annual exhibition sponsored by:
Fort H.G. Wright, Fishers Island, N.Y.
We are very grateful for the evocative emplacement photographs shot by William Gill, Mary Murphy, Charlie Morgan, Jim Reid, and John Wilton, for the historical photo of Battery Marcy supplied by Jim Diaz, for the pit party snapshots conjured up by Melie Spofford and Polly Talbott, for the information on the mortar pits shared by David Burnham, for the dates and descriptions of Waste Management’s history supplied by Beth Stern and Greg Thibodeau, and for the numerous photos and maps documenting Fort Wright’s buildings and infrastructure contributed by Mark Berhow, a member of the always helpful Coast Defense Study Group.
The Officers Row section of the exhibition was informed by original documents shared by Jan and Peter Burr. It was structurally centered around a period photo that Sandy and George Esser kindly sent in showing their house in shambles circa 1962.
We are greatly appreciative of the images and information documenting the F.I. Conservancy’s extensive restoration project south of Whistler Ave. provided by Jane T. Ahrens, Joe Henderson, Justine Kibbe, Kristen Peterson, Betty Ann Rubinow, and Tom Sargent.
Special thanks to Olivia P. Cleary for sharing her imaginative drawings of a repurposed Battery Marcy, and to Jeff Carpenter for letting us use his wonderful painting Fort Parade that helped tie the ending all together.
The following institutions provided additional images: Coast Defense Study Group, Daily News, Fishers Island Conservancy, National Archives and Records Administration, and U.S. Coast Guard.
The images in the associated galleries that celebrate the conversions of five former Fort Wright buildings in the Silver Eel Cove area were gathered by Nate Malinowski, Fort Wright Building 1, Lighthouse Works Annex (Artist Studios and Public Space); Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, Fort Wright Building 57 (Private Work/Living Space); John Spofford and Jeanie Cook, Fort Wright Building 98 (F.I. Community Center); Mary and Brad Burnham, Fort Wright Building 100, Ordnance (Creative Work Space); Matthew Edwards, Fort Wright Building 209, 2nd Floor, Walsh Park Benevolent Corp. (Apartments for Year-Round Residents). We thank all of you and your sponsoring institutions for your timely cooperation and assistance on these side galleries. We also would like to acknowledge Matthew Burnham’s striking aerial photo that includes all five converted buildings.
Jane T. Ahrens was the sole photographer of the remarkable gallery showing the conversion of the 2nd floor of the freight building, and also contributed images to other galleries and the main exhibit. In recent decades she has become the premier visual chronicler of Fishers Island and her work is much appreciated.
The home movies in this section were excerpted from those originally gathered for display in 2003 in our new building. The three sources were U.S. Military History Institute (Carlisle Barracks, PA.) for the color footage of the big guns and other weapons firing at Fort Wright in the late 1930s, the Pitts family for the Howard Best home movies of the distressed structures of Fort Wright in the mid-1950s, and the late Charlie Ferguson for home movies on the same theme taken a decade later in the mid-1960s. They all provide literally moving evidence that complements the exhibition.
Once again, a big “thank you” to all who contributed to this multilayered Fort Wright exhibition. We couldn’t have done it without you!
Henry L. Ferguson Museum