Old Fort Four Park
The American Revolution (1763-1789), the fight for our nation's independence from British rule, irrevocably shaped the course of American history and physically transformed the colonial landscape. Evidence of Revolutionary War action is imprinted on New York City from the Battery in Manhattan to Fort Greene in Brooklyn, from Newtown Creek in Queens to Port Richmond in Staten Island. The Bronx neighborhood of Kingsbridge, so named for the first bridge connecting Manhattan with the mainland in 1693, was strategically important during the Revolution in the New York Campaign and subsequently in the British defense of the city.
As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, General George Washington ordered the construction of outer defenses throughout the Kingsbridge area. Fort Four was built under the direction of Colonel Rufus Putnam in 1777 to protect the American army and to safeguard the line of the Harlem River. The largest of all fortifications in the neighborhood, Fort Four was admirably situated, commanding a view for miles in all directions. In the fall of 1779, the fort was destroyed by the British forces led by Sir Henry Clinton. The site is marked by a flagstaff and a bronze tablet erected by the Daughters of the Revolution in 1914.
The site has had other historic uses. The Jerome Park Racetrack occupied the land from 1876 to 1890. The track was closed to make room for the Jerome Park Reservoir which was filled first in 1905, holding 773 million gallons of water. The racetrack and reservoir take their name from Leonard W. Jerome (1817-1891). He helped found three different racetracks and the American Jockey Club, was a patron of the arts, established the Academy of Music and sponsored several singers. His daughter, Jennie Jerome, was the wife of Randolph Churchill and the mother of Winston Churchill.
This property was acquired by condemnation in 1895 as part of the Jerome Park Reservoir, and was placed under the jurisdiction of the Department of Parks in two parcels in 1913 and 1931. The playground was opened to the public in 1934. The facility included a basketball court, paddle tennis, see-saw, swings, and a shower basin. The park benefited from an extensive rehabilitation in 1988, including play equipment, benches, drinking fountains, and step repair. In 1998 Fort Four Park received a $150,000 renovation comprised of the installation of new safety surfacing and asphalt, remodeling of playground equipment, and inauguration of a community garden. A major feature of the facility is a $25,000 piece of playground equipment paid for by a grant by the City Parks Foundation--a colorful structure with a music wall and a variety of overhead ladders, loops, bridges, and slides.