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The Park in late March 2007
Fort Tryon
From the Hudson

Fort Tryon Park is a public park located in the Washington Heights, Manhattanmarker section of the New York Citymarker borough of Manhattanmarker, USAmarker. It is situated on a 67 acre (270,000 m²) ridge in Upper Manhattan, with a commanding view of the Hudson River, the George Washington Bridgemarker, the New Jersey Palisadesmarker and the Harlem Rivermarker. Once known by the name "Chquaesgeck" by local Lenape Indians, it was called Lange Bergh (Long Hill) by Dutch settlers until the 17th century. Native American place names were often, inadvertently, used by Europeans to refer to the people who lived there. In this case, the people who lived there were the Lenape, and this is a phonetic interpretation of the place name.

Fort Tryon Park is also site of The Cloistersmarker, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Artmarker devoted to medieval art and culture, and home to the Unicorn Tapestries. The Cloisters incorporates several medieval buildings that were purchased in Europe, brought to the United States, and reassembled, often stone by stone.

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

Later it became the private residence of a succession of wealthy owners, including Dr. Samuel Watkins, founder of Watkins Glenmarker, General Daniel Butterfield, Boss Tweed and C. K. G. Billings. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. purchased the Billings estate in 1917. He hired Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., son of the designer of Central Parkmarker, to plan a park that he would give to the city. The park was constructed during the Great Depression, providing many jobs. The project included the 190th Streetmarker subway station on the IND Eighth Avenue Line (which is the closest station to the park). The park was completed in 1935. Olmstead included extensive flower plantings, including a Heather Garden that was restored in the 1980s. Besides the gardens and the Cloisters, the park has extensive walking paths and meadows, with views of the Hudson and Harlem Riversmarker.

Remnants of C. K. G. Billings estate are the red-brick pathways (partially paved-over) which are found near the entrance at Margaret Corbin Circle (190th Street and Ft. Washington Avenue), and continues down to the massively arched structure (originally a driveway) which continues down to the highway.

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.

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. References to the old name survive in the Fort Tryon Jewish Center (on Fort Washington Avenue between W. 183rd and W. 185th Streets (there is no W. 184th Street on Fort Washington Avenue)), the Fort Tryon Deli and Grocery (also on Fort Washington Avenue, at W. 187th Street), and in the pages of the Not for Tourists Guide to New York City . By the 1940s the neighborhood was known as Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson, which gave way, in the 1990s, to Hudson Heights.

Parts of the Clint Eastwood film Coogan's Bluff (including the final chase scene) were filmed in Fort Tryon Park.


Near the park flagstaff
Archway in Ft.
Tryon Park
As the City of New York suffered severe budget constraints in the 1970s and funds for parks were decimated, Fort Tryon Park fell into disuse and disrepair and its gardens, woodlands, and playgrounds became havens for a range of illegal activities. The Park’s decline continued until the 1980s when funds became available and restoration efforts began.

In 1983, the Greenacre Foundation, in conjunction with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, engaged the landscape architecture firm of Quennell Rothschild & Partners to create a master plan for the restoration of Fort Tryon Park, including plans for the restoration of the Heather Garden that would closely follow the Olmsted design. [1] Parks Department Horticulturist Jane Schachat and Greenacre Foundation Horticulturist Timothy Steinhoff ordered thousands of plants to reflect the varieties used in the Olmsted design.

Although the Heather Garden was designed to flower in spring and summer, plants were added to extend bloom time. Where possible, beds were laid out according to the original plan, taking into account vistas and the large remaining shrubs. During this restoration, Parks Department gardeners planted more than 2,500 heathers, heaths and brooms, along with 15,000 bulbs, 5,000 perennials, 500 shrubs and 5 trees. This initial restoration took three years.

The Parks' Department continued to advance the restoration of the Heather Garden and other areas of Fort Tryon Park. The Parks Department has made more than $15 million in private and city funded capital improvements to the park since the 1983 restoration.

Founded in 1983, the Friends of Fort Tryon Park, inc. was established to involve the entire community surrounding the park in maintaining and improving the park's appearance and condition and promoting its use by the public. Such involvement and cooperation helped solidify and enliven this community and make it and the park more attractive, safe and desirable. In 2007 discussions established the to merge the Friends with the Trust, for unified advocacy and fundraising. In May of 2009 the Friends became The Friends Committee of the Fort Tryon Park Trust.

In early 2000, the Fort Tryon Park Trust was formed to promote the restoration, preservation and enhancement of this historic and scenic landmark for the benefit and use of the surrounding community and all New Yorkers. The Trust plans to achieve this through advocacy and fundraising, working in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and other organizations.

The Fort Tryon Park Trust has a goal of raising a $15 million endowment for sustaining the park, and has already raised over $2 million for the Heather Garden. Additional gifts from the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation and the Arthur Ross Foundation will be put towards the restoration of the Alpine Garden and the creation of a Winter Walk, respectively.

In 1995, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation initiated a partnership with New York Restoration Project, a non-profit organization founded by Bette Midler, to assist with cleaning and maintaining Fort Tryon Park.


  1. Jackson, Kenneth T., ed. "Fort Tryon Park." The Encyclopedia of the City of New York. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.
  2. Washington Heights & Inwood Online: Battle of Fort Washington, accessed September 28, 2006
  3. New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. "Bennett Park." Accessed March 30, 2008.
  4. This article includes pictures of the Billings mansion and a contemporaneous photo of the arched structure.
  5. Lowenstein, Steven M. Frankfurt on the Hudson, p. 44. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989.
  6. Not for Tourists Guide to New York City. [1]
  7. Lowenstein, Steven M. Frankfurt on the Hudson. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989.


  • A Guide to Fort Tryon Park and the Heather Garden, City of New York, Parks & Recreation Department.

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