8. Prison Ship Martyr’s Monument Burial Vault
Standing 149 feet tall in front of a grand 100-step granite staircase, the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park is rarely opened for visitors. The over 100-year old structure stands on top of the remains of thousands of American prisoners, both men and women, who died during the Revolutionary War. After winning the Battle of Long Island and control of Fort Putnam (later rebuilt and renamed Fort Greene during the War of 1812), the British detained thousands of American men and women on prison ships anchored in Wallabout Bay. On the ships, the prisoners experienced overcrowding, contaminated water, starvation and disease. Ultimately, 11,500 prisoners died. The bodies of those who died were haphazardly buried along the shore.
In 1873, after multiple relocations, some of the remains were finally laid to rest in Fort Greene Park, known at the time as Washington Park. Encased in twenty-two boxes, the remains were interred in a 25×11 foot brick vault. Washington Park was a newly designated public space designed by landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the same men who designed Central Park and Prospect Park. In response to public demand for a permanent memorial to the prison ship martyrs, the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White was hired to design one. The towering Doric column we see today was dedicated in 1908. If you wish to visit the remains inside the monument, The Society of Old Brooklynites hosts a visit inside once a year, but you have to be a member of the society to enter. In order to join, you must have lived or worked in Brooklyn for the past 25 years.