Van Cortlandt Park

Woodlawn Playground

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

Woodlawn Playground lies within Van Cortlandt Park, near Van Cortlandt Park East and East 239th Street, and takes its name from the adjacent neighborhood and cemetery. The Woodlawn neighborhood is bounded by the Bronx River Parkway to the east, Van Cortlandt Park to the west, the Yonkers City Line to the north, and Woodlawn Cemetery to the south. The neighborhood was originally known as Washingtonville; troops under the command of George Washington reportedly stored munitions on the Hyatt Farm during the Revolutionary War. The area was settled by Irish and Italian immigrants with the extension of the railroad and the opening of Woodlawn Cemetery in 1863, then known as “Ludlow” for the E.H. Ludlow estate. In 1873, George Updyke established the village of Woodlawn on the former land of Gilbert Valentine, and in the early 1900s area residents renamed the area Woodlawn. The neighborhood grew with the extension of the Interborough Rapid Transit system in the 1920s. Today the neighborhood is primarily residential.

Approximately 20,000 years ago, New York was buried beneath massive glaciers. When the ice receded, it left behind the characteristic landscape of Van Cortlandt Park—steep ridges, smooth hillsides, and open flats. The Wiechquaskeck Lenape Native Americanws first occupied this site for hundreds of years; in 1639, the Dutch East India Company brought the first Europeans to settle in the Bronx. In 1646, Dutchman Adriaen Van Der Donck (1620-1655) became the first single owner of what is now Van Cortlandt Park. In 1699, Jacobus Van Cortlandt bought the property bounded by modern Yonkers City Line between Broadway, Jerome Avenue, and Van Cortlandt Park East. The Van Cortlandt mansion was built in 1748 by his son, Frederick Van Cortlandt, whose family occupied the land until the 1880s. The City of New York acquired this parkland in 1888, but it did not name it in honor of its long-time residents until 1913. With facilities for football, baseball, softball, soccer, cricket, tennis, golf, swimming, horseback riding, running, and hiking constantly improving, the future of New York City’s third largest park (1,146.43 acres) looks greener than ever.

Woodlawn Playground opened on June 25, 1953, with basketball courts, handball courts, kindergarten slides and swings, playground slides and swings, seesaws, game tables, a sandpit, and a wading pool with shower basin. In 1995, the playground was renovated to accommodate handicapped children with $595,000 in Requirements Contracts from Mayor Giuliani. Today Woodlawn Playground also has a picnic area, a flagpole with a yardarm, a comfort station, spring seesaws, and play equipment with safety surfacing.

Directions to Van Cortlandt Park

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