Fort Greene Park is Brooklyn's oldest park as well as the nation's first urbanized public park. It was the site of the 'fort' in Fort Greene which was built in 1776 and originally called Fort Putnam. The fort, under the leadership of General Nathaniel Greene, successfully defended a retreat across the East River by George Washington during the battle of Brooklyn. In 1812 the fort was renamed after General Greene.
The 30-acre space was established as Brooklyn's first park in 1847 at the constant urging of poet, Walt Whitman who was at that time the editor of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle and already celebrated for his poetry. Famed Central Park (and the not yet created Prospect Park) designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were brought in in 1864 to design the park.
At the near summit of the park, stands a monument. The Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument, a 145-foot fluted granite shaft, supporting a large bronze urn, commemorates the 11,000 Revelutionary War patriots who died aboard British prison ships in Wallabout Bay on the site of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It was designed by Stanford White and dedicated in 1908 after an earlier monument at a different location fell into disrepair.
In it's current state, the hilly park has grassy, open spaces, walking paths, tennis courts and a children's playground. Concerts and special events take place in the summer and the park seems to be being enjoyed more than of late. It's 1 square-mile size is also a favorite with local runners.
EDITOR's NOTE: The summer of 2000 found the park in the best condition I have ever seen it in the 12 years I've lived in Fort Greene. The formerly dry, patchy summer grass was cool, green and plush. It looked like a park I would actually visit - in the years prior I think I've only been in 3 times.
Click here for information on obtaining a tennis court permit.
For more information about the park's history and it's planned renovation, visit FortGreenePark.org.
Photos by David Johnson