Fort Greene Park: 150 Years of History & Recreation

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March 29, 2021
fort greene park

Fort Greene Park might not be the first park that comes to mind when you think of NYC green spaces, but this 30-acre expanse nestled between Downtown Brooklyn and Clinton Hill holds just as much history as more famous spots like Central Park or Prospect Park. In its 150 years of existence, Fort Greene has served as both an integral location in the American Revolutionary War, and as one of the city’s first sites of outdoor recreation, reflecting the ever-evolving identity of Brooklyn itself.

Whether you’re looking to add a stop on your historic tour of Brooklyn, or browse one of the borough’s best farmer’s markets, it’s high time you paid Fort Greene Park a visit. Here, we’ll show all it has to offer — and the stories it has to tell.

A Military Memorial

In 1776, the Continental Army set up Fort Putnam in what is now Fort Greene Park, chosen for its high ground and the vantage point it offered. Although the British captured the fort during the American Revolutionary War, it was rebuilt in time for the War of 1812. Upon its reconstruction, the fort was renamed for Major General Nathanael Greene. And so, Fort Greene was born.

Naturally, the modern-day Fort Greene Park serves as a memorial for those who served at the old fort, but it also features a memorial that pays tribute to others who sacrificed their lives during the revolution. At the highest point of the park, you’ll find a 150-foot column known as the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, erected in honor of those who died on British prison ships. Some of the prisoners, which totaled approximately 11,500, are buried in a crypt at the base of the monument.

From the moment Fort Greene Park officially opened, it had already played a role in America’s origin story. And the playground there that features Revolutionary War-era designs proudly reflects that part of its history today.

An Urban Oasis

Locals started using the area for leisure after the War of 1812. By 1867, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the architects behind both Central Park and Prospect Park, were hired to design what was then known as Washington Park. They aimed to highlight the grounds’ natural landscape and set the wheels in motion for the park to feature some kind of monument for the Revolutionary War’s fallen (although the monument you see today was not built until the early 1900s). In 1897, the park was renamed as Fort Greene Park.

The following century saw the park cement its reputation as a much-needed and beloved outdoor space within the rapidly developing borough of Brooklyn. Over the years, it has added basketball courts, tennis courts, a visitor’s center, and even a butterfly garden to its vast recreation repertoire. It hosts a GrowNYC Greenmarket every Saturday as well as the Great PUPkin Dog Costume Contest every Halloween. It’s a natural hub of activity for the surrounding neighborhoods — and snagging one of the brownstones that rings around the park’s perimeter is many a Brooklynite’s dream. 

So although it may seem like the younger sibling to Central and Prospect Parks, history buffs and weekend warriors alike will find plenty to enjoy about Fort Greene Park.

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