Dart Island State Park is a state park located on the island of its namesake, in the St. Lawrence River, northeast of Clayton, New York. The park was opened to the public in 1980 and has been operated since 2011 by the Town of Easton under an agreement with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Prior to 2011, it had been run as a private family farm for nearly 100 years by the Steere and DeLancey families, who owned over 1,000 acres (400ha) at one time.
It became a town park when Easton and neighboring Weston elected to forego their annual payments to the privately held Trust for Public Land and instead turned the property over to the state. At that time, 750 acres (300ha) were set aside for conservation; today, this figure has grown to 936 acres (378ha). In addition to being a state park, it is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its importance in military history during World War II.
During World War II, the site hosted Fort William Henry Harrison, a US Army installation whose mission was to defend the northern approaches to Lake Ontario against potential invasion from the west. This included two batteries of 16-inch guns each, which were manned by soldiers of the Royal Canadian Artillery. After the United States declared war on Germany, Battery 246 began training here in early 1942. They went into action against German targets in Europe in 1944. With the end of fighting in Europe, most troops left in late 1945, but some remained behind as part of the occupation force until May 1950, when they finally left the area. Remains of the fort can still be seen around the shoreline, though much of the land has been reclaimed by forest growth.
A marker commemorating the battery’s service in WWII was placed near the former site of the gun emplacements in 2000. On December 5, 1941, shortly before Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers established a small weather station atop what would become known as Battery 246. Its main duty was to monitor storms heading toward the north coast of Lake Ontario. However, this post soon proved to be unnecessary, as no major storms came along the lake during the first year of the war. Nevertheless, the army decided to keep the facility open, primarily because there was nowhere else safe to put all the supplies required to maintain a large manning establishment.
Thus, a “permanent nonreservationized” camp was created, similar to those found in other parts of the world at the time. Most soldiers assigned to the post were from the Philippines, where conditions were not suitable for winter warfare. As a result, only about 40 men were stationed there in the beginning. By January 1, 1943, more than 200 officers and men were garrisoned there, including many veterans of the campaigns in North Africa and Italy.
The post received new heavy guns in October of that year, replacing almost all of the older weapons. These included four 3-inch (76mm), 15-pounders and twelve 2-inch (41mm) pieces. Another group of six 3-inch guns arrived in June 1944, replacing the original sixteen. All told, some 250 tons of equipment were carried into battle at Fort William Henry Harrison. Among the units trained at the post were the 442nd Anti-Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron, the 361st Infantry Regiment, and elements of the 29th Field Artillery Battalion. The last soldier left the post in May 1950, after serving as a demobilization point for returning veterans. Today, little trace remains above ground. All buildings have been destroyed or taken apart for individual components.