This overlook marks the site of a military fortification built during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. With its high and rocky ground and expansive views that can still be experienced today, it’s clear why this was an important strategic position.
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. During the War of 1812, the Americans were concerned about a British attack on New York. They built a fortification in the same spot and named it Fort Clinton in honor of DeWitt Clinton, then mayor of New York. This was part of a fortification system that included two other forts, Nutter’s Battery and Fort Fish, which were connected by low earthen walls and linked to a gatehouse that controlled access to a local road. A series of blockhouses, of which one still remains in the Park, extended this defensive line.
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. By the end of the 19th century, the remains of the fort had eroded, and the site was turned into a scenic overlook with rustic fencing, benches, and a flag pole. The Central Park Conservancy rebuilt Fort Clinton in 2014, recreating some of these historic details and improving the site with new paving, planting, and furnishings that are more rustic in character and aim to better capture the views of Harlem Meer and beyond. The two cannons were also conserved and reinstalled, after being in storage for 40 years.