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Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park

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

Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park was named in 1987 to describe the waterfront property in relation to its neighborhood. There are two major theories concerning the origin of the Dutch name Spuyten Duyvil. According to the first, a trumpeter dispatched to the Bronx during the 1664 British invasion of New Amsterdam rowed across the turbulent creek "en spijt den Duyvil" (in spite of the Devil). The second is based on a 1647 reference to a gushing fountain that emptied into the creek, "Spuit den Duyvil" (Devil?s Spout) or to the creek itself (Devil's Spate). At least fourteen different spellings of the name have been recorded, including those mentioned above and Speak Devil, Speight den Duyvil, Speit den Duyvil, Spike & Devil, Spiling Devil, Spilling Devil, Spitendeuval, Spitten Divil, Spittin Debell, Spitting Devil, and Spitton Divil.

The City of New York acquired this land as a public park in 1882 after condemnation proceedings. It consists of a triangle formed by Palisade Avenue, Edsall Avenue, and the Hudson line of the Metro North railroad running along the Harlem River.

As Parks Commissioner and as President and sole member of the Henry Hudson Parkway Authority, Robert Moses sited the northern structural column of the Henry Hudson Bridge on this parkland. In June of 1935, construction began on what was to be the longest plate girder bridge in the world. The single level four lane bridge spans the Harlem River, from cliffs on one side in Inwood (Manhattan) to high bluffs on the other side in Spuyten Duyvil (the Bronx), with a vertical clearance of 142.5 feet. The bridge opened to motorists with a toll of ten cents per crossing on December 12, 1936; the second level was added, in accordance with original plans, in July 1938.

The bridge was part of Moses's dream to endow New York City with a complete arterial highway system. An instrumental junction in his West Side Improvement Plan, the Henry Hudson Bridge connected the West Side Highway with the Henry Hudson Parkway which, in turn, linked Manhattan to the mainland of the United States.

The Department of Parks and Recreation--in compliance with the 1986 Environmental Quality Bond Act Project--remodeled the rugged and neglected land on which the tower is situated. Renovations completed in 1994 provided a network of graveled pathways and a footbridge allowing pedestrian accessibility to a natural spring and small pond which feed into the Harlem River. Benches, fencing and railings were installed to make the park more comfortable. In order to enhance the view of the River, terracing was added to create an overlook, and existing flora was trimmed and pruned sparingly so as to preserve the natural and untamed quality of the property. In addition, shrubbery was planted and grass seeded both to correct an erosion problem and to beautify the area.

The new landscaping is attractive to local wildlife that now frequents the park. Many varieties of birds either breed by the pond or in the surrounding woods, or stop here on their regular migration paths. Snowy and Yellow Egrets, Green and Black-crowned Night-Herons, Ring-necked Pheasants, Mallards, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, and Mallards all have been spotted in and around Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park.

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