One of the reasons I consider myself fortunate to live in New Jersey is that we live within a short drive of many of the sites that played a crucial role in the birth of our nation. In fact, one of my family’s favorite things to do is to explore the historic sites of New Jersey. Recently, we visited Fort Lee Historic Park.
Many New Jerseyans know that Fort Lee is a town that sits atop the majestic Palisades at the foot of the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge (a town that has found itself at the center of a certain “Bridgegate” scandal in recent months). But long before anyone ever dreamed of building a massive bridge connecting New Jersey to Manhattan, Fort Lee was precisely that – a fort. Today, Fort Lee Historic Park features a reconstructed Revolutionary War encampment and Visitors’ Center museum which educate visitors about the significance of the site as a crucial military installation during America’s battle for independence.
George Washington ordered the construction of Fort Lee (initially, it was called “Fort Constitution”) in 1776 as part of his plan to defend New York City and the Hudson River Valley against the advancing British Crown forces. Work had already begun on Fort Washington in northern Manhattan directly across the Hudson River. However, by late summer, the largest assemblage of British Naval ships ever to have sailed from England was anchored in New York Harbor and more than 31,000 British and Hessian troops were encamped on Staten Island. The subsequent events eventually forced General Washington to abandon Fort Lee and led to some of the darkest days in the battle for American independence, compelling Thomas Paine to write his inspiring pamphlet, “The American Crisis”.
These are the times that try men’s souls…
Fort Lee Historic Park offers breathtaking scenic views of the George Washington Bridge, the Hudson River, and the Manhattan skyline. Things to do include touring the encampment, visiting the museum located in the Visitors’ Center, special interpretive programs and historic reenactments, and hiking the trails of Palisades Interstate Park (the Shore Trail and Long Path have trail heads outside the Visitors’ Center).
Fort Lee Historic Park is located at Hudson Terrace in Fort Lee, New Jersey. The park is open from 8am to dusk, seven days a week. The Visitors’ Center is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 10am to 4:45pm. A $5 parking fee is charged on weekends and holidays, as well as for special events. Visit Fort Lee Historic Park online (or call 201-461-1776) for directions and more information on things to do, including special events.Photo credit: Bogdan Migulski via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)