The steep bluffs bordering the southern shoreline of the Harlem Meer played a significant historical role in American Revolution and the War of 1812. Vestiges of this chapter of pre-Park history can still be seen in the form of the military fortifications overlooking the Meer.
During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington used the area that now makes up the northeast swathe of Central Park to counter the invading British force. The British eventually seized the hills, erecting a chain of fortifications across the Harlem bluffs to the shores of the Hudson. After the war ended in 1783, the area was quiet and deserted until the War of 1812.
Anticipating a British invasion, over 200 American volunteers hastily rebuilt the network of military fortifications over six weeks. Among the buildings was Fort Fish, named after the chairman of the City’s Committee of Defense. Positioned on the highest of the bluffs, it was the largest and most heavily armed of the forts. The others were Nutter’s Battery and Fort Clinton.
Today, all that remains of Fort Fish is an open green field cut by a single path, and the Andrew Haswell Green bench, which was added in 1929. The site endures, however, as a reminder of the role that New York City played in the early history of the American Republic.