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Bronx River Parkway

Olinville Playground

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

This playground bears the name of the Bronx neighborhood of Olinville, named after the author, professor and Methodist bishop, Stephen Olin (1797-1851). A tiny village that emerged in the 1840s as a result of the New York and Harlem Railroad, Olinville originally began as two distinct settlements, Olinville No.1 and Olinville No.2, separated by Olin Avenue. The villages were eventually incorporated between 1852 and 1854.

Stephen Olin was born in Leicester, Vermont. He became an instructor at Tabernacle Academy in South Carolina in 1820, was admitted on trial as a preacher to the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1824, and was ordained in 1826. He became professor of ethics and belles-lettres at the University of Georgia in 1827, and from 1834 to 1837, he served as the first President of Randolph-Macon College, a recently founded Methodist institution in Virginia. Renowned as one of the most powerful and fervent preachers of his day, he served as President of Wesleyan University in Connecticut from 1842 to 1851.

He wrote with the same zeal with which he preached, contributing to the Christian Advocate and Journal and writing numerous books. Travels in Egypt, Arabia, Petraea, and the Holy Land was published in 1843, but the majority of his works were released posthumously. These include The Works of Stephen Olin (1852), Life and Letters (1853), Greece and the Golden Horn (1854), and College Life and Practice (1867).

Olin was married twice, first to Mary E. Bostwick in 1827, and then to Julia M. Lynch in 1843 with whom he had a son. In her youth, Lynch (1814-1877) had been a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church but she became a Methodist upon marrying Olin. She established Hillside chapel in Rhinebeck, New York, served as secretary for the New York Female Bible Society, and acted as President of the New York branch of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society. A keen author herself, she wrote articles for the Methodist Quarterly Review and helped her husband edit his publications. Her own works, books on the interpretation of the Bible and how to live in a Christian manner include The Perfect Light, or Seven Hues of Christian Character (1865) and Questions on the Natural History of the Bible (1865).

Parks obtained the land for Olinville Playground in conjunction with the construction of the Bronx River Parkway extension in 1938. The Westchester portion, from the Sprain Brook Parkway in Bronxville to Kensico Dam Park in Valhalla, was built between 1907 and 1925. The Bronx portion, from Bronx Park south to Soundview Park was completed under the direction of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) in 1952.

Olinville Playground features a comfort station and benches as well as a spray shower, a water fountain and play equipment alongside of a green-painted turtle climbing sculpture. Sweet gum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua) with their star-shaped leaves bring dappled shade to the neighborhood playground.

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