Little is known about Oliver Mathias Davidson for whom this playground and the adjacent Davidson Avenue are named. Davidson served as Chief Engineer of Streets from 1867 to 1872, and at one time owned land in Fordham. On a map from 1868, Kingsbridge Road, Davidson Avenue, West 190th Street, and the Veterans Hospital grounds bounded his property.
University Heights, the Bronx neighborhood in which this playground is located, is named for New York University, which occupied the 50-acre University Heights campus located at 180th Street between Sedgwick and University Avenues.
NYU’s original move to the Bronx occurred in 1894, when Chancellor Mitchell MacCracken, who is credited with turning NYU into a modern university, moved its operations and the undergraduate College of the Arts and Sciences from Greenwich Village to University Heights. When NYU sold the University Heights Campus, the original arts and sciences division, University College (1832), merged with that of Greenwich Village, Washington Square College (1914). In 1973, the University sold the land to the City University of New York (CUNY) in an effort to mitigate financial difficulties that began in the 1960s. Located a few blocks West of Davidson Playground, the Bronx Community College (1957) now occupies the campus.
Commissioner Stern named this parkland Davidson Playground on February 17, 2000. If you have information on Oliver Mathias Davidson, please contact the Parks Library at (212) 360-8240.