I grew up in my beloved borough of Brooklyn. It was just over the bridge to the city where I visited museums, art galleries, shopped Bloomies, boutiques and did design school. Don’t ask–I practically lived in the city. After today’s lecture at the Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk, CT, I learned about a whole new Brooklyn and New York that I never knew. Historian Justin Ferate talked about hidden houses, insider’s clubs, offbeat treasures, secret gardens, and things like the monument dedicated to the our soldiers that died in the revolutionary war.
The Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument in Fort Greene Park, in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is a memorial to the more than 11,500 American prisoners of war who died in captivity aboard sixteen British prison ships during the American Revolutionary War. The remains of a small fraction of those who died on the ships are interred in a crypt beneath its base. The ships included the HMS Jersey, the Scorpion, the Hope, the Falmouth, the Stromboli, Hunter, and others.
The column carries this inscription: “1776 THE PRISON SHIP MARTYRS MONUMENT 1908”. The grand staircase of 100 80-feet-wide granite steps rises in three stages. At the foot of the staircase, the entrance to the vault was covered by a slab of brown sandstone, now in storage, that bears the names of the 1808 monument committee and builders and this inscription: Their remains were first gathered and interred in 1808. In 1867 landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, designers of Central Park and Prospect Park, were engaged to prepare a new design for Washington Park as well as a new crypt for the remains of the prison ship martyrs. In 1873, after urban growth hemmed in that site near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the remains were moved and re-interred in a crypt beneath a small monument. Funds were raised for a larger monument, which was designed by noted architect Stanford White. Constructed of granite, its single Doric column 149 feet (45 m) in height sits over the crypt at the top of a 100-foot (30 m)-wide 33 step staircase. At the top of the column is an eight-ton bronze brazier, a funeral urn, by sculptor Adolf Weinman. President-elect William Howard Taft delivered the principal address when the monument was dedicated in 1908.
A plaque was added in 1960 located across from the front label on the monument. The plaque reads:
In memory of the 11,500 patriotic American sailors and soldiers who endured untold suffering and died on the prison British ships anchored in Wallabout Bay during the Revolutionary War 1776- 1782. Their remains lie buried in the crypt at the base of this monument which was dedicated on November 14, 1908. This plaque was afforded by The Society of Old Brooklynites on June 1, 1960. Farelly Crane M.D. President.
During the Revolutionary War, the British maintained a series of prison ships in the New York Harbor and jails on the shore for captured prisoners of war. Due to brutal conditions, more Americans died in British jails and prison ships in New York Harbor than in all the battles of the American Revolutionary War.
The British quickly disposed of the bodies of the dead from the jails and ships by quick interment or throwing the bodies overboard. Following the end of the American Revolutionary War in 1783, the remains of those who died on the 16 prison ships were neglected, left to lie along the Brooklyn shore on Wallabout Bay, a rural area little visited by New Yorkers. On January 21, 1877, the New York Times reported that the dead came from all parts of the nation and “every state of the Union was represented among them.”
If you ever have the opportunity to hear Justin speak, run and sign up. He is a font of information presented with great spirit. All spoken off the cuff, no notes in his hands, only a powerful power point presentation with beautiful images.
What secret places do you know?