Fort Mott, built as one point of a three-fort defense of Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War, lies right on the riverfront just east of Finn’s Point. Fort DuPont and Fort Delaware, the other two forts comprising that defense, stand on the other side of the Delaware River. The river is very narrow at that point, and takes a very sharp bend before going inland.
Following the Civil War, work was begun on eleven gun emplacements at Fort Mott. Only two of those were completed when the fort was abandoned in 1876. In 1896, at the beginning of the Spanish-American War, Fort Mott was finally completed and outfitted with three 10-inch, and three 12-inch guns. The fort remained active until 1943. During its last two decades of operation, the guns were dismantled and shipped elsewhere. The State of New Jersey purchased Fort Mott in 1947 as an historic site and opened the Fort Mott State Park on June 24, 1951. Today one can traipse through the gun batteries, and the ammunition magazines, all of which are protected by a massive parapet of concrete which is 35-feet thick. An additional 60-feet of grass-covered dirt covers the front of the structure in steep slopes.
When I was a child we often drove to the fort to have picnics on the extensive tree-shaded grounds. It was wonderful fun to lie down, arms straight up and flat on the ground, at the top of the grassy hill in front of the gun-emplacement and then roll down, willy-nilly, across the bumpy surface, to land in a laughing heap at the bottom. When we were feeling especially brave we’d venture into the dark ammunition rooms inside the concrete structure. The boys were always trying to scare us girls by running ahead in that damp, dark, echoing, spider-infested place, hiding in a side tunnel and then jumping out and shouting loudly as we got near. On other days, my brothers and I would ride our bicycles down to the park and go fishing for catfish. We’d carefully make our way out on huge metal dredge pipes set out by the Army Corps of Engineers, find a likely spot and try to catch a fish. On most of those days we could feel the vibration of the riverbottom sludge going through those pipes and watch the busy dredges working to keep the river channel clear. The materials dredged up from the river bottom were piped into a spoil area located behind massive dirt dikes that covered a huge portion of Finn’s Point. I can still remember the smells of the area, and experience in my mind’s eye the sight of 10-foot tall reeds and the sound of them swishing and swaying in the wind. Ah, childhood, so far away, yet so near in dear memories.