It’s tough being a tourist in New York.
In an ever-changing city, there’s always an exhibition, restaurant, or landmark to jot on the to-do list. It’s hard to do and see it all in a matter of days, let alone a couple of weeks.
Strolling from East Manhattan to West, riding the subway from uptown to downtown, taking a cab from hotel to restaurant to bar, you probably won’t make it beyond Central Park.
So, it’s no surprise that there are hardly any tourists at Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters, located in the far reaches of Manhattan. I only visited today, and I’m a resident.
Originally inhabited by the Weckquaesgeek Tribe, who lived in the area until the early 17th century, this densely forested high ground at the northern end of Manhattan was “Lang Bergh” or Long Hill to the early Dutch colonists. The Continental Army called the strategic series of posts along the Hudson River “Fort Washington” during the summer of 1776, until Hessian mercenaries fighting for the British forced the troops to retreat. The British then renamed the area for Sir William Tryon (1729–1788), Major General and the last British governor of colonial New York.*
Fort Tryon’s land was purchased by John D. Rockefeller in 1917, who envisioned the park, which he later donated to New York City in 1935. It took four years for head designer, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., son of Central Park’s architect, complete its design.
Despite the twisting pathways, never-ending steps, and steep slopes, the park is relaxing to explore. From here, I enjoyed views of Palisades State Park, which, located on the other side of the Hudson River, Rockefeller had also purchased in order to preserve Fort Tryon’s outlook.
I was so upset; I didn’t sleep for weeks… People were throwing their garbage out the window, leaving their lunches on the ground. Finally, I realized I needed to actually do something – even if it meant picking up trash with my own two hands. ~ Bette Midler, from Good Housekeeping Magazine
Bette, friends and family started removing garbage from Fort Tryon Park and Fort Washington Park. This grassroots effort led to her to found the non-profit New York Restoration Project (www.nyrp.org).
I noticed visitors taking a breather, stretching their legs, while strolling through the English-inspired Heather Garden. Flowers in purples, yellows, and whites, surrounded by buzzing bees, welcome the new season.
The Cloisters opened in the north end of Fort Tryon Park in 1938 after Rockefeller bought sculptor George Grey Barnard’s (1863–1938) collection of medieval art. Inspired by Romanesque monasteries, the museum includes several cloisters, or courtyards, from actual French monasteries. Now a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it was designated an official New York City landmark in 1974.*