Memory Lane: Fort Hamilton Parkway

Memory Lane: Fort Hamilton Parkway

Fort Hamilton, situated at the other end of the Parkway which is named for it, has served the U. S. Army in a major way during every war beginning with the revolutionary war, the Civil War, a major embarkation point during both World Wars, and even in peacetime. Strategically situated overlooking the river, it protected New York from invaders. In fact, On July 4, 1776, a small American battery on the site of today's Fort Hamilton (the east side of the Narrows) fired into one of the British men-of-war convoying troops to suppress the American Revolution. 

General Lee resided on the base in the year 1846, and there are a number of mementos of that time, including a monument, and a street named for him. He found the quiet pace of life on the base discouraging. "I am very solitary, and my only company is my dogs and cats," Lee wrote to his wife in 1846. 

Thus, the avenue that leads to this historic Fort, cutting through the neighborhoods of Kensington, Boro Park, and Dyker Heights, all the way to the fort was aptly named Fort Hamilton Avenue going back to the year 1870. 

A New York Standard-Union article from August 9, 1892, features amendments related to the planning and budget of this thoroughfare. 

The act specifically addressing the building of Fort Hamilton Parkway reads, “An Act to provide for a system of additional boulevards or parkways in the county Kings. Approved by the Governor May 17, 1892, The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:

“The continuous highway extending from the Ocean parkway through the towns of Flatbush and New Utrecht to the Shore road at Fort Hamilton and known as Fort Hamilton avenue shall from and after the passage of this act be under the exclusive charge and management of the park commissioner of the city of Brooklyn, and shall be known as Fort Hamilton parkway.” 

“After the highway laid out upon the map of the town survey commission of Kings county, which map is duly filed in the office of the register of the county of Kings, and known its Seventy-fifth street and extending from Twenty-second avenue in the town of New Utrecht to low water mark at New York bay shall have been duly opened, graded and constructed in accordance with the provisions of the statute in such case made and provided, the said highway as so opened, graded and constructed shall be under the exclusive charge and management of the park commissioner of the city of- Brooklyn, and shall be known as Bay Ridge parkway. 

It goes on to provide for the maintenance of this avenue. “From and after the passage of this act, no railroad, either surface or otherwise shall be constructed or extended upon and along either of the highways above mentioned.

Giving an indication of just how ancient this area is a New York Tribune article from 1921 which lambasts Mayor John Hylan, the 96th Mayor of New York City who served from 1918 to 1925. The article states that on Fort Hamilton Parkway stands an ancient, two-story structure hosing P.S. 105 in a two-story wooden structure, erected in the year 1884 to serve the growing farming community from that area…for not doing enough to provide seats in the school to serve the growing number of children. 

Presumably “Avenue” was changed to “Parkway” for similar reasons to Eastern Parkway which serves as a pleasant promenade amid the concrete jungle. But the ancient Fort Hamilton which cuts right through Boro Park neighborhood features nary a tree. Nevertheless, this old stretch which has served the area for 150 years continues to serve Boro Park of today.  

(Photo credits: oldnycphotos.com) 


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