In 1795, Robert Givan, his wife Agnes Thompson, and their seven children, emigrated from Kelso, Scotland, to this area of the Bronx, which was then still part of Westchester. They settled on a tract of land purchased from the Bartow family, the last private landowners of Pelham Bay Park. The property featured a high elevation and a navigable creek that emptied into the Hutchinson River.
Givan built a mill on the banks of the creek, and established an estate just east of this square, which he called Edman after his home county in Great Britain. Givan died in 1830, and left a considerable estate to his descendants. They included members of the Palmer, LeRoy, and Morgan families, whose names are also preserved in nearby streets.
The City acquired this property in separate parcels in 1955 and 1958. The site lies within the neighborhood of Williamsbridge, in and around the intersection of O’Neil Place, Adee Avenue, Eastchester Road, and Arnow Avenue. The square comprises three separate triangles: Lynch Triangle, Cavanagh Triangle, and Angelo Campanaro Park, a full-fledged playground. Since opening to the public in 1962, the square’s separate triangles have each received their own names.
At the corner of Gunhill Road and Eastchester Road lies Lynch Triangle. Named for Edward P. Lynch who had a distinguished military history and served as a member of the New York City Police Department in New York, Lynch was killed in line of duty while pursuing a prowler. This tiny island was named Lynch Square by local law in 1968. It has several plantings for passers-by to enjoy in the middle of a heavily trafficked intersection.
Cavanagh Triangle stands at the intersection of Gun Hill Road, Eastchester Road, and Adee Avenue, across from the Holy Rosary Church, named by local law after Emile J. Cavanagh in 1974. It offers local residents a place to sit and admire the handsome London plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia).
Angelo Campanaro was President of the Chester Civic Improvement Association, chairman of Community Board 12 and an active member of the Holy Rosary Church which lies adjacent to Givans Square. This park was dedicated in June 1985, in honor of Campanaro’s contributions to his community. In 2009, the playground was renovated with $1.7 million in Croton Mitigation Funds, as part of a $200 million investment in Bronx parks, financed by mitigation funds from the construction of the Croton Water Filtration Plant through the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Municipal Water Finance Authority. As part of the renovation, the playground received a new spray shower, play equipment and seating; the existing basketball and handball courts were restored, the comfort station together with the entire site was upgraded to ADA (“Americans with Disabilities Act”) compliance, and the planting area was expanded to allow greater storm water capture, an innovation of green design which prevents excess water runoff.
Hundreds of cars pass through Givans Square each day. But to local residents and visitors who stop to explore, the square offers places both for active recreation and peaceful conversation. Like the prototypical town square, Givans Square provides Williamsbridge residents with a central spot to call their own.