Fort Armstrong was located at Honolulu and was built on fill over Kaʻākaukukui reef in 1907 to protect Honolulu Harbor. It had one named Battery, and was spread over an area of 64.34 acres (6 acres being upland and the balance submerged lands.)
Kaʻākaukukui (the right (or north) light – and also called ‘Ākaukukui) was an original name for Kakaʻako.
Marshland, reef, salt pans and traditional fish ponds existed in this area. The entire shoreline was a coral wasteland bordered by mudflats. According to an 1885 survey map, the ‘ili of Kaʻākaukukui was awarded by land court to Victoria Kamāmalu; Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop inherited the land and it later became part of the Kamehameha Schools.
In 1898, the property was transferred to the United States by the Republic of Hawaiʻi under the joint resolution of annexation and, to protect the mouth of Honolulu Harbor, the US Army filled a submerged coral reef on the ‘Ewa side of Ka’ākaukukui for a gun emplacement.
In January 1905, President Teddy Roosevelt instructed Secretary of War William H Taft to convene the National Coast Defense Board (Taft Board) “to consider and report upon the coast defenses of the United States and the insular possessions (including Hawai‘i.)”
In 1906 the Taft Board recommended a system of Coast Artillery batteries to protect Pearl Harbor and Honolulu. Between 1909-1921, the Hawaiian Coast Artillery Command had its headquarters at Fort Ruger and defenses included artillery regiments stationed at …
… Fort Armstrong, Fort Barrette, Fort DeRussy, Diamond Head, Fort Kamehameha, Kuwa‘aohe Military Reservation (Fort Hase – later known as Marine Corps Base Hawaiʻi) and Fort Weaver.
The District was renamed Headquarters Coast Defenses of Oʻahu sometime between 1911 and 1913. Following World War I and until the end of World War II, additional coastal batteries were constructed throughout the Island.
Fort Armstrong, built in 1907, was named for Brigadier General Samuel C Armstrong. His father, Reverend Richard Armstrong (1805-1860,) had arrived in Hawaiʻi in 1832 and later replaced Hiram Bingham as pastor at Kawaiahaʻo Church (1840-1843.) In 1848, Armstrong (the father) left the mission and became Hawaiʻi’s minister of public education.
Armstrong (the son – namesake of the Fort) was born January 30, 1839 in Maui, Hawaii, the sixth of ten children. He attended Punahou School and later volunteered to serve in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
At the end of the war, Armstrong established the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute – now known as Hampton University – in Hampton, Virginia in 1868. Perhaps the best student of Armstrong’s Hampton-style education was Booker T Washington. Samuel Chapman Armstrong died at the Hampton Institute on May 11, 1893, and is buried in the Hampton University Cemetery.
The original garrison at Fort Armstrong was the 1st Coast Artillery Company, followed by the 104th Mine Co. operating the harbor mines. Also stationed there was the 185th Coast Artillery Company.
They lived in tents for quite a long time; then temporary barracks were built – wooden structures that were continually occupied since January, 1914. Buildings are constructed of 1 x 12 rough boards, with tar-paper roofs.
The facility later had a barracks, 4 officers’ quarters, 3 noncommissioned officers’ quarters, administration building and post exchange, guardhouse, fire apparatus house, quartermaster storehouse, gymnasium and related infrastructure; the standard strength was 109 men.
Battery Tiernon at Fort Armstrong was armed with two pedestal mounted 3-inch Guns from 1911 to 1943.
The first service practice ever held at Battery Tiernon, using the 3-inch guns, was August 30, 1913. “Two 10-by-24 foot material targets were towed from right to left, facing the field of fire from a position at the B.C. station. … only one target was fired upon, viz: Four shots by the first manning detail and then four shots by the second manning detail. This was due to the fact that when the left target had almost reached the inner allowable limit of range at which practice may be held (1,500-yards) the right target was just beginning to be obscured by a dredge working in the outer channel.”
The Army mission in Hawaiʻi was defined in 1920 as “the defense of Pearl Harbor Naval Base against damage from naval or aerial bombardment or by enemy sympathizers and attack by enemy expeditionary force or forces, supported or unsupported by an enemy fleet or fleets.”
Fort Armstrong continued under the Coast Artillery program until September 15, 1922.
It was reserved for military purposes by a series of Executive Orders in 1930 and was described as the Fort Armstrong Military Reservation.
The present seawall was constructed 500-feet out from the original shoreline in 1948, and the area was backfilled. The Army Corps of Engineers took over the post in 1949. Kakaʻako Park was created over the landfill area.
On December 13, 1951, because the site was no longer needed by the military and was needed by the Territory of Hawaiʻi for harbor improvements, President Truman transferred the land to the Territory of Hawaiʻi.
Today, the site includes Piers 1 and 2 and has container and general cargo berths, warehouses, sheds, open paved storage areas for container back up and marshaling and Foreign Trade Zone No. 9. The area also contains the US Immigration Station, the Department of Health Building, and the Ala Moana Pumping Station (all historic buildings.)
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