Madison Barracks (1815-1947) - First established in 1815 as Fort Pike during the War of 1812 in present day Sackets Harbor, Jefferson County, New York. Remamed Madison Barracks after President James Madison. Declared surplus in 1945 and abandoned in 1947.
Madison Barracks History
Construction on a more substantial limestone built post began in August 1816. The limestone used to construct the fort was of various sizes and shapes neatly fitted together to form 19 inch thick walls. The unfinished post was garrisoned in that same year by five companies of the 2nd U.S. Infantry. President Monroe visited the post on 4 Aug 1817; the post was named for President Madison that same year. The limestone barracks, officer's quarters and support structures were completed in October 1819. A limestone hospital was added in 1838. Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant was stationed here as a quartermaster 1849-1852 after his service in the Mexican War.
An 1870 Army Surgeon General's report details the construction of the post noting that the reservation contained 39 1/4 acres surrounded by a substantial cedar stockade and all the buildings except four were constructed of limestone. The layout of the post is describe as centered around a 552' by 452' parade with a line of officer's quarters facing the northwest with a sallyport in the center. Two enlisted barracks 452' by 23' flank the officer's quarters perpendicular to the waters edge forming a U shaped compound with the open end on the water side. The barracks are described as having four squad rooms, 64' by 20', two mess-rooms, two kitchens, two wash rooms, two sergeants rooms, and two store rooms. Each barracks had a finished attic 90' by 20' with an 8' 6" ceiling that originally housed troops in very close quarters. By 1870 these attics were used as laundress quarters, laundress were normally enlisted men's spouses and the attics were in fact married enlisted quarters.
Between 1892 and 1909 the post was modernized and expanded but retained many of the old stone buildings in the plan. The small parade ground enclosed by the stone quarters was replaced by a much larger one northwest of the stone row. Five sets of brick duplex officer's quarters lined the west side of the new parade along with the commander's quarters at the north end of officer's row. On the east side of the parade were the enlisted barracks some of the support facilities and a new hospital. An 1892 central administration building was later converted to a mess hall and replaced with a post headquarters building. Also built in 1892 was a complete water supply system including a stone water tower with a steel tank. Water was pumped two miles from Lake Ontario. A combination post exchange (PX) and gym building was built by the headquarters building and in the 1930's a war department theater was added.
During World War I, Madison Barracks was known as a hospital post and a number of temporary structures were built to support that function.
In the 1920s and 1930s polo was a very popular military sport and an Olympic event. After the arrival of the 7th Field Artillery at Madison Barracks in September 1922, the lower portion of the parade was utilized as a polo field. In 1922 Madison Barracks hosted the Army Olympic polo tryouts.
During World War II, Madison Barracks was a training post with a capacity of 45 officers and 1,040 enlisted personnel. Temporary World War II buildings were put in place and about 1 million dollars was spent on capital improvements. At the end of the war, the post was declared surplus on 30 Jul 1945 and abandoned in 1947.
Private property in the town of Sackets Harbor, Jefferson County, New York. Portions of the original Fort Pike earthworks remain. The stone officer's quarters of the 1816 Barracks and some of the support building from that era remain. The enlisted stone barracks are gone. The 1838 stone hospital survives. Many of the 1892-1910 buildings also survive including the officer's quarters, guardhouse, administration building, water tower, BX-Gym, some barracks buildings and the headquarters building. The 1930s war department theater also remains. Some of the buildings have been repurposed and some have been redone. The old headquarters building is now an 18 room hotel and nearly all of the remaining family quarters are occupied by private individuals and families. One barracks has been reworked and is occupied and new construction is underway at the north end of the polo grounds. The 1930s theater, the 1892 administration building, the 1838 stone hospital, the BX-Gym and one barracks building appear to be unoccupied and deteriorating. The 1890s guardhouse is the real-estate and management office for the complex.
Location: Madison Barracks, Sackets Harbor, Jefferson County, New York.
Maps & Images
Lat: 43.952201 Long: -76.11135
- Roberts, Robert B., Encyclopedia of Historic Forts: The Military, Pioneer, and Trading Posts of the United States, Macmillan, New York, 1988, 10th printing, ISBN 0-02-926880-X, page 565
- Billings, John Shaw, Circular 4, Barracks and Hospitals with Descriptions of Military Posts 1870, War Department, Surgeon General's Office, 5 Dec 1870, Washington DC, Google Books, page 97-103
- North American Forts - Madison Barracks
- North American Forts - Madison Barracks Pages
- North American Forts - Sackets Harbor Forts
- Wikipedia - Madison Barracks
Visited: 25 Jul 2012
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