Monday, January 22, 2018

Camp Hero, Montauk

The eastern tip of Long Island has always had military significance, even in the days of the American Revolution. In 1776, the Battle of Long Island proved that the tip of the island was a vulnerable spot. When Montauk Lighthouse was first authorized in 1792, part of its mission was to keep a lookout for British ships sailing for New York or Boston, and as such was the first military installation at Montauk.

In World War II, with German U-boats threatening the East Coast and Long Island, Montauk was considered a likely invasion point. The US Army upgraded Fort Hero, and renamed it Camp Hero in 1942. The whole facility, with U.S. Army, Navy and Coast Guard constituents, was officially known as the "US Military Reservation", but the locals just called it "Camp Hero". The fort was named after Major General Andrew Hero, Jr., who was the Army's Chief of Coast Artillery between 1926 and 1930. When World War II ended, the base was temporarily shut down and used as a training facility by the Army Reserves. The naval facilities were largely abandoned.

In the 1950's the Army gave over the western portion of the military reservation to the 773rd Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron. During this time the military reservation was run jointly by the Army and the Air Force.

In 1952, the 773rd was transferred to the 26th Air Division and operated as an Air Defense Direction Center and in November 1957, the Army closed the Camp Hero portion. In 1958 a SAGE (Semi Automatic Ground Environment) radar system was installed and the facility was merged into the national air defense network. The site was also a major part of the NORAD defense system.

The unit was renamed the 773rd Radar Squadron (SAGE) in 1963 and officially shut down on July 1, 1980. The antenna was "abandoned in place", with its controlling motors and electronics removed, allowing it to move with the wind to prevent it being torn off its base in a storm. A GATR (Ground Air Transmitter Receiver) facility remained in service to direct military aircraft operating within the region but was deactivated in 1984.

Barracks, laboratories and other buildings on the base were all built to resemble a small fishing village. The base has long been associated with a number of conspiracies, the most famous being the Philadelphia Experiment, in which the USS Eldridge was supposedly rendered invisible. The base has also been implicated in conspiracies involving time travel, the Men in Black, Martians, and Nikola Tesla.

The area is now a state park encompassing 415 acres of diverse landscape, with “heavily wooded areas, a long expanse of beachfront along the Atlantic Ocean, and an historic military installation.”


“Camp Hero.” Atlas Obscura, Atlas Obscura, 24 May 2009,

“Montauk Point, NY.” Camp Hero,

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Brief History of Heckscher Park

George Campbell Taylor was the son of the wealthy merchant and banker Moses Taylor. After acquiring the Plumb estate, George and his common-law-wife/housekeeper Betsy Head alternately stayed at the Plumb and Taylor mansions. They became despondent and turned to alcohol when Betsy’s eighteen-year-old daughter Lena married their gardener. Local lore has it that Taylor’s alcoholism became so acute that he was unable to climb the stairs to his second-floor bedroom and resorted to drinking himself into a stupor in a log cabin on the estate George and Betsy died in 1907 within three months of each other but not before disinheriting Lena, whose husband went on to be the foreman at William Kissam Vanderbilt, Jr.’s Lake Success estate 'Deepdale'.

When George C. Taylor died, his eighteen heirs decided to sell his estate. The originally agreed to sell the estate to the park commission. Neighbors opposed to a park, formed a land company and offered the same price, the heirs decided to sell to them instead. The park commission replied by condemning the place. The land company went to court to prevent the park commission from taking it on the grounds that, although the state had voted for the funds, it had not actually raised the money yet.

The court agreed with the land company and declared the condemnation illegal. While this trial was still going on, the land company brought up another suit, trying to force the park commission to get off the property and pay damages for having been there.

August Heckscher came to the rescue with a gift to the state of $262,000. The park commission once more condemned the land. The land company brought up another suit. One lawsuit followed another. Whatever one court decided, an appeal was made to a higher court. Before it was over, there were twenty-five appeals, the State Legislature had been called into special session, and the funds for the parks throughout the state had been shut off.

The biggest land acquisition fight in the United States at that time ended at the United States Supreme Court. The parks commission won and the park, named after August Heckscher opened in 1929.


L., Zach. “Old Long Island.” The George C. Taylor Estate, 1 Jan. 1970,

Overton, Jacqueline. Long Island’s Story. Ira J. Friedman Inc., 1961.