Named in honor of a Revolutionary War fort that was located nearby, the park is also home to Manhattan’s lone lighthouse—The Little Red Lighthouse—a landmark immortalized in children’s literature. In addition, Fort Washington Park is the birthplace of New York Restoration Project—the first public green space that NYRP founder Bette Midler targeted for her initial restoration and greening efforts. Today, children and families visiting this area enjoy playing and picnicking along a newly revitalized and pristine shoreline that encompasses 159 acres of beautifully restored, natural space thanks to the dedicated efforts of NYRP.
For years, NYRP co-sponsored the annual Little Red Lighthouse Festival with the Historic House Trust of New York City and the New York City Parks Department. As of 2014, the Riverside Park Conservancy adopted the Little Red Lighthouse Festival. A true collaboration of community-based organizations and neighborhood residents, the festival features a variety of activities, including lighthouse tours, hayrides, music and a special guest reading of Hildegarde H. Swift’s children’s classic, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, provided in past years by New York City Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe and actresses and long-time NYRP supporters Marcia Gay Harden and Cynthia Nixon.
While a popular public destination for more than a century, Fort Washington Park had fallen victim to neglect and disrepair by the early 1990s. However, all that changed on July 7, 1995, when Bette Midler—appalled at the state of her neighborhood parks—rolled up her sleeves and joined friends and over 100 volunteers to begin the arduous process of clearing refuse from this natural stretch along the Hudson River. At the time, large portions of the park were overrun with trash, invasive plants and, as a result of neglect, crime and vandalism. Instead of contributing to the health and sustainability of the surrounding community, much of the park had become a hazardous eyesore—a public space to be avoided, rather than enjoyed.
From 1997 to 2005, NYRP’s restoration efforts in Fort Washington Park included carrying away thousands of pounds of litter, junked cars and other debris from its Hudson River waterfront. Eight years after completing the bulk of the park’s restoration, NYRP handed maintenance of this revitalized public space over to the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.
Riverside Drive, Hudson River
W. 155 Street to Dyckman St.
Manhattan, New York (Washington Heights)