The city and its citadels

[Images: Covers from old copies of Fort, the Fortress Study Group member publication].

While writing the previous post and looking for a link to FSG, Robin Sloan's publisher, a fortuitous auto-fill in my browser bar led me to the Fortress Study Group, the "international society of artillery fortification and military architecture." Their site includes a helpful series of PDFs on the architectural history of fortification, or "the development of fortifications designed to resist artillery," including this long look back at the group's most recent "study tour" (similar in many ways to the Fortifications Tour we explored on BLDGBLOG long ago).

Of particular note: through their site, we learn that a symposium called Fortifications at Risk 2 will be held in March 2013 at the National Army Museum in London, discussing "how derelict fortifications may be preserved and re-used" for future purposes. You can register here.

Briefly, I'm reminded of historian Steven Jaffe's fascinating book, New York at War: Four Centuries of Combat, Fear, and Intrigue in Gotham, in which Jaffe details the construction of coastal forts and artillery batteries throughout New York City, from colonial times to the Civil War (and beyond).

In particular, Jaffe cites the work of inaugural West Point superintendent Jonathan Williams, "mastermind of New York's harbor fortifications," in Jaffe's words, who designed and proposed "a network of new fortifications placed strategically" at the marine entrances to the city during the War of 1812. His designs included "stone and mortar citadels" peppering the shores and "a line of massive stone blocks" that would be dropped into the harbor waters, forming a kind of submerged gate topped with barrier chains and artillery, further closed in places by the hulls of deliberately scuttled ships, seemingly an architecture equal parts wreckage and military geometry.

The majority of Williams's defensive plan was never built; however, Castle Williams on Governors Island, which we boated past last week as part of Dredgefest 2012, is still there in its circular ruin, not far from the massive unmarked ventilation structure for the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel which roars beneath the harbor waters.

An unbuilt fortifications tour of New York City is thus quite an interesting prospect.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Kivi said...

Fortuitous indeed.

October 03, 2012 9:39 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

This also puts me in mind of W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz, and the effects of place and memory on the book's narrator when visiting Terezin in Poland - converted from fortress and garrison town to Jewish ghetto during the second world war.

October 04, 2012 7:40 AM  

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