Plum island possesses significant cultural resources that merit protection. These notably include the Plum Island lighthouse and the remains of Fort Terry, a remnant from the Spanish-American War as well as World Wars I and II. The island was the site of an early Revolutionary War raid (when General David Wooster’s troops made an amphibious landing and attacked a British outpost, which had been raiding livestock on Long Island). During the War of 1812, British and American ships plied its nearby waters.
Just before the Spanish-American War, the federal government constructed Fort Terry as an artillery post, strategically located at the entrance of Long Island Sound. A unique aspect of this fort was a “mini-gauge” railroad with a locomotive and cars used to move materials about to the various batteries and buildings. The fort actually consisted of nearly two dozen buildings and fortifications spread throughout the island, mostly in the central and eastern end of the island. It remained an artillery post during World War I, and became an anti-submarine station during World War II when Nazi U-Boats trolled off the North American coast.
Immediately after World War II, Fort Terry was used as a research laboratory to study foot and mouth disease, and ultimately grew into the current PIADC. The U.S. government has also invested in the upkeep and preservation of the historic Plum Gut Lighthouse since it was built in 1827 atop an eroding bluff. It rebuilt the crumbling masonry in 1869-70 and spent more than $1.5 million in recent years on erosion control. The Town of Southold and the East End Lighthouses organization have also raised tens of thousands of dollars for preservation of the lighthouse.