Fort Greene Park
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The park includes part of the high ground where the Continental Army built fortifications prior to the Battle of Long Island, during the early days of the American Revolutionary War. The site was chosen and construction supervised by General Nathanael Greene and it was named Fort Putnam. During the War of 1812, when the possibility of a British invasion led to the re-use of the site for defense, the newly rebuilt fortification was named Fort Greene in his honor.
In 1847, the site became Brooklyn's first park (but see also Commodore Barry Park) under the name of Washington Park. Walt Whitman, then the editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, was a strong advocate of claiming the space for a public park. In 1867, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who also designed Central Park and Prospect Park, prepared a design for the park. Its name was changed to Fort Greene Park in 1896.
One of the park's distinctive features is the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument. During the Revolutionary War, the British had kept American prisoners on ships in Wallabout Bay under terrible conditions. Around 11,500 prisoners died from disease and malnutrition. Olmsted and Vaux envisioned a crypt to hold their remains, with an appropriate monument. The crypt was built, and the remains of the prisoners were re-interred there in 1873. There was also a small monument. Eventually, funds were raised for a larger monument. The architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White won a design competition, and the monument was unveiled in 1908 by President-elect Taft. It is a 149 foot (44 m) high granite Doric column over the crypt. At the top is an eight ton bronze urn. At night the monument is illuminated by four electric lights set in four granite shafts. Bronze eagles graced each shaft, and two cannons guarding the plaza and the Martyrs crypt below. Two of the four eagles are replicas, the two originals were removed in the late 1960s due to vandalism and are now guarding the lobby of The Arsenal building in Central Park. Copies of the eagles may be found in several parks in NYC, such as the Veterans Triangle on Queens Blvd. and Greenpoint Avenue, and the front entrance to the Queens Dept. of Parks Headquarters.
To the west is the oldest hospital in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Hospital Center. North of the Park are the Walt Whitman Houses, one of the largest housing projects in New York City.
Fort Greene Park is host to the annual Fort Greene Park Summer Literary Festival, an event featuring young writers aged 7–18 reading alongside established writers, such as Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Jhumpa Lahiri, Sapphire, Gloria Naylor and Jennifer Egan. The Fort Greene Park Conservancy operates a summer concert series. The Greene Glass Project was started in 2010 to address the thousands of shards of broken glass in the park. The organization hosts annual cleanups in the summer.
- Fort Greene Park Conservancy website
- New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
- Photo gallery of monument and park