Fort Tryon Park

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Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters
2013 Fort Tryon Park main entrance sign at Margaret Corbin Circle in snow.jpg
Fort Tryon Park is located in New York City
Fort Tryon Park
Locationfrom Cabrini Circle, at the intersection of Cabrini Blvd. and Fort Washington Avenue in the south, to Riverside Drive in the north, and from Broadway in the east to the Henry Hudson Parkway in the west
Manhattan, New York City
Coordinates40°51′39″N 73°55′57″W / 40.86083°N 73.93250°W / 40.86083; -73.93250Coordinates: 40°51′39″N 73°55′57″W / 40.86083°N 73.93250°W / 40.86083; -73.93250
Area66.5 acres (26.9 ha)
ArchitectOlmsted Brothers:[2]
(Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., James W. Dawson)
Architectural styleRomanesque
NRHP reference #78001870[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPDecember 19, 1978
Designated NYCLThe Cloisters: March 19, 1974[3]
Fort Tryon Park: September 20, 1983[4]

Fort Tryon Park is a public park located in the Hudson Heights and Inwood neighborhoods of the borough of Manhattan in New York City. The 67 acres (27 ha) park is situated on a ridge in Upper Manhattan, with views of the Hudson River, the George Washington Bridge, and the New Jersey Palisades, to the west; Washington Heights to the south; Inwood and the Bronx to the north; and the Harlem River to the east.[5] It extends from Margaret Corbin Circle in the south to Riverside Drive at Dyckman Street in the north, and from Broadway in the east to the Henry Hudson Parkway in the west. The main entrance to the park is at Margaret Corbin Circle, at the intersection of Fort Washington Avenue and Cabrini Boulevard.

The area was known by the name Chquaesgeck by the local Lenape tribe, and was called Lange Bergh (Long Hill) by Dutch settlers until late in the 17th century.[5] It was the location where the Battle of Fort Washington was fought in the American Revolutionary War, but it was, and remained, sparsely populated. By the turn of the 20th century, it was the location of large country estates.

The park was the creation of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who bought up several of the estates beginning in 1917 in order to create it. He engaged the Olmsted Brothers firm – formed by the sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, step-brothers John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. – to design the park;[5] James W. Dawson created the planting plan.[2][6] The park was given to the city in 1931 and completed in 1935.[5] Subsequently, Rockefeller also bought sculptor George Gray Barnard's collection of medieval art and gave to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which from 1934 to 1939 built The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park to house it.[2]

The park is built on a formation of Manhattan schist and contains interesting examples of igneous intrusions and of glacial striations from the last Ice Age. The lower lying regions to the east and north of the park are built on Inwood marble. The northern boundary of the park is formed by the Dyckman Street Fault.[7] The park's design included extensive plantings of various flora in the park's many gardens, including a Heather Garden, which was restored in the 1980s.[6] Besides the gardens and the Cloisters, the park has extensive walking paths and meadows, with views of the Hudson and Harlem Rivers.

Fort Tryon Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and was designated a New York City Scenic Landmark in 1983.



During the American Revolutionary War the park was an ancillary site of the Battle of Fort Washington, fought on November 16, 1776, between 2,900 American soldiers and 8,000 invading Hessian troops hired by Great Britain.[8] Margaret Corbin became the first woman to fight in the war and was wounded during the battle. Subsequently, the southern entrance to the park bears her name. The actual site of Fort Washington is less than a mile south at Bennett Park.[9] After the British victory, the outpost was named after Sir William Tryon, the last British Governor of the Province of New York.

As New York City expanded and prospered, the area – which was located on a high ridge that the Lenapes called Chquaesgeck and the Dutch "Long Hill"[10] – was part of a country estate whose wealthy owners, included Dr. Samuel Watkins, founder of Watkins Glen, General Daniel Butterfield, Boss Tweed and C. K. G. Billings. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. purchased the Billings estate in 1917 – for $35,000 an acre[11] – as well as the contiguous Hays and Shaefer tracts to the north. He hired the Olmsted Brothers firm – and in particular Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., son of the designer of Central Park – to plan a park that he would give to the city. Olmsted's design capitalized on the topography to reveal sweeping vistas of the Hudson River and the Palisades. To preserve the views from Fort Tryon Park, Rockefeller purchased land on the opposite side of the Hudson to keep it from being developed, which later became park of Palisades Interstate Park. Olmsted Jr. was guided by the four principles of park design which his father had established in creating Central Park: the beautiful, as in small open lawns; the picturesque, as seen in wooded slopes; the sublime, represented in the vistas of the Hudson River; and the gardenesque, exemplified by the park's Heather and Alpine Gardens.[7] In addition, James W. Dawson was hired to create a park-planting plan.[2][6]

Use as park[edit]

