Built in 1811, this circular fort with an open courtyard and multiple tiers of gun casemates was designed to defend New York Harbor from British naval attack. It housed captured Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, and has served as both a military and civilian prison. Formations designed, built, and installed outdoor exhibits that can withstand temperature extremes, wind and sun exposure, precipitation, and large crowds of all ages and abilities. Durable phenolic graphic panels depict 19th-century shipping routes, historic views of New York, and Civil War-era reminiscences. Sturdy flipbooks and slide-out panels let history buffs plunge into details; textual prompts engage visitors in topics ranging from naval strategy to whether prisons should punish or rehabilitate. Visitors can use a low-tech hand crank to “power up” audio segments featuring the dramatized voices of imprisoned Confederate soldiers.
In the center of the courtyard is a touchable, cutaway scale model of the original fort. Nearby, four 24-foot-tall, full-color scrims (commissioned for this project) depict the fort as it appeared in 1811, 1814, 1861, and 1947. Outside the prison walls, spotting scopes point visitors to nearby landmarks, including two other historic forts and the site of the World Trade towers.
Client: National Park Service, New York, New York