Chief Dennis L. Devlin Park

Olmstead Triangle

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

Olmstead Triangle and the adjacent Avenue honors the Olmsteads. Settlers of Westchester Village, their gravestones remain in the oldest section of Saint Peter’s Protestant Episcopal churchyard. One of their members, Hiram, was Town Clerk in 1865, as well as a charter member of the local Masonic lodge. This road was originally called Avenue D, but in 1915, under the direction of a surveyor named L.J. Olmstead, the name was officially changed to Olmstead Avenue.

The name of the avenue can be perplexing to passersby, as many New Yorkers think first of the legendary landscape architect, who spelled his name without an “a,” Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903). The urbane, sophisticated design he and his partner Calvert Vaux produced for their first work, Central Park, quickly set the standard for large urban parks. Olmsted continued to design parks and campuses for the rest of his life, including Prospect Park and Riverside Park in New York. He also produced plans for parkways and was one of the first people to recommend that Yosemite be set aside as a national park.

One of Olmsted’s unrealized projects was a master plan for the layout of part of the Bronx, designed in 1877, just after New York City annexed the 24th Ward. Olmsted’s plan altered the standard grid pattern to allow houses to get more light and to introduce an element of variety. He also routed railroad right-of-ways to fit in with the topography and avoid disruptions to the fabric of the City. However, the City treasury had been depleted by corrupt machinations of the Tweed Ring. Olmsted’s plan was never executed.

Olmstead Triangle lies in the Unionport section of the Bronx. Unionport was founded as a village in 1851 and laid out as a grid with numbered streets and lettered avenues. In 1895, the City of New York annexed the village, renaming the streets and avenues after early settlers so travelers would not confuse them with neighboring streets.

Olmstead Avenue was renamed as part of this effort, as was adjacent Ellis Avenue. Ellis Avenue was originally 13th Street, but in 1902 it was renamed after a longtime Westchester physician, Dr. James E. Ellis. This large triangle is paved with cement sidewalks and granite Belgian blocks. Eleven London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia) and a small lawn, free of gates or fences, bring life to this triangle, while wood benches provide passersby a place to sit and enjoy the view.

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