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Bronx Park

Reiss Field

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

Reiss Field and nearby Reiss Place both honor German-American émigré George Reiss (1846-1911). A progressive landowner, Reiss was favorably known in business and social circles for his generous contributions toward the development of the Bronx. Reiss first purchased a five-acre tract of land upon this site in 1890. The parcel included an artificial pond – formed by damming one drainage branch of the nearby Bronx River – that Reiss allowed local children to enjoy for swimming and ice-skating. The pond was filled in 1937 to provide a solid foundation for this ballfield.

Reiss Field is located within Bronx Park where Reiss Place meets Bronx Park East. Bronx Park, like the surrounding borough and the river that runs through it, is named for the 17th century Swedish sea captain who settled the area, Jonas Bronck (1600-1643). Prior to European colonization, the Native American Siwanoy tribe of the Wappinger Confederacy occupied the northern coastline of Long Island Sound into what is now known as the South Bronx. Many historians believe the Bronx River, which runs adjacent to the ballfield, was the dividing line between the Siwanoy and another Upper Delaware Munsee tribe, the Weckquaesgeek.

After Bronck, this property passed through several families before the City acquired 640 acres of it in 1888. The City deeded an additional 250 acres to the New York Zoological Society in 1898, site of the Bronx Zoo today. The Bronx Zoo opened in 1899 and is the largest urban zoo in the United States housing over 8,000 animals representing more than 800 species. In 1906, the city acquired another 66 acres on the southeast end of this property.

Reiss Field officially opened on November 1, 1939 to a cacophony of music bands and 3,000 spectators. During the ceremonies, NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) and Bronx Borough President James J. Lyons (1890-1966) praised the fine construction work of the Works Progress Administration, which built these grounds from NYC Parks plans. With a baseball diamond, backstop and dugouts, a drinking fountain, and bleachers, the one-time swamp was born anew as an “active recreation space.”

Reiss Field is the home base of the Pelham Parkway Little League, founded in 1957 by Judge Benjamin Nolan (1917-1996). Serving more than 300 children, the league consists of Major (ages 12-13), Minor (ages 9-11) and Peewee (ages 6-8) divisions and operates from April to August; soccer leagues use the field after the baseball season each autumn. The teams travel to baseball tournaments throughout the metropolitan area and have played as far away as Puerto Rico.

The present ballfield is a near perfect replica of the 1939 original. Since the site’s reconstruction in 1960, little has changed. In 1997, the Pelham Parkway Little League reconstructed the surrounding fence and funding was provided for the replacement of infield sod.

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