Fort Greene Park
Located on the edge of Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn lies the borough’s oldest park, Fort Greene Park, which spans 30-acres and dates back to the Revolutionary War. It was on the high ground of this site that Fort Putnam was built in 1776 under the supervision of Major General Nathanael Greene. Likely named after Colonel Rufus Putnum, who was the chief engineer responsible for fortifying Long Island, the fort was taken over by the British after the Battle of Brooklyn. However, it was rebuilt for the War of 1812 and was later renamed Fort Greene.
In 1847, the city of Brooklyn bought the land that Fort Greene Park is located on to preserve it as a park, originally named Washington Park. It was the first to be designated by the city of Brooklyn, making it also the oldest in the borough today. Twenty years later, the famous designers of Central Park and Prospect Park, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, reimagined a new design for Washington Park that would include a tomb for the prison ship martyrs who died on British war ships in Wallabout Bay during the Revolutionary War. The bodies were originally buried by Brooklyn residents in shallow graves in what is now the Brooklyn Navy Yard. But through erosion, bones began to emerge on the shoreline by 1808. The Tammany Society made the first motion that year to find a formal burial ground for the prison ship martyrs, a quest joined by Brooklyn citizens over the next few decades.
The park was renamed Fort Greene Park in 1896, and the 149-foot Prison Ship Martyrs Monument became its last installment in 1908. If you do wish visit the remains, The Society of Old Brooklynites hosts visits to it once a year but you have to be a member of the society to enter. The only requirement is that you have to have lived or worked in Brooklyn for the past 25 years. Discover more secrets about Fort Greene Park here.
Located very near the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument is bench dedicated author Richard Wright who wrote much of his novel Native Son sitting in Fort Greene Park which was a short walk from his apartment on Carlton Avenue. The bench features a quote from the novel which reads, “But hope was always waiting somewhere deep down in him.”