Standing atop a hill overlooking the lovely setting that is Fort Greene Park, it’s hard to miss the tall pillar of white and green that is the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument. It’s so prominent, in fact, that it can be seen blocks away from high rises and rooftops in the neighborhood. But many people do not know the “why” behind this striking piece. It’s a rather sad one – it’s a memorial to more than 11,500 American prisoners of war who perished while aboard British prison ships in New York Harbor during the Revolutionary War. And there’s a crypt beneath it, too. A bit spooky to think about, but perhaps timely given that Halloween is just two weeks away…

Prior to the creation of the monument, the remains of these prisoners were scattered about Wallabout Bay, ignored for some years. After much political debate, the first version of the  monument was created in 1808 in what is now known as Vinegar Hill. The monument was then moved to Fort Greene Park (back then, known as Washington Park) in 1873, and then substantially renovated starting in 1902 after significant funds were finally secured. This renovation gave rise to the version that we now see. Currently, the monument is up for consideration as a national monument.

There are many, MANY more fascinating details about this simple, beautiful structure and its construction. To learn more, visit


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