Noble Playground came into existence in 1939 as part of a proposal to extend the Bronx River Parkway from Bronxville to the Soundview section of the Bronx. The Westchester portion of the highway, completed in 1925, was one of the first major thoroughfares to include parkland and landscaping in its design. Natural features along the road were left intact, and where unnatural objects were unavoidable, every effort was made to cover them with a bit of nature. For the Bronx extension, Robert Moses (1888-1981) followed the same principles, combining roadway with parkland. In February 1938, he requested the "acquisition of property for a parkway designated as Bronx River Parkway, southern extension… and laying out [a series of] public parks" from Watson Avenue to the south to 177th Street to the north. The Board of Estimate agreed to the proposal and the Work Projects Administration built the park. On December 4, 1939, Noble Playground on Noble Avenue became the 306th park to be completed by Parks since 1934.
It seems likely that both the park and the street get their name from Alfred Noble, a city engineer (ca. 1885). The neighboring streets, Croes and Fteley Avenues, are also named for men in that profession. In the early 1950s, the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway left its mark on the area. The expressway, a six-lane highway across the South Bronx, was one of Robert Moses’s most controversial undertakings. Hundreds of apartment buildings and many one- and two-family houses were demolished to make way for the new roadway, forcing thousands of Bronx residents to seek new homes. Among the casualties was Noble Playground; it closed in September 1951. Fortunately, the loss of recreational space was only temporary. The playground was reconstructed, and it reopened on October 7, 1954, providing a comfort station, a game area, and a ballfield with bleachers for the community. In 1998, Mayor Giuliani funded a $25,000 renovation of the comfort station.
The ballfield, known as the Philip Harding Field, is the site of many Little League games. The site was without a name until 1981 when a sad event, all too common in the Bronx of the 1980s, provided one. Philip Harding (1963-1980) was a 17-year old junior at Saint Raymond’s High School in 1980 and an avid baseball player. He became a Little League coach at the age of 13. While he was sitting near an open window inside his apartment on a warm day in June, a stray bullet from a gunfight in the street entered the window, killing him instantly. As a tribute to him and as a reminder of the tragic consequences of unrestricted guns, four Bronx Council Members introduced Local Law No. 17 in 1981, officially naming the field for Philip Harding. In 1995, the Department of General Services transferred an additional .17 acre to Parks to increase the size of the field.
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