Posts Tagged ‘Blockhouse Central Park’

The two vintage cannons on a Central Park bluff

June 13, 2016

Hike up a steep walkway below Harlem Meer on Central Park’s east side, at the site of a colonial road known as McGowan’s Pass, and you’ll end up at a magnificent bluff that puts you at eye level with Fifth Avenue apartments.

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On that bluff, you’ll also find two 18th century cannons—one aimed north, the other to the east.

Cannonmap1814What are they doing there? These examples of artillery commemorate Fort Clinton, a military command post built to defend the city from this high point in the hinterlands of Manhattan well before Central Park existed.

The British occupied the site during the Revolutionary War.

“The British built a fortification here in 1776, following their invasion of Manhattan, as part of a defensive line extending west to the Hudson River,” states the Central Park Conservatory.

During the War of 1812, fearing a British attack that luckily never happened, the U.S. made it a fortification (along with nearby Fort Fish, see map) and named it after DeWitt Clinton, then mayor of New York.

“In the 1860s, the designers of Central Park recognized both the scenic and historic value of this location, and retained the original topography and remains of the fortification,” states the Conservatory.

Cannonfortclintonnypl

The two cannons weren’t actually part of the fort. They were artifacts salvaged from the wreckage of the H.M.S. Hussar, which sank in Hell Gate in the East River, reportedly laden with gold, in 1780, writes Sam Roberts at the New York Times.

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Donated to the park in 1865 after 80 years in the river, they harken back to the post-colonial city and serve as reminders of the bluff’s military past.

In the 1970s, vandalism and neglect led the city to put them in storage. Since 2014, they’ve been back on the bluff, on a granite base with a commemorative plaque.

The cannons are not far from another remnant of the War of 1812: the stone Blockhouse Number One, also in the northern section of the park.

[Illustration of Fort Clinton, 1828, NYPL]

A War of 1812 fort in Central Park

July 6, 2009

The Revolutionary War left a deep mark on New York City. But the War of 1812? This skirmish with the British hasn’t had a lasting impact here, save for a tiny stone structure tucked away in the northwest corner of Central Park called Blockhouse #1.

BlockhousecentralparkThe Blockhouse was built in 1814, one of many constructed in Upper Manhattan to protect the area from the British should they invade the city from the north.

It’s in a part of Central Park that is still rugged, high, and hard to reach—the perfect place for some canons.

Luckily the British never attacked, and the war was over in 1815. The Blockhouse was later used to store ammunition as well as a place to celebrate patriotic holidays.

When Central Park was expanded in the 1860s to include the undeveloped, rocky land between 106th and 110th Street, the Blockhouse came with it. The old structure was considered a romantic, picturesque reminder of another era. 

It’s now empty, serene, and mostly lifeless, except for a tall American flag soaring into the sky from the flagpole in the center of the fort.