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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

History of St. Mary's Park: A Chronicle of Evolution and Community Flourish

  Rajesh Kumar Rana       Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Step back in time and witness the captivating story of St. Mary's Park, a verdant oasis nestled in the heart of the Bronx. From its colonial beginnings as part of Jonas Bronck's estate to its transformation into a bustling hub for recreation and community, this park boasts a rich tapestry woven with historical threads. Uncover hidden gems, from the ingenuity of its design to the groundbreaking recreation programs it birthed, and discover why St. Mary's Park remains an irreplaceable treasure for the Bronx community. So, lace up your walking shoes, pack a picnic basket, and prepare to embark on a journey through time as we delve into the captivating history of St. Mary's Park.

History of St. Mary's Park

St. Mary's Park, Bronx, NY
Image of St. Mary's Park, Bronx, NY


St. Mary's Park, an integral part of the Bronx's landscape, stands as a testament to the borough's rich history, from its early colonial roots to its evolution into a thriving urban community space. Spanning centuries, this park has been witness to the ebb and flow of history, reflecting the dynamic narrative of the Bronx.

Colonial Roots:

The roots of St. Mary's Park delve into the estate of Jonas Bronck, the namesake of the Bronx, dating back to the settler era. During the Revolutionary War, it hosted Loyalist military refugees, adding a chapter of historical significance to its grounds. The subsequent ownership by the Gouverneur Morris family, known for contributing to the U.S. Constitution, further enriched the historical tapestry of the park.

Janes' Hill and Urban Development:

Post-1857, the area took on the name "Janes' Hill," paying homage to Adrian Janes of Janes, Kirtland & Co. Iron Works. This local foundry played a pivotal role in crafting iconic structures like bridges for Central Park, railings for the Brooklyn Bridge, and the monumental dome of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The industrial resonance of Janes' Hill echoed far beyond its greenery.

The Visionary Initiatives:

The metamorphosis of St. Mary's Park into a public space was part of a broader initiative to create public parks in the Bronx. John Mullaly, a journalist, founded the New York Park Association in 1881, paving the way for the 1884 New Parks Act. This legislation facilitated the city's acquisition of lands for several parks, including St. Mary's. Named after a Protestant Episcopal church that stood nearby until 1959, the park became a beacon of recreational possibilities in the Bronx.

Design and Development:

Described by Mullaly in 1887 as a place of "miniature loveliness," St. Mary's Park encompassed 25 acres of natural beauty. Architects thoughtfully arranged elements such as winding paths, benches, trees, shrubs, and even a concert stand, creating a harmonious blend of nature and design. In 1903, the park adapted to change when the New York Central Railroad laid tracks underneath it. The 1.2 acres occupied by the tracks were eventually reclaimed in 1912, with an additional 0.8 acres added in 1968.

Pioneering Recreation Programs:

St. Mary's Park took a pioneering role in the Bronx's recreational landscape. In 1914, it housed the borough's first playground, marking a significant step in community engagement. The park evolved with the times, introducing amenities such as a baseball diamond, tennis courts, and a children's farm garden. Responding to the growing community, additional playgrounds sprouted between 1938 and 1941.

Indoor Recreation Center and Beyond:

Post-World War II, St. Mary's Park continued its trailblazing journey. In 1951, it became home to New York's first full-service, indoor recreation center. This visionary move by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses provided a space for year-round activities, including an indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, and meeting rooms. Murals of Marvel Comics superheroes, a vibrant expression of community identity, adorned the center in the early 1970s.

Modern Enhancements:

In response to changing needs, St. Mary's Park underwent modern enhancements. In 1996, a fitness loop and additional tennis courts were added, enhancing the park's recreational offerings. A significant milestone in 2006 saw the completion of the installation of synthetic turf, adding a contemporary touch to the park's landscape.


St. Mary's Park stands not just as a green oasis in the urban landscape but as a living chronicle of the Bronx's journey through time. From its colonial origins to its role as a dynamic community space, this park continues to evolve, reflecting the spirit and resilience of the borough it serves. As St. Mary's Park embraces the future, its roots remain deeply embedded in the history and heartbeat of the Bronx.


Thanks for reading History of St. Mary's Park: A Chronicle of Evolution and Community Flourish

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