The milestone that is the centerpiece of Milestone Park is a replica of the oldest remaining milestone in New York City. The sandstone original is in the Brooklyn Historical Society, but this granite reproduction occupies the same spot where the original was placed in 1741. It stands three feet high and has a base measuring one square foot. One side reads, “8-1/4 Miles to New York and 2-1/2 Miles to Denyse’s Ferry.” The other is inscribed, “10-1/2 Miles to New York Ferry 15 Miles to Jamaica.”
Opposite the milestone is the Van Pelt Manor, which dates back to 1672. Both Continental Army General George Washington (1732-1799) and British General William Howe (1729-1814) used it at different times as a military prison during the Revolutionary War (1776-1781). In 1910, Townsend Cortelyou Van Pelt, a descendant, deeded the property to Parks for one dollar on the “express condition that the said premises be used and maintained as a site for exhibiting and preserving thereon a certain old Dutch milestone.” A contemporary of Van Pelt recalled him saying, “You see that hole on the top of the milestone; well, that is where I cracked black walnuts and my father cracked walnuts, and so on ever since the milestone was first erected.”
The City agreed to fence off a 300 square foot area that enclosed the stone and set it on a concrete base. In 1972, when a youth group inquired whether the property was for sale, they received a reply from August Heckscher (1913-1997), the Parks Commissioner at the time, stating that “the plot was forever to be used for exhibiting the old Dutch milestone.”
In 1924, the site, located in New Utrecht at the juncture of 18th Avenue and 82nd Street, was officially designated as parkland. In June of that year, Parks acquired an additional plot of land by condemnation bringing the total land area to a half-acre. It wasn’t until 1988, however, that Milestone Park was anything other than a barren, fenced off lot. In that year, Parks installed small tables and benches and planted trees, making it a pleasant sitting area for local residents. Another renovation was undertaken six years later with $450,000 in new funding from Council member John Fusco. It entailed planting additional trees, repairing the asphalt, and refurbishing the recreation area.