Commodore Barry Park
Commodore Barry Park
John Barry (1745-1803), known as the "Father of the U.S. Navy," sailed from his native Ireland in 1760 to Pennsylvania, where he was employed in the West Indies shipping trade. Working his way up from cabin boy to captain of the 200-ton Black Prince, Barry gained a reputation as one of the most skilled sailors in the American colonies. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, he was appointed by the new Continental Congress to "fit for Sea the first fleet that ever sailed from Philadelphia." In April, 1776, Barry scored the first naval victory for the Americans, capturing the British sloop, Edward.
In early 1777, Barry returned to Philadelphia to supervise the construction of his new command, the twenty-eight gun frigate, Effingham. As the British prepared to take the city, the civilian Naval Board ordered the ship sunk to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. With the port of Philadelphia controlled by the British, Barry conceived a plan for guerilla warfare. Leading an improvised fleet of four rowboats down the Delaware River under cover of darkness, he captured the ten gun schooner Alert along with two supply ships.
In 1781 he escorted the Marquis de Lafayette to France on a mission to win financial aid for the Americans. Barry resumed his war patrols after recrossing the Atlantic, capturing nine British vessels in less than a year. Substantial funds raised from the sale of these prizes of war helped sustain the financially strapped Congress. After the war, Barry was named the first commander in chief of the United States Navy, serving for twenty years until his death.
This park was acquired in 1836 by the Village of Brooklyn and named "City Park." It is the oldest park in the borough. It was renamed for Commodore Barry in 1951, due to its location next to the Brooklyn Navy Yard that Barry helped found. The Navy Yard has played an important role in the local economy since it opened in 1801, employing over 70,000 men and women 24 hours a day at its peak operation during World War II. In 1966 the Navy Yard was sold to the City of New York and was then converted into an industrial park.