Birds and the Bees: Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters, Manhattan (Part One)

It’s tough being a tourist in New York.

In a city that is constantly changing, evolving, and generating new talent, there’s bound to be an exhibition, restaurant, or landmark that you’ll jot down on the To Do – Next NY Visit list; it’s too hard to see and do it all in a matter of a couple of weeks, let alone – a few days.

Strolling from East to West; subwaying Uptown and Downtown; taxiing from hotel to restaurant to bar, and back to hotel; you’ll find yourself hard pressed to even make it to the northernmost part of Central Park.

That said, it’s pretty fair to say that the area that constitutes Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters, located in the Far North of Manhattan, doesn’t make it on many traveler-radars. Speaking from experience, I only visited the area today – as a resident – and I first visited NYC as a tourist in 2001.

PART ONE – Fort Tryon Park

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 RiverFort 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.*

Exiting the 190th Street Subway, you’ll immediately find yourself in the midst of Fort Tryon Park, located in the Washington Heights region of NY.

Land initially purchased by John D. Rockefeller in 1917, in 1935 he donated it to New York City when his vision for the Park was completed; it took 4 years for head designer, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. – son of the architect of Central Park – to design and create the space that is the Fort Tryon Park we are able to enjoy today.

Fact: Fort Tryon Park is one of the highest points in New York. Don’t be deceived by those Midtown Manhattan skyscrapers.

Despite the twisting pathways, stonewalled terraces, steps upon steps, and steepish slopes, this is a manageable and relaxing park to explore. You’ll enjoy views of the Hudson River and the Palisades State Park, located on the other side – Rockefeller also purchased this parkland in order to preserve Fort Tryon’s views.

Rows of benches make the Park an ideal spot for daydreaming whilst overlooking the Hudson River and its Valley.

Fact: Fort Tryon Park fell into decades of neglect and its cleanup efforts were spearheaded around 1995 by the divine Miss M, Bette Midler.

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 MidlerGood Housekeeping Magazine

Initially recruiting friends and family, Bette set about removing garbage from Fort Tryon Park and Fort Washington Park in Upper Manhattan. What began as a grass roots effort led to her founding the non-profit New York Restoration Project (www.nyrp.org).

What a testament to the spirit of New York. Regeneration, restoration, revival, rebirth – reverberations of these words are constant in an ever-changing city.

Stretch the legs and take in the beauty on a stroll through the English-inspired Heather Garden; spring has surely sprung. Listen to the chirping of its birds. It’s all about looking down, rather than skyscraper-up; flowers in purples, yellows, whites beckon buzzing bees and announce the onset of a new season.

Pause at the plaque dedications on those Garden’s benches located in the seating alcoves that punctuate Stan Michels Promenade. It’s impossible not to notice a clay head sculpture, or two, or more; part of a proposed public art project, they flank the Promenade’s benches and demand attention.

FACT: Stan Michels Promenade is named for New York City councilman Stanley Michels – an ardent supporter of environmental reform and park restoration.

Step it up to Linden Terrace at the Garden’s edge, and into the shadows of its linden trees, strewn on the pavement. Pause here – more benches available for daydreaming.

Or simply gaze at the Hudson River; you’ll catch a glimpse of the George Washington Bridge from here too.

See the tops of The Cloisters building through the thick of bare tree branches.

… Your next destination beckons… To be posted in Part Two

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.*

*http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/forttryonpark/history

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47 thoughts on “Birds and the Bees: Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters, Manhattan (Part One)

    • I know – I mean, central Park is one thing, but this is away from the bustle. And it has The Cloisters which was very cool. Alot of history up there. I love the neurologist bust too! Thanks!

      • what a great idea, i would love to see how it changes thank you. ive recently been thinking of taking a photo from the same position once a week at our local beach showing how the tide ebbs and flows. Dont know if i,ll get around to doing it though :-)

  1. At the moment I’m reading and viewing this from my phone, in bed, and enjoying my first cup of tea, so I can’t wait to see the photos properly on the computer, Marina. I’ll be back later, its looks another good un from you.

