Fort Tyler, Gardiners Point Island, N.Y.:
“The Ruins”

The story of Fort Tyler would be a comedy if it weren’t so tragic. The Fort was completed by 1898, but only after the end of the Spanish American War. Fort Tyler was never assigned armament or a garrison. In the ensuing decades, it became the haunt of boating sightseers, rumrunners and bootleggers. Robert Moses tried to make it a park in the 1920s. The War Department made it a bombing target range in the mid-1930s. FDR subsequently declared it a bird preserve in 1938, but after World War II it became a practice bombing target again. Today, Gardiners Point Island has reverted to bird preserve status; however, with perhaps longer memories than humans seem to have, nesting birds have never returned to “The Ruins” in any great numbers.


“The Ruins”
Original Footage by Curt Kessler

Edited with permission by Marisela La Grave and Pierce Rafferty

To learn more about strategic habitat conservation efforts by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, please visit:

To learn more about the history of Mitchel Field, please visit:

Annual exhibition sponsored by:

Fort Tyler, Gardiners Point Island, N.Y.

The historical section of the Fort Tyler exhibit benefited greatly from the images of sightseers touring the abandoned fort in the early 1900s that were provided by Bolling Smith, member of the Coast Defense Study Group. More than 20 years ago, the late Maj. Gen. George Ruhlen donated copies of his photographs of Fort Tyler to the HLFM. They were invaluable for this project. Paul Martin, an unofficial historian of Mitchel Field, Long Island, generously shared images of and information about that airfield and the B-10 bombers that used Fort Tyler as a bombing practice target in 1936.

The 21st century section of the Fort Tyler exhibit is almost entirely comprised of photographs taken by former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Curt Kessler. He also provided the video footage of Gardiners Point Island taken in 2013 after Superstorm Sandy. Special thanks go out to Curt. This section of the exhibit rests entirely on the foundation of his in-depth documentation of “The Ruins.”

Thanks also to Marisela LaGrave for her editing work on Curt Kessler’s video of Gardiners Point Island, 2013. Southold Town Historian Amy Folk was of great help, as was Jon Fuller of Groton Long Point.

The following institutions provided additional images: Coast Defense Study Group, East Hampton Library, National Archives and Records Administration, and The National Museum of the United States Airforce.

Thank you all. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Pierce Rafferty,
Henry L. Ferguson Museum