Our trip to the parks, located in the “Washington Heights” area of Northern Manhattan, was led by Greeter Ruth Bechhoffer. Ruth grew up in the neighborhood from the time she was a teenager and lives there still.
Starting at 184th Street, we walked up to Bennett Park, the highest spot in Manhattan. The Park was once called Fort Washington because General Washington fought the British there in 1776. Washington’s troops were brutally defeated – he actually lost more battles than he won – but as we know, he ultimately triumphed. In 1871, the land was bought by James Gordon Bennett, a newspaper man, who turned it into a park.
On Cabrini Boulevard, we passed the apartment house where former Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger grew up and the building that Dr. Ruth Westheimer, television sex therapist, calls home.
At 190th Street, we entered Fort Tryon Park, the living definition of “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Built by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., the son of Central Park’s landscape architect, the park is one of the city’s most magnificent outdoor spaces, a gift to New York City in 1917 from John D. Rockefeller.
Today the park offers lush grounds and gardens, perfect for picnics, Frisbees and frolicking. There is also historic architecture nearby. Perched high above its northern grounds are the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with nearly 5000 medieval works of art in a reconstructed monastery.
Between Fort Washington and Cabrini Avenues, we saw several exquisite apartment building lobbies in the Art Deco style. This man-made splendor was the perfect complement to the magnificence of nature we had seen at the two parks.