St. Mary's Park (Bronx)
|St. Mary's Park|
|Location||Mott Haven, Bronx, New York City|
|Area||35.31 acres (14.29 hectares)|
|Operated by||New York City Department of Parks and Recreation|
St. Mary's Park is a park in the Mott Haven neighborhood in the southwest of the Bronx borough of New York City, in the United States. The park has sporting facilities and an indoor recreation center.
Originally part of the estate of Jonas Bronck (1600-1643), for whom the Bronx is named, it was occupied by a group of Loyalist military refugees during the Revolutionary War, as a camp. Years later the land was held by the family of Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816), one of the authors of the U.S. Constitution. After 1857 the area was known as “Janes’ Hill” for owner Adrian Janes of Janes, Kirtland and Company Iron Works, a local foundry that manufactured bridges for Central Park, railings for the Brooklyn Bridge, and the 8,909,200-pound dome of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
During the mid-19th Century, a segment of the Spuyten Duyvil and Port Morris Railroad (est. 1842) was built through the land. The line was acquired by the New York and Harlem Railroad in 1853, which itself was acquired by the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad in 1864, and transformed it into a freight branch.
In 1874 New York City annexed parts of the southern Bronx from Westchester County. Seeking to create public parks in the Bronx, journalist John Mullaly (1835-1915) founded the New York Park Association in 1881. His efforts culminated in the 1884 New Parks Act and the city’s 1888-90 purchase of lands for St. Mary’s, and several other large parks throughout the borough, including three parkways. St. Mary’s Park was named for a Protestant Episcopal church that stood three blocks to the west until 1959.
In 1903, NYC Parks Department granted the New York Central Railroad permission to lay tracks underneath the park. The 2,200-to-2,300-foot-long (670 to 700 m) tunnel was finally built through a the park in 1905,  and the former segment of the line was eventually abandoned, and the 1.2 acres occupied by the tracks were returned to the park in 1912. Parkland was expanded further by an additional .8 acre in 1968.
The park spawned numerous recreation programs in the Bronx. The borough’s first playground opened in St. Mary’s Park in 1914. At this time, the park also had a baseball diamond, two tennis courts, and a children’s farm garden. In response to rapid population growth and residential construction in the neighborhood, three additional playgrounds opened in the park between 1938 and 1941. After World War II, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses inaugurated a city-wide recreation program to provide places to play and socialize in cold weather months. New York’s first full-service, indoor recreation center opened at St. Mary’s in 1951. Designed by the architectural firm of Brown, Lawford, and Forbes, the building housed an indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, locker and shower rooms, and meeting rooms for classes and community programs. Murals of Marvel Comics superheroes were painted in the center in the early 1970s and repainted in 1991.
In 1996, a quarter-mile fitness loop and two additional tennis courts were installed in St. Mary’s Park with city funds allocated by the City Council. Ten years later, the Parks department completed the installation of synthetic turf at the park.
- St. Mary's Park: St. Mary’s Recreation Center. New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Accessed June 2015.
- The Harlem Division (New York Central System Historical Society)
- Railroad Gazette. Railroad Gazette. 1905. p. 437.