Fort Greene Park is Brooklyn's First Park, and one of the most important places in American History.
First designated a park by the City of Brooklyn in 1847 at the urging of Walt Whitman, and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1867, Fort Greene Park is one of the most storied neighborhood parks in America.
A verdant 30-acre jewel at the edge of Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene Park's history dates back to its use as a post of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. As both the formal burial site of nearly 12,000 American Martyrs and bustling greenspace serving nearly 200,000 residents of the surrounding neighborhoods, Fort Greene Park may be the closest thing to "sacred space" one can find in New York City.
Fort Greene Park is a monument to the American Experiment — a vibrant, diverse public space that gives citizens a place to reflect in a busy, growing city. The Fort Greene Park Conservancy is working to preserve and build a future for that experiment. Find something to be proud of in Fort Greene Park today.
A Place With Unprecedented History
After the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776 — the first major battle of the American Revolution — nearly 12,000 men and women of diverse nationalities were captured by the British in the aftermath of the Continental Army's retreat. Detained on prison ships in Wallabout Bay, these patriots were subjected to dire conditions, succumbing to disease, fatigue, and malnourishment.
Artist's impression of the interior of the prison ship Jersey, one of the most notorious in the British Fleet
Celebrating Monumental Sacrifice
As captives on the Prison Ships perished, their bodies thrown into the East River and left to the tide, residents of the village of Brooklyn buried the remains of their neighbors, friends, and family in shallow graves along the shore near what would become the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Though the bodies were eventually transferred to a tomb on the property of a local farmer, widespread sentiment persisted amongst the villagers to find a proper, public resting place more appropriately commemorating a spectacular tribute to American Independence. In 1846, then-editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle Walt Whitman began to advocate for the creation of a public park and crypt for the Martyrs on the grounds of old Fort Greene.
With a Landscape where a City could Relax, Recreate and Reflect
In 1847, the City of Brooklyn designated Washington Park as Brooklyn's first official park. Twenty years later, the famed architectural team of Olmsted and Vaux was commissioned to prepare a plan for the grounds. Both the landscape we see today and a crypt built into the ancient hillside were included in the plan designed to highlight the site's natural topography and vistas.
Remembering the Past and Envisioning the Future
Though Olmsted and Vaux had always intended for a formal monument to the Prison Ship Martyrs to be constructed in Washington Park, lack of funding interrupted its realization. In 1908, the architects McKim, Mead, and White completed the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument — a 149 foot Doric column crowned with a 20 foot bronze urn — as well as a plaza and stairs leading up to it for the recently renamed Fort Greene Park, thus completing the vision of a space appropriately commemorating Brooklyn's contribution to the American odyssey.
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