history housePHOTO: History House at Fort Hancock

muriel j smith 120SANDY HOOK – History House, the historic former Lieutenant’s Quarters at Fort Hancock, officially re-opened for the season Friday evening with a gala On the Porch cocktail party that brought together historians, county state and federal officials all expressing pleasure at one more victory over Super Storm Sandy.

The 19th century house, built along Officer’s Row and used by military officers until the fort was deactivated in 1974 and transferred to the National Park Service, houses furnishings, memorabilia, photos and history of the World War II era. It is open for self-guided tours tours daily from 1 to 5 p.m. with Park Rangers on site and ready to give the history of the building and its furnishings.

The Museum was closed after the storm five years ago because of excessive water damage in the basement, requiring electrical, water and other repairs.

history house sandy hook foundationPHOTO: Sandy Hook Foundation president Betsy Barrett, Freeholder Director Lillian Burry, NPS ranger/interpreter Susanne Moore

The event, hosted by the Sandy Hook Foundation, American Littoral Society and Friends of the Twin Lights, highlighted some additions made to the authentic interior World War II setting, including the retro 1940s stove and refrigerator in the kitchen. Built to the standards and appearance of 1940s appliance, the new pieces come up to 21st century fire and safety codes while not hampering the appearance of an authentic officer’s kitchen in the 1940s.

The Sandy Hook Foundation also took the opportunity to announce the End of Summer gala which will be held this year on Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m. and is a major fund raiser for maintaining history at Fort Hancock. Tickets for the event, or chances on items at the event are available through the Foundation.

While the majority of Bayfront residences along historic Officers’ Row are suffering the tragedy of ruin and lack of federal funds for restoration and maintenance projects, The Sandy Hook Foundation has been the leader in raising funds to preserve and show off how life was on the army base which included housing for officers in elite buildings that, unusual for army installations, faced the setting sun over Sandy Hook Bay rather than Pershing Field, the parade grounds behind the housing. The base during the mid 20th century also included wooden army barracks, mess halls, and several hundred other structures built for a garrison of as many as 12,000 personnel. The base, which had already made history as the main defense to the entrances of lower New York Harbor, served as headquarters for the harbor defenses of New York City, Long Island and most of the Jersey Shore. In 1945, it also served as a reception center for military personnel returning from Europe.

For further information on the historic area of Sandy Hook visit the National Gateway Recreation Area website at https://www.nps.gov or the Sandy Hook Foundation website at sandyhookfoundationnj.org.Not only was the location of the home chosen for officers, but the interior of the house reflected the hierarchy and class-system of the US Army Officer Corps at that time period as well. History House is a “Lieutenant’s Quarters,” and is designed for a 2nd or 1st Lieutenant, and his family. It is 4,500 square feet – not too shabby for a Junior Officer!! The home, laid out in the Victorian style for entertaining and socializing, features a beautiful large entrance foyer. To the left and right, are the spacious dining and sitting rooms. The Lieutenants office is located just off the dining room, and could be accessed by a private outdoor staircase, so that official business would not disturb the rest of the family. A large kitchen is located on the back of the home, and can be accessed through the foyer, or through a Butler’s Pantry which connects the kitchen and dining room.

A beautiful grand staircase is the primary egress to the second floor. However, a Servant’s Staircase is also tucked away nearby. Although hard to imagine today, the Officers stationed at Fort Hancock could, indeed, have house servants if they could afford them. The second floor features several large bedrooms and a bathroom, all of which are centered around a large hall. The third floor was the Servant’s Quarters, and features two large bedrooms, several storage closets, and a bathroom.

Fort Hancock saw its busiest time period during the 2nd World War, the busiest year of which was 1943, with several thousand troops on the Sandy Hook peninsula at all times. To reflect this, the home has been refurbished to its 1943 appearance. You will literally step back into time as you enter the home! Furthermore, History House's decor and displays change subtly with the seasons, and the home is decorated from top to bottom for the Holidays of 1943. Throughout the year, volunteer living historians portraying both personnel assigned to Fort Hancock as well as civilians, bringing the home to life with various displays and programs that showcase day to day life in the United States during the 1940s.Not only was the location of the home chosen for officers, but the interior of the house reflected the hierarchy and class-system of the US Army Officer Corps at that time period as well. History House is a “Lieutenant’s Quarters,” and is designed for a 2nd or 1st Lieutenant, and his family. It is 4,500 square feet – not too shabby for a Junior Officer!! The home, laid out in the Victorian style for entertaining and socializing, features a beautiful large entrance foyer. To the left and right, are the spacious dining and sitting rooms. The Lieutenants office is located just off the dining room, and could be accessed by a private outdoor staircase, so that official business would not disturb the rest of the family. A large kitchen is located on the back of the home, and can be accessed through the foyer, or through a Butler’s Pantry which connects the kitchen and dining room.

A beautiful grand staircase is the primary egress to the second floor. However, a Servant’s Staircase is also tucked away nearby. Although hard to imagine today, the Officers stationed at Fort Hancock could, indeed, have house servants if they could afford them. The second floor features several large bedrooms and a bathroom, all of which are centered around a large hall. The third floor was the Servant’s Quarters, and features two large bedrooms, several storage closets, and a bathroom.

Fort Hancock saw its busiest time period during the 2nd World War, the busiest year of which was 1943, with several thousand troops on the Sandy Hook peninsula at all times. To reflect this, the home has been refurbished to its 1943 appearance. You will literally step back into time as you enter the home! Furthermore, History House's decor and displays change subtly with the seasons, and the home is decorated from top to bottom for the Holidays of 1943. Throughout the year, volunteer living historians portraying both personnel assigned to Fort Hancock as well as civilians, bringing the home to life with various displays and programs that showcase day to day life in the United States during the 1940s.