The National Historic Landmark, Fort Massapeag Archeological Site, the only fort of Indian origin ever discovered on western Long Island, does not appear on most maps of Massapequa.
Many archaeologists believe that is just as well.
Historic-landmark designations are only given by the National Park Service to what it deems the most important links to the nation's past. A century ago, the listing at Fort Massapeag Archeological Site commemorated a 100-foot-square log stockade that is now long gone.
While archaeologists are not sure who built it -- if the Massapeags, the Dutch, or even the English -- they believe it was used a great deal in the mid-1600s during the time when the Indians first encountered Europeans.
Nearly all public knowledge of the fort site, lying in an undisturbed three-eighths of an acre in the Harbor Green neighborhood on Fort Neck, has been lost, and little is known about its location. And it is unclear what artifacts may remain buried there.
"Most people don't even realize it's a national historic site," explains Kathryne Natale, the curator and supervisor of the Nassau County Garvies Point Museum and Preserve in Glen Cove. "They think all national sites are in the west."
When asked how to get to the fort in Massapequa, residents living only a few blocks away stared blankly. The reference librarian at the local library had never heard of the place before.
Intentionally, the National Park Service refuses to provide directions. "Because of its archaeological significance, it is regarded as a critical component of the National Register of Historic Places," said Beth Savage, a historian for the National Register of Historic Places.
This is due to good reason, according to some archaeologists. “It's nice to let people know what happened in the past, but people want to go out and discover it for themselves,” said Jo-Ann McLean, archaeologist at the Garvies Point Museum. There are wooden mortars and other artifacts from the fort and the surrounding area in the museum's collection.
People who donated included amateur archaeologists who were drawn to the Fort throughout the early 1930's by newspaper reports of skeletons and Indian artifacts being found during excavation for the Harbor Green subdivision. A lot of these artifacts were taken by looters from the Fort Massapeag Archeological Site. In addition to the 20 skeletons buried in the fetal position and facing east, the remains of another 20 skeletons also disappeared during the excavation.
The archaeologists contend that in just a few days, the Harbor Green development destroyed not only burial grounds, but evidence of native human habitation much older than the arrival of Europeans by at least 6,000 years. As a result of efforts led by a local historian, the developers decided to spare the fort area, though the north wall of the fort is now beneath a road.
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