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Inwood Hill Park

Indian Road Playground

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

This playground takes its name from the road that bounds it to the north. Formerly known as Isham Avenue to honor local landowner William B. Isham, Indian Road earned its present name in 1911, when traces of an Indian settlement were found in what is now Inwood Hill Park.

Indian Road was a trail used by the Rechgawawanc clan of the Weekquaeskeek tribe of American Indians. They traveled from upstate locales to the city in order to trade furs with the European settlers during the 17th century. The road may have connected to the Spuyten Duyvil Creek, facilitating trade between the settlers of the Harlem and the Hudson River banks.

Using artifacts recovered in the late 19th and early 20th century, archaeologists date human settlement in Inwood Hill Park to prehistoric times. Local historian William L. Calver first discovered Native American tools and middens (heaps of shell and refuse) in Inwood Hill Park in the 1890s. In 1895, Alexander Chenowith uncovered caves in the park that had once served as dwellings, evidenced by pottery and carbonized food found under beds of ash. While the land was being considered for a possible park site, Reginald Pelham Bolton began extensive research on the Native American life in the area. Alanson Skinner continued the project in the 1920s. In recent years, the artifacts that had been unearthed in Inwood Hill were put on display in the Museum of the American Indian in downtown Manhattan.

Although the majority of the native population left the area by 1715, several of these native New Yorkers continued to live in the Inwood Hill area until the 1930s when Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981), using Works Progress Administration (WPA) money and workers, initiated a massive reconstruction of the park. Parks created this playground bordering the 35-acre lawn that dominates the southeast portion of the park, which provides recreational facilities such as baseball fields with bleachers, walking paths, and picnic areas.

In 1983, parents formed “The Friends of the Indian Road Playground” (“FIRP”) to revitalize the playground. They lobbied to have fences fixed, old and unsafe equipment replaced, new rubber matting installed. They also fundraised to buy Long Island Beach sand for the sandbox.

Anna Werner was FIRP’s president. Her indefatigable efforts included soliciting new family volunteers, writing grant proposals, joining the Environmental Committee of Community Board 12, and organizing “clean-up, paint-up” parties. Members and children presented a 3-D model of their ideas for the playground’s transformation to the City Council. Funding was generously donated by the Heckscher Foundation. Although it took nearly a decade and a lot of work, the new Indian Road Playground opened in 1991.

Thanks to the founding members of Friends of the Indian Road Playground, Indian Road Playground provides an opportunity for organized play beside the wilderness of Inwood Hill Park. It is designed in a unique “chess and checker” theme, with spray showers that resemble pawns and a checker board painted on the pavement. Other features include swings and play equipment, safety surfacing, and a wooden climbing structure. Friends of Indian Road Playground continues to help Parks keep the playground safe and attractive through fundraisers and plantings.

Directions to Inwood Hill Park

Know Before You Go

There are currently 2 service interruptions affecting access within this park.

Baseball FieldsInwood Hill Park

Reconstruction work at the Little League Baseball field will correct existing uneven ball field elevations and will provide a sod infield and outfield. A Scorekeeper’s Box will be installed, player dugout areas will be enlarged and will received new concrete floors, and a clay ‘warning track’ will be installed along the perimeter of the outfield fence to assist playing conditions and maintenance mowing in this area. New bases, clay storage boxes, skinned playing areas and painting and reconstruction of perimeter fencing and backstop areas will also be provided. A metal container will provide secure storage for playing and maintenance equipment with an enclosed player’s warm-up area nearby. New ADA accessible bleachers and an elevated turf viewing area are also being installed to provide seating and viewing areas for the playing field.
Anticipated Completion: Summer 2014

Nature CentersInwood Hill Nature Center

Due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy, this facility is closed until further notice.

Inwood Hill Park Weather

  • Sun
    Slight Chc Light Snow
    39°F
  • Mon
    Chance Rain
    44°F
  • Tue
    Chance Rain
    53°F
  • Wed
    Rain
    59°F

7-day forecast

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