FORT LAFAYETTE MARKER DEDICATION
May 17, 2021, Brooklyn, NY
I wear two hats today. First, I am here as President of the American Friends of Lafayette (AFL). Second, as a native Brooklynite who grew up a couple of miles north of here.
In regard to the first hat, the AFL was founded in 1932 at Lafayette College in Easton, PA, with a mission of commemorating and honoring the life and work of General Lafayette. We now have 414 members, and since 2017, our members have been intimately involved with Julien Icher’s work, which first included traveling to the New England states in 2017 and creating a website with all the New England stops that Lafayette made during the Farewell Tour. Then in 2018-19, Julien expanded his travels and the website to include the remaining states that Lafayette visited. The AFL, through its members, provided Julien substantial direct financial support as well as room and board and transportation. This support happily continues to this date, including Julien’s recent trip to unveil three markers in New Hampshire, where he stayed at the homes of two AFL members, including ours. Just as Lafayette was called the Nation’s Guest during the Farewell Tour, we at the AFL have fondly dubbed Julien the Nation’s House Guest.
Moving on to the second hat, I spent many of my formative years living in a post-World War II apartment at 88th Street and Shore Road, about a mile north of Fort Lafayette. My dad was a WW II veteran of the Army Air Corps, where he served in the Pacific Theater, based in Saipan. I attended Poly Prep County Day School on 92nd Street and 7th Avenue as a youth, not far from here, during the construction of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.
After Fort Lafayette was blown up in 1960 to facilitate the construction of the Bridge’s eastern tower, my uncle, who lived in the same building, would walk along the shore to the site to watch the construction several times a week.
I only learned about the existence of Fort Lafayette in 2003, while translating Levasseur’s account of Lafayette’s Farewell Tour. I read that the guns of Fort Lafayette greeted General Lafayette when he arrived aboard the ship Cadmus on August 15, 1824, and that Lafayette was given a tour of the Fort on September 8.
So you see that the unveiling of this Lafayette Trail marker here is very special to me.
Thank you Julien, for all the work you do and for creating this important occasion.