The United States government purchased 125 acres of land between 45th and 49th Streets on the beachfront of Galveston Island. A military reservation was born. Fort construction was still in progress when the hurricane of September 8, 1900 struck the island. Twenty-nine of the 129 soldiers housed at the fort lost their lives. The fort without a garrison was turned over to the Army engineers for repairs.
While under repair, the military reservation was officially named Fort Crockett in honor of Davy Crockett, a famous American pioneer who lost his life in the gallant defense of the Alamo. Fort repair and building upgrades were completed in 1910. Fort Crockett was garrisoned in 1911 with the Coast Artillery Corps.
The hurricane of 1915 blew into the encampment of a brigade, which had been stationed on the parade ground in tents since 1912; however, this time the troops could take refuge in the concrete barracks.
During World War I
3,000 troops were estimated to have been at the fort at one time. All available space was covered with cantonments, kitchens and warehouses and two regiments in tents occupied the parade ground. Trench mortar units, railroad artillery and Howitzer organizations were sent across to France, and steady stream of replacement batteries left the fort. It was estimated that Fort Crockett sent 100 to 200 replacements per month.
Building of Fort Crockett air strip in the 1940's.
Work on the Fort batteries was resumed in 1942 when the menace of German submarines entering the Gulf of Mexico became apparent. The work was done in complete secrecy and was finished in 1943.
Above is a 1930 aerial photograph showing the exposed guns of Battery Hoskins. The Army Corps of Engineers began by casemating Battery Hoskins to withstand an attack of 5,000-pound naval shells. Below is a 1952 photograph showing the covered Battery Hoskins bunker.
Fort Crockett became a prisoner of war camp when the first group of 165 POWs arrived in Galveston. The compound was from 53rd Street to 57th Street and from Avenue Q to Seawall Boulevard. The compound fence went across the Boulevard, down to the beach and across the beach into the water. A total of 650 POWs were detained at the camp until it was deactivated in 1946.
After having been blocked off to traffic from the start of the war in 1941, Seawall Boulevard was reopened on July 22, 1948. From 1948 to 1951 the fort was the Galveston Recreation Center for the Fourth Army. Single enlisted GI's could stay at the Recreation Center for $2 a week. There was an additional charge of 50 cents per day for dependents over the age of sixteen. Entertainment included tennis, fishing, bowling, dancing, bingo, archery, baseball, golf, sunbathing, horseback riding and much more.
Fishery Research began at Fort Crockett when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gulf Fishery Investigations studying red tide were housed in a single building just east of the Post Exchange.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Service acquired 10 buildings at our current site. Researchers began a new system of keeping shrimp fishery records.
Began Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Laboratory to serve the Gulf of Mexico.
Expanded to studies of shrimp natural history and shrimp aquaculture.
The buildings and property were transferred to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) in the newly established National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Embarked on comprehensive oceanographic surveys of the Gulf of Mexico. Continued to be a world leader in shrimp aquaculture research.
1978 Established new sea turtle research and the Headstart Program to help recover the endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle.
Began predictive modeling and ecological analyses of shrimp and fish populations. Initiated research on essential fish habitat in Texas, Louisiana and the nation.
Started tracking of sea turtles with satellites, mapping of essential fish habitat using Geographic Information Systems, testing Turtle Excluder Devices and Bycatch Reduction Devices, modeling at ecosystem level, and restoring coastal marshes.
In 2000 following refurbishment of buildings 302 and 216, there was a Rededication Ceremony to commemorate their opening, the 30-Year Anniversary of NOAA, and 50 years of fishery research on the grounds of Fort Crockett.
The Galveston Laboratory continues to be a key federal fisheries research installation in the Gulf of Mexico through the help of its many partners.
Information on Fort Crockett was paraphrased from information provided by the Galveston Historical Foundation and research by Betty Hartman (215 Postoffice:40001, Galveston TX 77550).