The park was given to the city in 1931.[5] Fort Tryon Park was constructed during the Great Depression, providing many jobs. The project included the 190th Street subway station on the IND Eighth Avenue Line (today's A train), which is the closest New York City Subway station to the park's main (southern) entrance; the Dyckman Street station on the same line is closest to the northern end. The park was completed in 1935.[5]

Rockefeller also bought sculptor George Gray Barnard's collection of medieval art and gave to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which built The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park to house it.[2] The Cloisters, which was designed by Charles Collens,[12] incorporates several medieval buildings that were purchased in Europe, brought to the United States, and reassembled, often stone by stone.[13]:35 Construction started in 1934 and took five years,[14] though the first portions of the Cloisters were opened to the public in 1938.[15][16]

A view of the park from the Hudson River; The Cloisters can be seen at the top of the hill on the right. The green elevated highway is the Henry Hudson Parkway

Remnants of the C.K.G. Billings estate are the Fort Tryon Cottage – located near the main entrance at Margaret Corbin Circle, at the intersection of Cabrini Boulevard and Fort Washington Avenue – which was originally a gatehouse, and the partially paved-over red-brick pathways near the entrance and continuing down through the massively arched structure known as the Billings Arcade. This was originally a driveway, which continues down to Riverside Drive, which is now the northbound side of the Henry Hudson Parkway.[17] The Billings Arcade features a series of 50-foot tall arches constructed of Maine granite.[11]

During the years before World War I, the park lent its name to the neighborhood to its south. The area between Broadway and the Hudson River, as far south as West 179th Street, was known as Fort Tryon. By the 1940s the neighborhood was known as Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson,[18] which gave way, in the 1990s, to Hudson Heights.[19]

Renovations and recent years[edit]

As the City of New York suffered severe budget constraints in the 1970s and funds for parks were decimated, Fort Tryon Park's gardens, woodlands, and playgrounds fell into disuse and disrepair. The park's decline continued until the 1980s when funds became available and restoration efforts began.[20] In 1983, Fort Tryon Park was designated an official New York City scenic landmark, and a plan was developed the following year to fully renovate the park.[20] The park's Heather Garden, the largest public garden with unrestricted access in New York City,[20] was one of the first projects slated for a much needed renovation.[20][21] Thanks to a partnership between the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks), the Greenacre Foundation, and volunteers, a three–year restoration of the garden was undertaken, reopening long–lost views of the Hudson and the Palisades in 1988.

The park's concessions building, which had fallen into disrepair, was restored beginning in 1995 by Bette Midler's New York Restoration Project (NYRP). The non-profit organization was awarded the operation of the concession in 2000, and opened the New Leaf Café – later called the New Leaf Restaurant and Bar – the next year.[22] NYC Parks closed the building for necessary roof repairs in December 2014, and NYRP announced that it would not reopen, due to the length of time the repairs would take and the increased rent it would be charged.[23] The operation of the restaurant was taken over in late April 2015 by Coffeed, a Queens-based cafe which donates a portion of its revenue to local charities.[24]

On June 15, 2010 the park celebrated its 75th anniversary with a fundraiser and fireworks display.[25] In 2012, an examination of Tweets and emoticons determined that Fort Tryon Park was "the happiest spot in Manhattan".[10] Furthermore, Fort Tryon Park has historically been used as a location for sexual intercourse due to its secluded location, and in some years, New York City Police Department officers would issue summons once a week. However, since the 2000s and 2010s, summons for public intercourse have decreased.[26] In 2019, to draw attention to the park, NYC Parks added 20 temporary signs with humorous messages in both English and Spanish.[27][28]

The Cloisters[edit]

The Cloisters

The Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art which houses the museum's extensive collection of medieval European art and artifacts, including the noted Unicorn Tapestries. The museum's buildings are a combination of medieval structures bought in Europe and reconstructed on-site stone-by-stone,[13]:35 and new buildings in the medieval style designed by Charles Collens.[12] The museum owes its existence to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who purchased the medieval art collection of George Grey Barnard,[29] and gave it to the Met along with his own collection. The Met then had the Cloisters built in Rockefeller's newly created Fort Tryon Park with endowment money from Rockefeller.[13]:6, 26[16]

Together, the park and the Cloisters are listed as an historic district on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The Cloisters had been designated a New York City landmark in 1974, with Fort Tryon Park designed a scenic landmark in 1983.[2]

Fort Tryon Park Trust[edit]

The Fort Tryon Park Trust is a non-profit organization the mission of which is to promote the restoration, preservation, and enhancement of the park for the benefit and use of the surrounding community and all New Yorkers, through advocacy and fundraising, working in partnership with NYC Parks and other organizations.[30]

Since 1998, the Fort Tryon Park Trust has been working to build upon NYC Parks and the Greenacre Foundation's initial restoration work, raising an endowment of close to $3 million to help preserve capital improvements made to date and to continue the revitalization throughout the park's entire 67 acres.[20]

The Trust helps fund programs for all ages like yoga and tai chi classes, live outdoor concerts and bird walks. The Trust also supports the display of local artist in the park courtesy of the New York City Parks Temporary Public Art Program.

