Davids Island-Fort Slocum Cultural Resources Digital Repository

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Davids Island-Fort Slocum Cultural Resources Digital Repository
Aerial View Fort Slocum - Image Source

Collection Facts


Historical Context

Excerpts compiled from a report produced primarily by the staff of Tetra Tech EC, Inc., working under contract to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Tetra Tech staff members whose work contributed to this collection were based principally in the firm’s Morris Plains (New Jersey), Boston (Massachusetts), and Langhorne (Pennsylvania) offices. The collection also contains material produced by staff of Tetra Tech subcontractors and the New York District of the Corps of Engineers, the New Rochelle City Historian, and members of an informal history and advocacy group, the Fort Slocum Alumni and Friends

Davids Island is situated in Long Island Sound within the municipal boundaries of New Rochelle, New York. It is approximately six-tenths of a mile south-southeast of Davenport Neck on the New Rochelle mainland. As of 2010, the island was almost entirely owned by the City of New Rochelle.

From 1861 to 1965, Davids Island was the site of several military encampments and army posts. Over that century, the installation’s missions and functions included service as a military general hospital, prisoner-of-war camp, mustering ground, recruit depot, coast artillery fortification, overseas embarkation and receiving station, training installation, administrative center, and anti-aircraft missile battery. From July 1, 1896, the army post was known as Fort Slocum. Fort Slocum closed on November 30, 1965. It was acquired by New Rochelle in 1967 and sold to a local utility company, Consolidated Edison Co., the following year. In 1976, Consolidated Edison returned ownership of most of the island to the city after abandoning plans to construct a nuclear power plant on the island.

When Fort Slocum closed in 1965, it contained more than 80 buildings, primarily of brick, but also of concrete block, clay tile, concrete, and wood. There was also more than a score of other structures and facilities, including a large artillery earthwork, a system of paved roads and paths, seawalls and piers, and a steel water tower. Its buildings and facilities fell into ruin in the decades after the post closed because of a lack of maintenance, several extensive fires, and vandalism.

Local and county officials came to regard the ruins as an impediment to renewed use of Davids Island, and in fiscal years 2004 through 2008, the federal government provided funds to remove the ruins. The Office of Economic Adjustment of the U.S. Department of Defense administered these funds as the budget item “Operation and Maintenance, Defense-Wide—Congressionally Directed Projects: Davids Island-Fort Slocum Remediation,” and the office assigned the task to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District. Under the Davids Island-Former Fort Slocum Project, the New York District was authorized to perform building demolition, debris removal, and remediation of asbestos materials at former Fort Slocum. Initial studies began in 2004, with demolition work starting in late 2005. All buildings and most structures associated with Fort Slocum had been removed by September 2008. Final restoration work and completion of project reports and related items continued into 2010. Tetra Tech EC, Inc., was the general contractor for the work, performing under the Corps of Engineers’ Total Environmental Restoration Contract, Contract No. DACW33-03-D-0006.

Scope of Collection

The collection consists of digital photographs documenting the historic buildings and structures on Davids Island in 2004-2008. In addition, the collection includes video footage of the buildings recorded in 2005; digital still photographs of the island’s landscape during 2004-2009; and still images and video recordings of demolition activities.

These materials comprise an important visual primary source depicting the historic architecture and landscape of Davids Island shortly before, during, and immediately after the demolition of most above-ground elements of the Fort Slocum Historic and Archeological District in 2005-2008. The collection also includes digital photographs from the 2005-2006 Phase I archeological survey on Davids Island and supplementary fieldwork in 2008-2009, as well as photographs of selected artifacts from the survey.

Records from oral history interviews with former Fort Slocum service members and residents and others associated with Davids Island conducted in 2007-2008 comprise another important element of the collection. This component includes sound recordings and written transcripts of interviews, contemporary digital photographs of interviewees, and period memorabilia, including original silver gelatin photographic prints and digital copies of images, which were donated by the interviewees. The collection includes digital copies of historical photographs, maps, and documents collected by Tetra Tech and the Corps of Engineers from the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and other sources. It also contains digital copies of key reports on the archeology and historic architecture of Davids Island, including the final six-volume set of descriptions, historic contexts, and photographs that document individual contributing elements in the Fort Slocum Historic and Archeological District, which has also been provided to the New Rochelle Public Library in paper form.

**Other Sources included materials from the New Rochelle Public Library’s Local History Collection, such as images from Dominick Bruzzese, as well as photographs, postcards, and documents provided by Michael Cavanaugh and other Fort Slocum “alumnae” and local donors.