Officer's Row

Officer’s Row, Sandy Hook (Fort Hancock).

Since Fort Hancock was deactivated in 1974, most of these houses have just sat around, doing nothing.

After years with no clear plan for the future of Fort Hancock, in 1999 the National Parks Service looked at a bunch of submitted proposals for what to do with the various fort structures. They selected Rumson developer James Wassel to renovate the buildings Fort Hancock:

The developer had planned to spend $70 million-$90 million on restoring the buildings that lie within the NRA’s Sandy Hook unit. Sixteen Officer’s Row homes were envisioned as bed-and-breakfast inns. A dorm once used for U.S. troops was proposed to be transformed into classrooms for Rutgers University or perhaps Brookdale Community College. Mess halls, gymnasiums, even the old mule barn and the officer’s club also were part of the deal. And the NPS would spend $2.2 million on a new dock so he could ferry conferees over to Fort Hancock from Manhattan (Repanshek 2010, para. 3).

Sounds great, right?

Well, the funds didn’t come through, and nothing at all has been done with the buildings since then. Wassel’s 2004 lease for most of the Officer’s Row buildings (which technically never went through) was canceled in 2009, and his 2007 lease for three other buildings (Post Chapel, Post Theater, and the old park service headquarters) was canceled in 2010, even though he’d renovated them. The structures further deteriorated since Wassel’s involvement (or lack thereof) in 1999, so now they’ll be even MORE of a hassle to restore, IF any developers can be convinced to take on the project now.

Every time my family drives by Officer’s Row, my dad shakes his head in disbelief. “This is waterfront property,” he says. “The land alone must be worth a fortune. I’m sure there are young couples who’d jump at the chance to restore one of these things. But look! Everything is just rotting! What a waste! What a shame!”

After that whole fiasco, the Gateway National Recreation Area officials are understandably wary of leasing out all the buildings for one big development project, and officials are reputedly seeking individual tenants for a “a more efficient building by building rehabilitation strategy (Repanshek 2010, para. 5).”

But finding lessees is hard, and keeping them may be even harder. The Audubon Society, one of three organizations permitted to stay in its Officers’ Row building after Wassel’s lease, just decided to close down its operations in late December 2011 (Sheehan 2011).

On the brighter side, as of last week, the National Park Service had plans to negotiate a lease for one of the buildings with the AIDS Resource Foundation for Children (National Park Service 2012). So at least it doesn’t seem like they’ll be bulldozing the whole area immediately.

(P.S. I actually took this photo back in 2007 when MCDP was fully active, but I guess I didn’t like it for some reason. Upon second review, I don’t think it’s too bad at all.)



National Parks Service. (2012). “Gateway enters negotiations with AIDS Research Foundation for Children to Lease Fort Hancock Building.” Atlantic Highlands Herald.

Repanshek, K. (2010). “National Park Service Officials Again Debating What To Do With Historic Officers’ Quarters at Fort Hancock.” National Parks Traveler.

Sheehan, L. (2010). “Fort developer loses lease for three buildings.” Independent.

Sheehan, L. (2011). “Audubon to fly the coop at Sandy Hook location.” Independent.