In popular culture[edit]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Dolkart, Andrew S.; Postal, Matthew A. (2009), Postal, Matthew A. (ed.), Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.), New York: John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1, p.213
  3. ^ "The Cloisters Designation Report"
  4. ^ "Fort Tryon Park Designation Report"
  5. ^ a b c d e f Kuhn, Jonathan. "Fort Tryon Park" in Jackson, Kenneth T., ed. (2010), The Encyclopedia of New York City (2nd ed.), New Haven: Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0-300-11465-2, p.473
  6. ^ a b c White, Norval; Willensky, Elliot & Leadon, Fran (2010), AIA Guide to New York City (5th ed.), New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780195383867, p.573
  7. ^ a b Eldredge, Niles & Horenstein, Sidney (2014). Concrete Jungle: New York City and Our Last Best Hope for a Sustainable Future. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. p. 172. ISBN 978-0-520-27015-2.
  8. ^ Washington Heights & Inwood Online: Battle of Fort Washington Archived 2012-06-04 at the Wayback Machine, accessed September 28, 2006
  9. ^ New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. "Bennett Park." Accessed March 30, 2008
  10. ^ a b Kirchheimer, Gabe (ndg) "Fort Tryon Park: Flower Capital of Manhattan" (poster) MTA New York City Transit
  11. ^ a b Renner, James (2007) Washington Heights, Inwood, and Marble Hill. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Arcadia Publishing. p.20 ISBN 0-7385-5478-2
  12. ^ a b Barnet, Peter; Wu, Nancy Y. (2005). The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture. New York, NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-58839-176-6.
  13. ^ a b c Husband, Timothy (2008). The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry. New York, NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 978-1-58839-294-7.
  14. ^ "The Cloisters Museum and Gardens". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved May 15, 2016
  15. ^ "Cloisters Opened on Tryon Heights". The New York Times. May 11, 1938. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  16. ^ a b "The Opening of the Cloisters". The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume 21, No. 5, 1926. pp. 113–116
  17. ^ Gray, Christopher (December 22, 1996). "Monumental Remnant From a 1900's Estate". The New York Times. p. R5. Retrieved October 9, 2009. This article includes pictures of the Billings mansion and a contemporaneous photo of the arched structure.
  18. ^ Lowenstein, Steven M. (1989) Frankfurt on the Hudson. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
  19. ^ Garb, Maggie (November 8, 1998). "If You're Thinking of Living In / Hudson Heights; High Above Hudson, a Crowd of Co-ops". The New York Times. Retrieved October 9, 2009.
  20. ^ a b c d e "Timeline" on the Fort Tryon Park Trust website
  21. ^ Martin, Douglas (November 1, 1998). "MAKING IT WORK; Going Back to the Past At Fort Tryon Overlook". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  22. ^ "New Leaf & Fort Tryon Park" Archived 2015-01-08 at the Wayback Machine on the New Leaf Restaurant website
  23. ^ Armstrong, Linda (December 23, 2104) "Restaurant and Wedding Venue to Abruptly Close" Archived 2015-01-07 at the Wayback Machine DNAinfo
  24. ^ Ranson, Jan (January 7, 2015) "Queens-based cafe to replace Fort Tryon Park restaurant and bar" New York Daily News
  25. ^ Zanoi, Carla (June 16, 2010) "Fireworks Light Up the Northern Manhattan Sky for Fort Tryon Park's 75th Anniversary"[permanent dead link] Retrieved June 23, 2010.
  26. ^ Goodman, J. David (February 22, 2019). "Sex in New York City Parks? It's Less of a Thing Than It Used to Be". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  27. ^ "Quirky Signs At Manhattan Park Reveal NYC's Humorous Side". CBS New York. August 27, 2019. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  28. ^ "Have You Spotted These Funny Signs in Fort Tryon Park?". Untapped Cities. August 21, 2019. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  29. ^ Hayward, Jane; Shepard, Mary; Clark, Cynthia (October 2012). English and French Medieval Stained Glass in the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Yale University Press. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-30019-318-3.
  30. ^ "Fort Tryon Park Trust". Archived from the original on January 2, 2010.
  31. ^ a b "The Cloisters in Popular Culture: "Time in This Place Does Not Obey an Order"".
  32. ^ Zanoni, Carla (March 9, 2011). "Fort Tryon Park Stars in 'The Adjustment Bureau'". Archived from the original on December 17, 2013. Retrieved June 10, 2013.


External links[edit]