History and Design: Summary

“The Landmarks Preservation Commission finds that the design of Fort Tryon Park represents a skillful integration of its various elements, including views of the Hudson River, surviving remains of 19th-century estates, artful plantings, and architecture.” – The official 1983 report designating Fort Tryon Park as a landmark.

Fort Tryon Park is a city, state, and federal scenic landmark given to the city in 1935 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who believed that no place in Manhattan offered as much natural beauty as these 67 acres. Rockefeller spent $5.3 million to acquire the property to develop it as a public park, purchased the land across the river (the New Jersey Palisades) to protect the views, and engaged the Olmsted Brothers – whose father designed Central Park – to design the park and gardens. The city secured $800,000 to establish utility services for the park: water, sewer, electric, and phone services.

In 2010, on the 75th anniversary of the Park’s opening, David Rockefeller renewed his father’s generous legacy with a $1M gift to the Fort Tryon Park Trust, NYC Parks’ nonprofit conservancy partner for the park. Today the park has eight miles of rusticated stone retaining walls, 48 stone staircases, the only grotto in a New York City public park, and 46 American elms, many of which predate the park. Flanked by stone walls and the remnants of C. G. K. Billings’ 1900s estate and featuring spectacular views of the Hudson River, the park’s Heather Garden emphasizes bold plant groupings through large, cohesive swaths of perennials, set among a structural landscape of shrubs and small trees. Companion plants complement the collections of rhododendrons, azaleas, heaths, and heathers.

The park has regular history and design walks and lectures throughout the year, discussing the park as well as all of northern Manhattan. Every October, Open House New York comes to Fort Tryon Park with tours of the historic gatehouse (the Fort Tryon Park Cottage) and the landmarked Heather Garden. The preservation and restoration of Fort Tryon Park is an ongoing challenge. Please consider making a donation today.