Revolutionary War and New York history, medieval European art and architecture, a little red lighthouse, views of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades are waiting for you at Fort Tryon Park, Washington Park and Bennett Park near the north end of Manhattan. Northern Manhattan is home to three of New York’s most beautiful parks, Fort Tryon, Fort Washington, and Bennett Park. Originally the home of the Weckquaesgeek Tribe, this area was an important point of defense during the Revolutionary War. Today, the parks are worth visiting for their landscaped gardens and historical monuments.
The site of 66-acre Fort Tryon Park was purchased by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in 1917 from Cornelius K.G. Billings. Rockefeller hired Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. to redesign Billings’ estate into a public park to include the “Heather Garden,” eight miles of walking paths, and sloping lawns with unobstructed views of the Hudson River.
Where Billings’ mansion once stood, Rockefeller reconstructed a medieval cloisters. In order to preserve the park’s pristine views, Rockefeller bought 700 acres of land across the river; now a part of Palisades Parkway. In 1931 Rockefeller donated the park to the city and in 1937 the Cloisters opened as a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Today the park is maintained with the help of the New York Restoration Project and the Friends of Fort Tryon Park. In 2001, The NYRP opened the New Leaf Restaurant & Bar in Billings’ old stonework horse stables. All profits from the café are donated toward park maintenance and every fall the park hosts a Medieval festival. At the entrance of Fort Tryon Park—named for William Tryon, the British governor of New York during the Revolutionary War—lies Margaret Corbin Circle, commemorating America’s first woman solider. During the Battle for New York fought in November of 1776 along the slopes above the Hudson, Margaret Cochran Corbin took command of her slain husband’s cannon and continued firing on advancing Hessian troops until she was severely wounded.
The site of today’s Bennett Park, Manhattan’s highest natural point, was chosen by George Washington, as a base of operations at the beginning of 1776. Fort Washington was lost on November 16th, 1776 in the same pivotal battle that gave control of Manhattan Island to the British. During the late 19th century the city began protecting parts of the battle site along the Hudson River which was eventually preserved as Fort Washington Park. In 1928 the city opened Bennett Park and constructed a monument to commemorate the site of the original Fort Washington. Fort Washington Park winds along the Hudson River below Fort Tryon to 155th street. Fort Washington Park includes a section of the Manhattan greenway, tennis courts and baseball fields, as well as picnic facilities.
The Little Red Light House
Jeffery’s Hook Lighthouse, commissioned in 1921, sits at the base of the majestic George Washington Bridge, built in 1931. This “Little Red Lighthouse” was saved from demolition in 1951 after Hildegard H. Swift wrote her popular children’s book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Each September the Lighthouse’s story is celebrated with a festival in its honor.