Fort Hancock Historic District
National Park Service
Gateway National Recreation Area
Sandy Hook Unit
PO Box 530
Fort Hancock, NJ 07732
(732) 872-0115 • 872-5970 Sandy Hook Unit • (718) 354-4606 Gateway Park

Located at the north end of beautiful Sandy Hook, Fort Hancock served in coastal defense until 1974. Sandy Hook, a six-mile sandbar peninsula reaching into lower New York Harbor, was a strategic site for both navigational and defense purposes.

In 1764 the Sandy Hook Lighthouse was constructed to curtail the growing number of shipwrecks. Today it is the nation's oldest lighthouse still in use.

The site of a number of fortifications since the American Revolution, Sandy Hook became the home of Fort Hancock in 1899, with the completion of the first thirty-four buildings, including eighteen Georgian Revival style homes for officers and their families.

Fort Hancock was armed with the most sophisticated weaponry of the day. In 1893 Battery Potter was completed, featuring the nation's first and only steam-lift gun battery. Each of two 12-inch guns fired a half-ton projectile with a range of seven miles through its 52-ton barrel. 1894 saw the completion of the first operational concrete batteries. Arranged in a square, the four concrete pits, each mounted with four 12-inch mortars, were interconnected by tunnels and ammo rooms, which later sheltered the New York Harbor Defense Command.

A wide variety weapons were employed at Fort Hancock in subsequent years, from more modern cannon to Nike Missiles, and until the weapons became too powerful, Sandy Hook also served as a proving ground.

Though many of the gun emplacements and structures have fallen into disrepair, a tour of the complex provides an enlightening experience for families and groups of all ages. Many structures remain, including the Sandy Hook Museum (1899 building) that tells the story of Fort Hancock and exhibits displays of military memorabilia. The Guardian Park Nike Missile Display is interesting, and History House, a restored home on "Officer's Row", can be toured. A variety of Special Events and Family Programs can be enjoyed throughout the year. Call for a calendar.

In addition, there is the beautiful beach for swimming and fishing, the Lighthouse, and the Sandy Hook Old Dune Trail that can be enjoyed with the aid of a Guide Booklet to interpret the various features. Birdwatching is a popular activity here.

Several great School Programs are available. Dune Grass to Forest (grades 4 - 6): a 90-minute Ranger-led walk through the South Dune Trail compares different environments as well as human impact; Discover Fort Hancock (4 - 12): students learn about the coastal defence role of Fort Hancock; Sandy Hook Education Center: for groups that want to spend more than one day, includes dormitory and kitchen facilities, as well as Ranger assistance in developing group programs. The above programs can handle 35, 45 and 50 students respectively. Teacher Workshops are also available. Some programs are seasonal. All are FREE.

Hours: Park is open daily, sunrise to sunset. Call to confirm hours and admission before visiting.
Admission: Beach parking fees only (during summer). Parking always free at Fort Hancock.
Group Reservations: About 4 weeks in advance for programs. 1 week for group visit.
Lunch: Picnic areas available. Concessions open during summer.
Handicapped Access: Visitors Center is accessible.
Directions: Rt. 70 East to Garden State Pkwy. North to Exit 105 (Eatontown). Take Rt. 36 East to end. Turn left onto Ocean Ave. North to park. 90 - 120 minutes from Philadelphia or the George Washington Bridge.

Copyright © 1996-2014 by Patrick Tadeushuk. All Rights Reserved.