  2. I love The Cloisters: the grand beech tree near the front; the medieval herb gardens within the cloistered walls; the view from the terrace; the tapestries and other exhibits. A little known gem, perhaps, but so worth the long train trip to that somewhat creepy subway station! Thanks for posting.

    • Hi! Thanks for your comment – I agree, well worth the trip up. It’s taken me a while to get there myself, though now I am looking forward to heading back when the gardens are in bloom!

    • Thanks Val! I am glad you enjoyed the stroll. I’m looking forward to seeing the Park in warmer temps too – my first trip was indication that it will be blooming beautiful!

  3. What a lovely park Marina and captured beautifully. I love the crocusses and the heather garden.. spring is about to be sprung big time, you can just feel it in your pictures. The hard landscaping is interesting with it’s preponderence of granite blocked walls and steps, the park’s lofty position, it reminded me of Scotland. Can’t wait for part two.

    • Thanks Adrian – it’s actually interesting that you mention the hard landscaping as I was trying to find the words to give such a visual too. The images showed it easily enough :) The crocuses are so pretty – I am waiting to see a field of them!

  4. It’s never easy to be a tourist in a big city that’s why I like to do my homework before travelling :) I often hear stories from my friend who works at the information centre, people asking ‘so, what can I do here?’ Hello!!!?? you are in London ;D Rockefeller did a great job preserving all this land and what a nice gesture to donate it to the city, very generous and I am so glad that Bette took control and cleaned the park, it’s an amazing space and the views must be fantastic! It’s true, people always look up these days, admiring all the skyscrapers and forget to look down and notice all these little beautiful and colourful flowers and creatures :) Looking forward to part two :D

    • Yes, true, though there are always those parts of the city that seems so hard to get to in a short space of time! I have not forgotten my (bad) choice in not heading to Versailles when I was in Paris as I thought I’d lose precious time in the city! I wish I had gone…! Perhaps this is how tourists think of The Cloisters. And, I guess, it is true of many cities. It really is a great place, and its upkeep is massive. Thanks!

  5. It’s so true Marina. As tourists in NYC we can’t get to see all there is to see in a few days so it’s great that you can show us these out of the way places.I have read about the Cloisters, so I’m looking forward to your next post!

    • Thanks Jenny – it’s like that in every city, I feel. In Sydney, many rarely go to say, the Blue Mountains or Central Coast (1 hr drive away). In Paris, i didn’t get to Versailles. I am sure you could name places for me in Europe. It’s interesting to see these places; if only we could have some time exploring the corners of cities, countries, the world!

  6. So nice to see a few things poking their heads out of the soil and starting to bloom!
    this looks like such a serene and gorgeous park, what a happy discovery.
    Beautiful pictures.
    I’m quite taken with the black and white trees with all the long shadows!

    • Thanks Karen – I can’t remember seeing a buzzing bee in a long while, so I was honestly fascinated with them hovering above the flowers! I am glad you like that shadows shot; I am noticing shadows alot more these days!

    • Thanks so much – as much as I cannot wait for Spring, I feel like we didn’t have enough of a winter. I say be thankful for the snow. the crocuses will come sooner than you think :)

  7. Pingback: After “A Banquet – Piece” by Willem Claesz Heda « Aware of the Void

    • Stuart, you truly are one of a kind! I am glad you like the post… and as for the boots, all I can think of is “these boots were made for walking.” They’ve done their fair share of pavement pounding :) Best part – can they be any blacker? Thanks!

    • It is lovely there. I think you’ll like the Conservatory Garden in Central Park – have you been there? Much quieter than Fort Tryon Park based on the times I was there. If you go to the park, there’s a Russian store on 181 street called Moscow on the Hudson. Good for caviar and rye bread, if you like that kind of thing! Oh, my boots deserve some attention, hence the pic – thank you! They have been good to me this winter!

    • My pleasure! I am so happy that you’ll put it on the to-do list. The Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park are a great part of Manhattan ~ I’m looking forward to getting back there during Spring time! Enjoy your trip, and thank you :)

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