McGown's Pass


McGown's Pass is one of the fortifications in the northern end of Central Park that had a role in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812.

Before Central Park's construction, the land surrounding the bluffs was impassable and marshy, forcing travelers to detour through a narrow road that ran through the cleft in the rock. The road was known as the Kingsbridge Road and later the Albany Boston Post Road. The break though the rock came to be known as McGown's Pass — named after the family who owned a popular nearby tavern. The main entry point to the Pass was located where the stairway stands today in the cove of the Meer opposite the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, near lamppost #0726.

General George Washington rode through the Pass during the Revolutionary War to save his troops who were deserting at Kips Bay (today by 34th Street and the East River), and directed his men to counter the invading British force. The British eventually seized the Pass, erecting a chain of fortifications across the Harlem bluffs. After the war ended in 1783, the Pass was quiet and deserted until the War of 1812. Anticipating a British invasion, over 200 American volunteers spent six weeks in August and September of 1814 rebuilding the network of military forts. They fortified McGown's Pass, building a barrier wall and a blockhouse that was protected by cannon. The fortifications included Fort Clinton, Nutter's Battery, and Fort Fish. The British, however, never invaded. Today, the fortifications are long gone, but the remains of McGown's Pass stand.

In 1990, the Conservancy worked with archaeologists to identify the breastworks that had eroded over time.


East Side at 107th Street just south of the Harlem Meer.

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