Almost since this U-shaped park was created in 1897 it has been commonly known as Horseshoe Park because of its unusual shape.
The horseshoe dates back to ancient times, when horsemen from Europe and Asia padded their horses’ hooves with leather to prevent wear and injury to the horses. Iron horseshoes similar to those used today first appeared in the second century BC. It was also around this time that the Roman cavalry invented the game of horseshoe pitching, in which horseshoes are tossed at stakes driven into the ground. The occupation of a horseshoer, also called a farrier, was an important position in medieval towns and villages because of the importance of horses for labor and transportation. Farriers became synonymous with blacksmiths, and frequently incorporated knowledge of rudimentary veterinary medicine in their trade. Although the presence of the horseshoe in everyday life declined with the advent of the automobile, the game of horseshoe pitching remains a popular picnic pastime today. The horseshoe is also recognized as a token of good luck.
The park, bounded by East 165th Street, Hall Place, and Rogers Place, lies in the neighborhood of Longwood, which derives its name from Longwood Park, an estate built in the area by S.B. White in the 1870s. Although White’s estate was bounded by Longwood and Intervale Avenues between Westchester Avenues and Southern Boulevard, the surrounding neighborhood, including the land on which this park stands, also became known as Longwood.
Horseshoe Park is home to many London plane trees, a species known for its ability to survive in harsh urban environments, including dry soil and polluted air. A hybrid of the American sycamore and the Oriental plane tree, the London plane tree resembles the American sycamore, but its fruit clusters are borne in pairs rather than singly. The tree takes its name from London, England, where the tree has flourished.
On the southern boundary of the park a flight of granite terraced steps align with lampposts. Enclosed within a wrought iron fence, this parkland features a comfort station, modular play equipment with safety surfacing, benches, and swings. Game tables sit on the sidewalk along Hall Place. The park underwent a renovation in the winter of 1962-1963, when slides and a sandpit were installed and the number of benches was doubled. In March 1998, the City funded further renovations, in which handball courts and new play equipment with safety surfacing were added.