Returning to Sandy Hook

By Melissa Ziobro 

We at Preservation NJ could not be more pleased that our 2023 “10 Most” announcement will be held at Gateway National Recreation Area Sandy Hook, specifically, the historic Fort Hancock US Life Saving Station.

Gateway National Recreation Area

Gateway National Recreation Area overlaps two states and includes areas in three New York City boroughs: Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. The history of the park’s three units—Jamaica Bay, Sandy Hook and Staten Island—has been shaped by their access to New York Harbor. They also share the story of defending America’s largest port from real and potential enemies.

The Sandy Hook Unit lies within the Fort Hancock and Sandy Hook Proving Ground National Historic Landmark. It is home to several batteries and historic Army buildings, the oldest surviving lighthouse in the U.S., and a former United States Life-Saving Service station building that bears witness to the maritime history of this peninsula. See more at:

Army building on Sandy Hook

The Life Saving Station, where our event will be held, dates to 1894. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981, and has recently undergone restoration. It is currently home to our hosts for the “10 Most” announcement, the Sandy Hook Foundation. The Foundation is the official nonprofit friends group to the National Park Service at Sandy Hook. Established in 1989, the Foundation has funded cultural, educational, environmental and conservation programs and has helped restore and preserve historic structures of the Sandy Hook Lighthouse and Fort Hancock. See more at:

Historic buildings at Fort Hancock

Foundation President Pete Izzo notes, “Sandy Hook is a national treasure, an unpolished gem right here in our community’s backyard, and The Sandy Hook Foundation works to protect and preserve the park’s natural and cultural assets. Its vast resources include dozens of historic buildings in Fort Hancock as well as the outliers such as the 1894 Spermaceti Lifesaving Station No. 2, which has been restored by the National Park System since Hurricane Sandy.  The partnership with Preservation New Jersey will underline the significant history represented at Sandy Hook, and help to raise funds and awareness about the importance of preserving and protecting these special places.”

Sandy Hook is home to two past “10 Most” sites. 40 buildings of the Fort Hancock Historic District discussed above were listed in 1995. Several of those buildings have since been leased for adaptive reuse, like McFly’s On The Hook, a snack and sundries store located in the former Post Exchange; or the Mule Bar Tavern, set to open for Fourth of July weekend. Over a dozen buildings are used by the Marine Academy of Science And Technology (MAST), and there are two Airbnbs.

Then, in 2022, we listed the Sandlass House, located at the entrance to the Sandy Hook. It is the only surviving building of a once extensive resort complex built as part of Sandy Hook’s Golden Age. Built in 1893, the House was part of the Highland Beach excursion resort which served as a community hub from 1888-1961. The resort, founded by William Sandlass and the Highland Beach Improvement Company, opened its doors during the emergence of increased leisure time for the middle class and served over 125,000 visitors a season at the turn of the century. See more at: The complex situation at the Sandlass House is still unfolding.

We look forward to providing some updates on these sites when our virtual series “Talks with our Ten Most” features speakers from Fort Hancock and Sandy Hook on August 10 at 7PM. You can register in advance for that free program here:

Until then, we look forward to seeing you on the Hook on June 4!