Fort Nathan Hale History
BLACK ROCK FORT was constructed
in the spring of 1776, by order of the Connecticut Colony, on
a prominent basalt
ledge jutting the harbor on the east side and in range of the
ship channel, thus protecting the approach to the Port of New
On July 5, 1779, superior British forces landed
from war ships, attacked the fort and captured its 19 defenders.
The enemy was then able to march into New Haven.
At the close of the Revolution, Black Rock Fort
was abandoned. When the political situation again deteriorated
between Americans and British in the early 1800s, a new fortification
was erected by the Federal Government, complete with masonry
walls, six guns, magazine and barracks for fifty men. It was
named Fort Nathan Hale for one Connecticut's most illustrious
patriots. During the war of 1812, Fort Hale's cannons successfully
defied a number of British raiders threatening New Haven.
In 1863 a new Fort Hale was built to thwart Southern
raiders. Adjacent to the old fort ruins, this fortification was
an impressive one with earthen ramparts, five "bombproof" bunkers,
moat with drawbridge and eighteen guns. However, it saw no action
during the Civil War.
In 1921, by Act of Congress, the fort - long unused
and outmoded - was deeded to the State which promptly handed
it over to the City to maintain. The city's Park Department beautified
the site, creating a popular bathing beach and picnic area. Unfortunately,
water pollution and the hurricane of '38 brought such recreation
to an end. Neglected, concealed by overgrowth, the fort fell
into decay and obscurity.
BLACK ROCK FORT has now been brought
back to life by FNHRP. Reconstructed in time for the Bicentennial,
it was the
scene of a colorful opening ceremony on July 5, 1976.
FORT NATHAN HALE has been reestablished
with the restoration of the drawbridge, moat, ramparts, powder
and "bombproof" bunker.
The final goal of FNHRP is the construction of
an educational facility and visitor center to demonstrate the
significance of the forts, the importance of the Port of New
Haven, past and present, and the value of seashore ecological