March 3, 2014
PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
"Fort Terry Photography Exhibit to Open April 5th"
Solders Pose at the Swimming Beach, c. 1910s, courtesy of the CDSG.
SOUTHOLD, NY. The Southold Historical Society is pleased to announce that it will host an exhibition featuring photographs of Fort Terry, which was once located on nearby Plum Island, New York. The exhibition, entitled ‘Life at Fort Terry: Leisure Time in the Army,’ will be held at the Society’s exhibition building, The Reichert Family Center, in the Cosden Price Gallery. The exhibit will feature period photographs documenting a variety of recreational activities that soldiers enjoyed during the early decades of the Fort’s existence.
Fort Terry was established as part of the coastal defense system designed to protect New York City and Long Island Sound. The system included a chain of fortifications created to thwart a sea-based attack. In addition to Fort Terry, there were other defensive structures in Rhode Island, on Fishers Island, on Great Gull Island and off of nearby Gardiners Island. Fort Terry opened in 1897 and was in operation until 1948. At its height, it included hundreds of buildings and thousands of American soldiers.
However, the Fort never saw any serious action, and once their prescribed daily training activities were completed, soldiers had to find other ways to occupy their time. Soldiers were allowed to leave Plum Island during their free time to pursue personal business or activities not sponsored by the Army – and regular ferry service to the North Fork and Connecticut was available from the Fort Terry wharves. In addition, many leisure time activities occurred on base.
Swimming was a popular pastime during the warmer months, as were all varieties of team sports. Fort Terry soldiers played basketball, football, and baseball with great regularity, both against other nearby forts – such as Fort H. G. Wright on Fishers Island – as well as nearby community-based sports teams located both in New York and Connecticut. In the early 20th century, the Fort’s teams won regional championships on occasion.
While team sports may have occupied much of a soldier’s time, other activities were also popular. Meeting up in the bowling alley located on the base for a quick game or exercising in the gym was not uncommon. Leisure time was also used for writing letters home and catching up on reading, especially the Police Gazette, one of the more popular periodicals available at the base. Gambling was endemic in the Army and was a major recreational activity at the Fort; the only aspect of it frowned upon was if officers joined in gambling with enlisted men.
The exhibition will open to the public on Saturday, April 5th, 2014 and will remain on view through Saturday, May 17th, 2014. The Reichert Family Center and Cosden Price Gallery, where the exhibition will be held, is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 1-4pm, and by appointment. The gallery is located at 54127 Route 25 in Southold, just west of Jeni’s Main Street Grill.
For further information on this exhibition or other Society activities, please visit us online at www.southoldhistoricalsociety.org or call (631) 765-5500.