Annunciation Park is named after the nearby Church of the Annunciation. The annunciation, according to Christian doctrine, was when the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she was pregnant with the Christ child. The church, founded in 1853, originally stood on 131st Street to the east of Broadway in a building constructed in 1854. At the time, the neighborhood was a rural hamlet called Manhattanville.
The church was adjacent to Manhattan College and the Convent of the Sacred Heart, two nearby religious institutions for higher learning. Manhattan College was founded in 1853 by the Christian Brothers and moved to the Riverdale section of the Bronx in 1921. The Convent of the Sacred Heart stood between 126th and 135th Street, and Amsterdam and St. Nicholas Avenues. In 1952, it sold its property to City College of New York for use as a South Campus and moved to Westchester. Meanwhile, the Church of the Annunciation moved to 131st St and Convent Avenue in 1906, where it remains to this day in a large, neo-Gothic building.
Next to Annunciation Park is a small, castellated building of dark stone built in 1890 as the gatehouse where the water mains from the New Croton and Old Croton aqueduct systems met at 135th Street. Engineer Frederick Cook designed a miniature castle to house the fairly utilitarian functions hidden inside. By 1984, the Gatehouse was no longer needed for the aqueduct and it sat vacant for the next two decades. On October 17, 2006, the renovated structure reopened as a 192-seat performance space operated by Harlem Stage/Aaron Davis Hall. The structure is a City landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Annunciation Park was acquired by the City in 1888 and assigned to NYC Parks in 1935. In 1962, P.S. 161 Don Pedro Albizu Campos School was completed on the park’s southern side. The site contains basketball courts, play equipment with safety surfacing, a red brick comfort station, and an open asphalt activity area with game lines. Annunciation Park serves the students of P.S.161 and local residents, memorializing the history of the neighborhood and providing space for active recreation.