Fort Greene Park


Fort Greene Park

, comprising 30.2 acres (122,000 m²).

The park includes the high ground where the Continental Army built Fort Putnam during the American Revolutionary War. The site was chosen and the construction supervised by General Nathanael Greene. 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, 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 the 1860s, 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. It is a 145 foot (44 m) high granite Doric column over the crypt, which was the tallest freestanding Doric column in the world at the time it was built. At the top is an eight ton urn.

The neighborhood around the park is also known as Fort Greene. Across the street from the DeKalb Avenue entrance at Ft. Greene Place is Brooklyn Technical High School. Throughout the years the park has often served as a meeting place and hangout for artists and students attending Brooklyn Tech, or those choosing not to attend. The students who frequented the park were know as "parkies" and were basically split into three groups. Rockers, Punks and the ethnic or Disco population, depending on the time period. During the 60's 70's and 80's Pot was often easily available in the park, usually sold as nickel or dime bags. Crime rates were quite high back then also, and smaller groups of "parkies" often stayed near the entrance and played Frisbee, or enjoyed a beverage/smoke. Unfortunately, here they were also visible to their classmates (and teachers) from the windows of the school. Often groups of friends would meet up in the morning at the park, and then head elsewhere.

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 also host to the annual [http://www.nywriterscoalition.org/litfest.htm 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.

External links

* [http://www.fortgreenepark.org/ Fort Greene Park Conservancy website]
* [http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~promaine/martyrs/martyrs-all.html Photo gallery of monument and park]


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