Monday, August 19, 2013

Fort Wayne - Detroit, Michigan

Visited 16 Aug 2013 - Fort Wayne (1843-1949) was one of eight forts designated as Northern Frontier Forts in 1840 by the Chief Engineer of the United States Army, Joseph G. Totten. The Northern Tier Forts were placed at strategic locations along the Great Lakes to prevent any British incursion across the border and to control traffic between the lakes. 
1845 Stone Barracks, 500 Man Capacity
1845 Stone Barracks, 500 Man Capacity

Star Fort Sallyport and Brick Facing
Star Fort Sallyport and Brick Facing

Fort Wayne's role at Detroit was to prevent enemy ships from passing between Lake Erie and Lake Huron and to protect Detroit. Construction began in 1843 under the supervision of Lieutenant Montgomery C. Meigs. The old star fort remained a part of the active military post until 1949 when it was given to the City of Detroit. The newer garrison part of the post remained an active military post until the 1960s and has military tenants to this day.
East Bastion Casemate and Embrasure
East Bastion Casemate and Embrasure

Our visit began with a phone call to set up an appointment. The park is run by a coalition of volunteer organizations and a single city employee. Hours are limited so make sure you call before visiting.

Driving through downtown Detroit is an experience but luckily the fort is just three blocks from the freeway exit. The entrance to the grounds has a manned gate and there is a large parking lot for visitors.

Left SE Wall, Sallyport  Right Dem-bastion
Left SE Wall, Sallyport  Right Dem-bastion



Fort Wayne is really multiple forts in one, the overshadowing feature is the four story 1845 stone barracks inside the old star fort. The star fort was originally an earthen fort faced with oak logs that had four bastions, one on each corner. The fort you see today is part of the original blended into an 1860s brick faced fort. The easiest place to see the combination is in the sallyport entrance. The remaining 1840s features include the stone barracks, the stone magazine and the sallyports. The 1860s upgrades included the brick facing walls, casemates in the bastions, service magazines on top of the bastions and Civil War era gun emplacements.

Civil War Era Rodman Gun Emplacement, East Bastion
Civil War Era Rodman Gun Emplacement, East Bastion

Our tour brought us through the stone sallyport into the brick casemates for the east bastion. The casemates were impressive both for the original construction and their current excellent condition. We exited the sallyport to a fantastic view of the stone barracks and moved up to the top of east bastion where eight Rodman gun emplacements have been exposed. These emplacements are in good shape.
Stone Magazine Interior
Stone Magazine Interior





We explored the interior of the 1845 stone magazine and the stone barracks and then we headed toward the back entrance cut through the west baston. This back entrance opens into the next phase of the fort's development. This part of the fort had no defensive fortifications but served as an administrative, training and housing area for the troops. Most of this area was built between the 1870s and the 1900s and it features an officer's quarters row, an NCO quarters row, a large parade and four large brick barracks on the north end. 

Restored Commanding Officer's Quarters
Restored Commanding Officer's Quarters



The commanding officer's quarters is restored to it's original 1880s Victorian look but the rest of officer's row retains the brick veneer exteriors added in the 1930s. The NCO quarters row is a mixed bag with some of the buildings deteriorating. Only two of the large brick barracks remain and one of them is in deteriorated condition.





Deteriorating NCO Quarters
Deteriorating NCO Quarters

There are two different period guardhouses on the post, the earlier 1889 guardhouse is completely restored and should not be missed. The interior is beautifully restored with period furnishings that make it look like the troops just fell out for inspection five minutes ago. We ended our tour with a walk back by the newer guardhouse which has a small collection of guns out front.




Interior of 1889 Guardhouse
Interior of 1889 Guardhouse


Our guide Adam is one of the volunteers at the fort and he literally knew every inch of the grounds. He gave us a great tour and we could tell how proud he was of the work done by the folks at the fort. This is a Must See fort if you are in the Detroit area. 

Fort more information and pictures see the Fort Wayne (2) page on FortWiki.com.


No comments:

Post a Comment