Henry A. Whalen (1917-1973) participated in eight campaigns during World War II, serving in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Whalen saved the life of William C. Westmoreland (b.1914), who went on to earn the rank of general and command of the war effort in Vietnam; he also earned the Purple Heart, Silver Star, and three Bronze Stars for acts of distinguished valor and being wounded in action. After retiring from the military, Whalen was active in veterans’ affairs throughout he Bronx. One of his greatest accomplishments was getting the Kingsbridge Veterans’ Hospital project approved, though he did not live to see construction completed. Whalen lived a block from this park.
Mayor John V. Lindsay (1921-2001) presented Whalen with a Certificate of Appreciation for his work supporting veterans’ interests. Whalen’s neighbors remembered him more as an active veteran and community activist than as a military hero. When fire destroyed Whalen’s home, as well as those of four of his neighbors, Whalen created a fund so that the families wouldn’t have to rely on themselves to rebuild. Soon after Whalen established the Norwood Civic Association for which he served as president. Whalen was also the president of the parish council at St. Brendan’s Church in the Bronx and for years helped organize the parade on Grand Boulevard and Concourse. He died at age 56. His funeral included military pallbearers and a 21-gun salute. He is buried in the National Cemetery on Long Island.
The City acquired this parkland, located on the northwest corner of 205th Street and Perry Avenue, when the Concourse Subway Line was constructed. Part of the Independent Subway System (IND), Concourse was approved in 1925 and opened its various lines between 1932 and 1945. The New York City Transit Authority gave up the property in 1955 and it was assigned to Parks. The Association of the Friends of Henry Whalen, local politicians, and veterans worked together to lobby for the naming of Whalen Park; Congressman Mario Biaggi of the Bronx made an address to Congress, noting Whalen’s decorations. A ceremony marked the 1973 passage of the local law that renamed the park.
The park features benches, a water fountain, hexagonal block pavers, sycamores (Platanus occidentalis), London planetrees (Platanus acerifolia), and Pin oaks (Quercus palustris). Chain link fencing and Cobblestone borders surround both planted areas. In 1998, Mayor Guliani funded a $21,201 renovation which added new chain link fences, guardrails, and steel fences.