What was here before?
This site was once part of real estate developer William B. Ogden’s (1805-1877) estate, Villa Boscobel. In addition to his real estate business, he was also the first mayor of Chicago (1837-1838) and the first president of the Union Pacific Railroad (1862-1863). Ogden later returned east to enjoy his retirement here in the Bronx. Two decades after his death, his estate was subdivided into 1,500 parcels and auctioned off in 1907. The park is bounded by Ogden Avenue (formerly Highbridge Avenue), which was named for him in 1876, as well as Boscobel Place, named for his former estate.
How did this site become a playground?
The land for Bridge Playground was acquired in connection with larger land purchases for the construction of the Cross-Bronx Expressway. The playground opened in 1957, several years before the seven-mile expressway was completed in 1963. Its design included picnic tables, upper and lower sitting areas, and full and half basketball courts. In 2021, the park was reconstructed to add two adult fitness areas, a full-size basketball court, and a new playground for children between ages 2 and 5.
What is this playground named for?
Bridge Playground takes its name from the adjacent Washington Bridge and the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, both of which cross the river a short distance to the west and connect Manhattan to the Bronx.
The Washington Bridge was originally known as the Harlem River Bridge. The bridge’s double-arch plan, by Charles C. Schneider (1843-1916) and Wilhelm Hildenbrand (1843-1908), was selected from several designs submitted for the new structure. The bridge opened in 1888 and was named the following year to honor the centennial anniversary of the presidential inauguration of George Washington (1732-1799). By the late 1940s, the Washington Bridge lost its grass median and much of its 15-foot pedestrian walkways to accommodate more traffic lanes. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
In 1955, the Joint Study of Arterial Facilities anticipated that the Washington Bridge would be unable to bear increasing traffic. As a result, the eight-lane Alexander Hamilton Bridge was constructed just south of the Washington Bridge, connecting the Trans-Manhattan and Cross-Bronx Expressways. The single-arch bridge opened on the same day as the Cross-Bronx Expressway in 1963.