Named for the stone Goddard Mansion ruin that it conceals to its north and west, this is a landscape of large tree canopies and dense undergrowth. Forming the pinnacle of the site is the Mansion itself, an imposing, evocative empty stone shell, with relics of historic plantings, stone terraces and garden walls behind it. Now enshrouded in trees, the landscape tumbles down eastward in rugged stone outcroppings to a restful picnic area, set within a large birch grove along the way to Battery Keyes. Several foot-worn paths cut through the landscape and are in various states of erosion.
Tree species growing here are common to much of the Park’s woodlands, such as red oak, shagbark hickory, white ash and white birch. There are also several historic ornamental plantings like Austrian pine, lilac and crabapple. All these plants are compromised by a heavy infestation of invasive plants – most extensively by Norway maple and black locust.
In addition to stabilizing and enhancing the network of footpaths, objectives for this site are to preserve ornamental and native plantings while suppressing invasive plants to provide an attractive and ecologically sound landscape from which to enjoy the Goddard Mansion and the approach to Battery Keyes.
- Goddard Mansion, Carriage House and Stable (1858): Perched high above Ship Cove and enshrouded in trees is a stately stone mansion designed by the notable New York architect, Charles A. Alexander, for John Goddard, a prominent local businessman. Although it predates the Fort by thirty years, it was acquired in 1900 by the federal government during the expansion of Fort Williams and eventually converted into quarters for non-commissioned officers.
Please visit our Goddard Mansion history page for more information about this Park treasure.
Featured Problematic Plant: black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Native to the Southeast but widely planted by settlers throughout the country for its hard, rot-resistant wood, black locust is a fast-growing tree in the Legume Family. Typically growing tall and narrow with an irregular crown of contorted branches, it has long, divided leaves and brown, deeply furrowed bark with forking ridges. Nectar-rich, fragrant white flowers hang in large clusters in June, maturing to purplish-brown bean pods in early fall as the foliage turns yellow. Bark on young trees is green and smooth, and saplings and sprouts are armed with short thorn-like spines at the base of each leaf.
Black locust tolerates a wide range of conditions, spreading both by seeds and rhizomes, forming dense thickets that shade out native vegetation. Several locust trees growing in the Mansion Windbreak site were cut in recent years, which has resulted in rapid sprouting from their stumps and aggressive spreading by underground shoots.
Featured Beneficial Plant: black cherry (Prunus serotina)
A fast-growing pioneer tree, native to central and eastern North America and the Southwest, black cherry has long, glossy leaves, pendulous spikes of fragrant white flowers in spring, and dangling red cherries that ripen black in late summer and fall. Mature trees are distinguished by their gray-black, broken-plated bark, and by their windswept trunks and canopy structure in exposed locations like Fort Williams Park. Many of the most picturesque trees growing in the Park are black cherries. Fall foliage is golden to apricot-orange.
Larger and longer lived than other wild cherry species, black cherry trees prefer moist soil but are tolerant of a wide range of conditions. They are host to numerous species of moths and butterflies, and the flowers are a favorite of many pollinators. Fruit is consumed by many species of birds and animals, but the foliage is toxic to livestock. The fruit is also used by people to make jams and pies, and for flavoring sodas, liqueurs and ice cream.