The Blockhouse is the second oldest structure in the park, aside from Cleopatra’s Needle.  A small fort in the northern part of the park, it is located on an overlook of Manhattan schist, with a clear view of the flat surrounding areas north of Central Park. Finished in 1814, the fort was part of a series of fortifications in northern Manhattan, which originally also included three fortifications in what was then called Harlem Heights, now known as Morningside Heights. The fort is the last remaining fortification from these defenses. Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the designers of Central Park, treated Blockhouse No. 1 as a picturesque ruin, romantically overrun with vines and Alpine shrubbery.

The Blockhouse was likely built on a foundation of a structure dating back to a much earlier date. In 1776, during the Revolutionary War, British and Hessian troops sealed off lower Manhattan from colonial armies by controlling the pass and defending it through a series of fortifications. From trial excavations performed in 1995, it has been determined that the foundations of Blockhouse No. 1 date back to this time of British occupation of Manhattan.[2]

The current fort was constructed in three phases:

In the first phase, under the direction of General Joseph Gardner Swift,[3] the fort was hastily constructed by New Yorkers during the War of 1812 in anticipation of a British invasion. The building was assembled by volunteers who brought the building materials with them, hence the red sandstone blocks included with the Manhattan schist.[4] The fort consists of a two-story bunker surrounding a small area, inside which a wooden platform would have originally stood. The wooden platform was sunken with a revolving turret for a cannon. The sides held small gunports. This structure was likely connected to the ground by a small staircase. Construction on the tower was completed in 1814, two days before the Treaty of Ghent was signed to end the war.

The second phase was during its use as an ammunition and storage building. During this time the top two feet of stone work were added. They are noticeably different in color, composition, and stonework.

Later at the turn of the 20th century, the current entrance and staircase were added, as was the tall flagpole in the center of the fort.

Blockhouse No. 1 stands in the northwest corner of Central Park, in a wooded area that is still rugged, high, and hard to reach. It is located south of North Drive and north of Huddlestone.[5] The building overlooks Harlem Meer and the Lasker Rink.

This structure was initially built as a defensive fort for New York City and soldiers were stationed at the Blockhouse. At its height, nearly 2,000 New York state militiamen garrisoned the fortifications.[1] However, the British did not attack New York City, and as such the Blockhouse never saw combat. The Treaty of Ghent was signed on Christmas Eve 1814, and the fort was abandoned shortly thereafter.[6] It was subsequently used for ammunition storage. In the early 20th century it was used as a place to celebrate patriotic holidays.[7]

The structure is currently unoccupied and unused. A large metal gate covers the door. Occasional tours are provided by the Urban Park Rangers, but independent exploration of the interior is not allowed.

Lost plaque
The Blockhouse had a bronze tablet commemorating its history placed above the door, placed on June 10, 1905. The ceremony was performed by Mary Van Buren Vanderpoel, president of the Women’s Auxiliary. Receiving the plaque was General Frederick Dent Grant.[8] The plaque was stolen from its location and was noticed to be missing on March 28, 1913. The plaque was documented in a copyrighted picture and was located above the door. The plaque read “This blockhouse was part of a line of fortifications extending from the Hudson to the Harlem River built for the defense of New York by it’s [sic] patriotic citizens during the war of 1812-1815. This tablet is erected by the Woman’s Auxiliary to the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society A.D. 1905”.[9] In 1999, the Blockhouse had a new sign erected, describing its history.[1] However, the new plaque is also missing.

Central Park Bike Tour

  • Our bicycle tour has been ranked as one the top 5 things to do in Central Park by TripAdvisor. It is the only tour that covers the entire length of Central Park and it provides an excellent overview of the whole park.
  • The tour takes approximately 2 hours and it includes various stops along the way. On those stops, you can park the bicycle and go for a short stroll along some of the most stunning views of Central Park.
  • Including Bethesda Terrace, Strawberry Fields, The Bow Bridge, Balto and many more. In addition, you will also visit some of the hidden places in Central Park - the Ravine, the secret waterfall and of course our team’s favorite - the Central Park Ramble!
  • 2 Hours - $53 - Prices are per person
    Book Here.

Central Park Pedicab Tour

  • Allow one of our experienced tour guides to show you the beauty of the park from the back of a pedicab. Those iconic NYC pedicabs are one of the best things to do in Central Park!
  • Sit down and relax while your tour guide tells you about the history of the park, architecture, interesting trivia and of course points out the exact location of all those blockbuster movies filmed in Central Park
  • Reserve either 1 hour or 2 hour guided pedicab tour. If you are already in the park, don’t worry, we can send the tour guide to pick you up from one of the many designated pick up zones inside Central Park.
  • 1 Hour - $53 - 2 Hours - $89 - Prices are per person
  • Book Here.

Central Park Bike Rental

  • Biking in Central Park is one of the most enjoyable ways to explore the park and do it at your own pace.
  • You can pick up your bike from one of our convenient locations around the park. In case you are already inside the park, no worries, we can send our concierge to deliver the bike(s) to one of the many designated bike zones inside the park. At the time of booking, we will direct you to the nearest bike pick up station in the park.
  • Pack some light snacks and a water bottle, take one of the park maps we provide. When reserving your bike rental, you will have an option to include an audio guided tour.
  • 1 Hour $15 - 2 Hours $20 - 3 Hours $25 - All Day (9am -7pm) $40
  • Book Here

Things To Do

From The Philharmonic on the Great Lawn to Shakespeare in the Park to SummerStage, Central Park offers an endless array of things to do, see, hear – and, with two full service restaurants and several cafes, taste.  You can visit The Shakespeare Garden, take in a performance at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater, take a ride on the Carousel – or just sit and people watch at Bethesda Terrace!

Contact Us

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5th Ave. 
New York, NY, 10028

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