This playground, located along the historic Mosholu Parkway at Mosholu Parkway North and Kossuth Avenue, is named for Lajos Kossuth (1802–1894), a leader in the Hungarian radical reform movement of the 1830s. Kossuth was born to a family of noble heritage in Monok in northeastern Hungary. Trained as a lawyer, Kossuth edited several journals and newspapers that allowed him to broadcast his increasingly popular ideas. He issued fiery pleas for Hungary’s independence from Vienna’s Hapsburg Monarchy, for emancipation of the peasants, and for industrial development. Kossuth was elected to the Hungarian Diet (national assembly) in 1847, and a year later he led the revolution that created a new national government for Hungary.
When the new government fell to Russian and Austrian armies in 1849, Kossuth fled into exile. Rallying support for Hungarian independence, he dazzled European and American audiences with his eloquence. Sympathizers in the United States identified with the aims of overthrowing the foreign monarchy and establishing republican government for Hungary. When Kossuth visited New York in December 1851, he was given a tremendous welcome, described in the New York Times as one of “the most magnificent and enthusiastic ever extended to any man in any part of the world.” A reception hosted by Mayor Ambrose C. Kingsland, banquets, and a parade up Fifth Avenue were held in his honor. Kossuth lived in exile in England and in Italy. After his death in Turin in March 1894, his body was brought to Budapest and buried in state.
The creation of Mosholu Parkway came as a result of the widespread park and parkway movement that distinguished landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903) pioneered during the 1860s. Olmsted conceived a system of parks connected by a new type of road called a parkway, the scenic qualities of which made them extensions of the parks they were connecting. In 1881, John Mullaly (1835–1915), a former newspaper reporter and editor, and a group of citizens concerned with widespread urban growth formed the New York Park Association. The group’s lobbying efforts helped the passage of the New Parks Act in 1884, which funded the acquisition of several major undeveloped lands with the purpose of creating parks and parkways. By 1888, the City had acquired properties in the Bronx that would eventually become known as the Van Cortlandt, Pelham Bay, Bronx, Crotona, and Claremont Parks, as well as four parkways, including the Mosholu Parkway.
The 600-foot-wide Mosholu Parkway is a landscaped highway connecting Van Cortlandt Park to the northwest to Bronx Park to the southeast. An extension north through Van Cortlandt Park runs past the Mosholu and Van Cortlandt Golf Courses, with interchanges at the Major Deegan Expressway (Interstate 87) and the Henry Hudson Parkway. Mosholu is an Algonquin name meaning “smooth stones” or “small stones” for the nearby creek now known as Tibbett’s Brook. Parks and the Department of Transportation share joint responsibility for the parkway’s maintenance.
Kossuth Playground opened on September 6, 1930. The new playground featured a recreation building, basketball court, volleyball court, shuffleboard court, swings, slides, seesaws, and climbing equipment. The playground is one of several features along the parkway, which also boasts a WWI monument by Jerome Conner at Marion Avenue depicting a group of American doughboys in action, and a baseball field at Webster Avenue named for Frank “Fordham Flash” Frisch (1898–1973), a major league baseball player and manager from the Bronx. The southern end of the parkway borders the New York Botanical Garden, the internationally renowned public gardens and research institution and the 52nd Police Precinct at Webster Avenue is a New York City landmark. A monument to Kossuth designed by Hungarian sculptor Janos Horvai (1873–1944) stands at Riverside Drive and 113th Street in Manhattan and Hungarian Independence Day (March 15) is celebrated in front of the monument.