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Van Cortlandt Park

Southwest Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

The land around Southwest Playground, as well as the adjacent Kingsbridge Green, was originally a freshwater marsh. Tibbett’s Brook, which runs south from Westchester to Van Cortlandt Lake, is one of the last remnants of the former marsh. Originally called Moshulu by an Algonquin Native American tribe that lived on the current Parade Ground site, Tibbett’s Brook gets its most recent name from George Tibbett, owner of land in Riverdale and Van Cortlandt park in 1668.

In 1699, Jacobus Van Cortlandt purchased the land that is now Van Cortlandt Park and dammed Tibbett’s Brook to power two mills; the overflow from the mills created Van Cortlandt Lake. The City of New York acquired this land in 1888 and 1894, and the freshwater wetlands were reduced by the construction of the Van Cortlandt Golf Course and its expansion in 1914. The golf course water hazards derive from the original wetlands. Then, the Department of Sanitation drained the marshland in 1933 to combat a rising mosquito population. Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) further developed the southwest section of Van Cortlandt Park for the Henry Hudson Parkway in 1936, the Van Cortlandt Stadium in 1939, and the Major Deegan Expressway in 1956.

Constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Van Cortlandt Stadium opened on September 22, 1939. New York City, under the direction of Moses and Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia (1882-1947), was able to secure a great deal of WPA funding. Park construction was one of the many projects undertaken by the WPA, an unprecedented federal program initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) as a component of the New Deal. Mayor La Guardia and Parks Commissioner Moses conducted the opening ceremonies with an exhibition football game between Manhattan College and Fordham University.

Southwest Playground, located at the corner of Broadway and Van Cortlandt Park South, the southwest corner of Van Cortlandt Park, opened as part of the Van Cortlandt Stadium grounds. The playground held a wading pool and play equipment. Council Member June M. Eisland funded a $1,424,686 renovation of the entire southwest corner of Van Cortlandt Park, which includes Southwest Playground and the Kingsbridge Green, completed in 1998. Today, the playground features play equipment with safety surfacing, swings for tots and kids, benches, game tables, drinking fountains, an asphalt ballfield, and a spray shower.

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