Bounded by Victory Boulevard, Louis Street, and Howard Avenue, Hero Park honors the 144 Staten Island soldiers who died in World War I. Large evergreen trees, dedicated to each veteran, decorate the park. Plaques with each soldier’s name once adorned Sugar Loaf Rock and a tablet once existed which explained the dedications. The tablet proclaimed: “This Granite Boulder Left Here During the Glacial Period Has Been Known for Generations as SUGAR LOAF ROCK and Marks the Boyhood Playground of the Men Whose Gallant Deeds it Now Commemorates.” After the signs began to disappear in the 1970s, Parks removed the remaining signs to avoid further vandalism.
Dr. and Mrs. Louis A. Dreyfus donated the original 1.924 acres of the property to the city in 1920. Dr. Dreyfus discovered a process for making a chewing gum base in 1909, and formed the L.A. Dreyfus Company in Clifton, Staten Island. The company grew steadily and by the end of 1913 it had over forty customers, including the William Wrigley Jr. Company. With increasing demands for chewing gum base came the requirement for increased facilities, and since expanding the Staten Island plant was not considered feasible, the company relocated to Edison, New Jersey.
During her lifetime, Mrs. Berta Dreyfus, Louis’ wife, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to various hospitals, colleges, civic groups, and charities. She contributed to the Richmond Memorial Hospital, as well as the Staten Island Hospital in New Brighton. In addition, Breta Dreyfus supported Wagner Lutheran Memorial College on Grymes Hill, and Cornell University. Trinity Lutheran Church at Stapleton, Zion Methodist Church at Tompkinsville. the Staten Island Council of Boy Scouts of America, the Visiting Nurses Association of Staten Island, the Conference House Association, the Staten Island Cancer Committee, and the Girl Scouts of America also benefited from her generosity.
In 1981, there was a proposal to construct a twenty-five-story condominium on the area adjacent to the land that the Dreyfus family had donated to the city. The Silver Lake Civic League, the Silver Lake Civic Association, the Grymes Hill Civic Association, the Preservation League, the Trust for Public Land and other community groups worked together to block this plan, and the proposal was rejected. The civic groups labored to raise the $165,000 necessary for Parks to purchase the 1.1-acre addition of wooded hillside. It was secured in 1985.
In 1998, the pathways in the park were replaced. The Friends of Hero Park, a community group comprised mainly of citizens from streets bordering the park, now collects financial contributions in order to help Parks maintain the grounds. In addition, this group works to plan events for the park. The flagpole, trees and Sugar Loaf Rock continue to remind park users of the heroic deeds of the Staten Island soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Hero Park contains Pin Oak, American Linden, and London Plane trees. London Plane trees take their name from London, England. These trees are known to flourish despite harsh urban environments. Due to the trees’ enduring popularity, Parks uses the silhouette of their leaf as its official insignia.