Most of the old Civil War forts ringing the city, now owned by the National Park Service, could use better maintenance and programming. With the exception of Ward 3’s historic greenswards, like Fort Reno and Battery Kemble, the sites are overgrown and abandoned. But there’s a certain charm to these urban thickets, some of which comes from their emptiness: It’s hard to find places in the city where you can be completely alone. The most secluded of them all is Barnard Hill Park, in a sparsely-populated corner of Northeast, sandwiched between Bunker Hill Road and Eastern Avenue.
There was no telling, in 1861, that the park named after the guy who designed the whole system—Brigadier General John Barnard, at the request of General George McClellan—would turn out to be the least remembered. But it’s not for lack of merit. There’s a picnic table under a majestic, gnarled tree at the top of the mounded ridge that catches the last rays of sunlight on summer evenings. You can almost imagine a Union soldier on his way to the Capitol, trotting over the hill and stopping to enjoy the moment.