A cliff-top park featuring spectacular vistas, a recreated Revolutionary War encampment, and a visitor center is called Fort Lee Historic Park. The Historic Park has further historical re-enactments and a distinctive “living history” educational program.
From Fort Lee Historical Park’s northern viewpoints, unparalleled vistas of the Hudson, Upper Manhattan, and the George Washington Bridge—the busiest bridge in the world—can be had.
Fort Lee won its place in American history during the 1776 British effort to seize control.
Following his success in repelling the British siege of Boston, George Washington focused on defending New York City and the Hudson River Valley. Washington believed the army needed to develop and improve its defenses along the Hudson River.
The British strategy, on the other hand, was to completely dominate the Hudson River with the help of their Royal Navy. If implemented, this plan would divide the Colonies in two, putting an early end to the American uprising.
The Americans started reinforcing this location, which they first called “Fort Constitution,” in July 1776. In honor of General Charles Lee, whose army had won a crucial victory at Charleston, South Carolina, that summer, they eventually changed the name to “Fort Lee.” The construction of Fort Washington had already started on the high terrain of northern Manhattan, across from Fort Lee. The Rose and the Phoenix, two British ships, were despatched up the Hudson on July 12 by Admiral Richard Howe. Fort Washington’s cannon fire alone had little impact on their passage, so Washington ordered the construction of Fort Lee to go as rapidly as possible.
On the advice of General Rufus Putnam, obstacles were positioned in the river channel separating the forts. The Americans reasoned that with these in position and artillery fire from the twin forts, no British ships would be able to pass without suffering significant damage.
By mid-August, Sir William Howe, British Commander-in-Chief (and brother of Admiral Howe), had gathered an army of approximately 31,000 British and Hessian soldiers on Staten Island. This was the most significant force of British ships to have departed English ports.
Five days later, on August 22, the British assaulted Long Island, forcing the Americans to flee to New York City (at the time, the city comprised only the southern tip of Manhattan Island). Except for Fort Washington, the British captured New York City and the remainder of Manhattan in September.
On November 16, Fort Washington was overrun by Crown forces, who took nearly 3,000 American soldiers hostage.
Washington understood that Fort Lee had little military importance once Fort Washington was lost. General Nathanael Greene, in charge of Fort Lee, was given the order to start planning to leave the fort. However, the Americans were not in for an orderly retreat.
Four days after capturing Fort Washington, on November 20, General Howe gave General Charles Cornwallis the order to transport 5,000 soldiers several miles north of Fort Lee across the Hudson. Before the Fort Lee men could be cut off and captured by the British force, Washington ordered a hasty withdrawal when news of the approaching army reached him. It was necessary to abandon the majority of the American supplies and weaponry. These were some of the most hopeless times for the cause of American freedom, inspiring Thomas Paine to write his well-known remarks,
Classes in grades five and above studying the American Revolution may get a taste of what life was like for recruits to George Washington’s Continental Army from September through November and March through June. To provide pupils with a complete educational experience, classes visit Fort Lee Historic Park for a 4-1/2-hour “living history” program that mixes discussion, demonstration, and active involvement.
The Palisades Interstate Park was recognized as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in addition to the US Department of the Interior 1965. The park “represents a unique attempt by two states, New Jersey and New York, to conserve the magnificent magnificence of the cliffs on the lower west bank of the Hudson River,” they said.
Around that time, Fort Lee’s “the Bluff,” where the Continental Army had positioned its cannons in 1776, was being preserved. The Commission finally purchased the property, and Fort Lee Historic Park was inaugurated in 1976, in time for the bicentennial of the United States. Soon after, the location saw the creation of an innovative educational curriculum still in use today.
Historic Encampment Area
The ancient encampment area at the south end of the Fort Lee Historic Park grounds has several attractions, including an accurately recreated officers’ cabin (complete with a functioning fireplace!).
Visitors may delve further into the site’s Revolutionary history in the Fort Lee Historical Park Visitor Center, alone or in a group.
Retreat Weekend at Fort Lee Historic Park
This annual re-enactment event at Fort Lee Historical Park includes music, cooking, artillery demonstrations, and more. It is held on the weekend most closely related to the actual date of the British Invasion of New Jersey and the start of the Continental Army’s strategic “Retreat to Victory” in 1776.
Accidents of any type should be reported as quickly as possible to the Park Police at 201-768-6001 or to the closest Park Commission employee. Visitors are advised to contact the Park Police before dialing 911 in an emergency due to the layout of the park and the interference that the cliffs provide.
Alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, whiskey, or other intoxicating drinks, may not be distributed, sold, or held to consume unless authorized by permission granted by the Park Commission, and even then, only in conformity with the restrictions and conditions outlined in the permit.
Bicycles are permitted from Edgewater to Alpine, including Alpine Approach Road, but riders must always wear helmets, stay to the right, and ride in single file.
It is prohibited to ride bicycles, including mountain bikes, on the trails in any park, the Palisades Interstate Parkway, Fort Lee Historical Park, Allison Park, or Dyckman Hill Road. Cycling is prohibited on Henry Hudson Drive and other park roads when it is risky.
Décor, Markings, and Signage
Without the Superintendent’s permission, no decorations, markings, or signs may be attached to, drawn on, or hung on any park building, character, gate, post, wall, tree, or other structure or put up or built as a free-standing structure. This comprises banners but is not limited to them. Signs and posters. It is forbidden to use metal fasteners (such as screws or staples) or other tools that might damage the park’s landscaping.
The following are examples of prohibited decorations and markings: paint, balloons, chalk, colored powder, glitter, confetti, etc.
Radio-controlled or drone flying is not permitted in the park.
Cooking fires are only permitted in specially designated picnic sites; they are not permitted in Allison Park, Fort Lee Historic Park, State Line Lookout, on hiking trails, or in locations with dense vegetation. A grill, barbecue, or other fire ring designed for that purpose must be used to confine fires. Candles, ground fires, and burning in trash cans are all forbidden. Grills are not permitted on or beneath any structure, including tables. Before being disposed of in coal barrels, coal must be put out. The use of visitors’ grills and fuel is authorized.
Visit their website or contact them at (201) 461-3956 for additional details.