Grove Hill Playground
Grove Hill Playground
Before the Third Avenue elevated train brought dense, urban development to Melrose in the 1890s, the area had a suburban atmosphere and many large estates. Grove Hill, the seat of the DeGraaf family during the 1870s and 1880s, was one such estate. Prominently situated at the summit of Eagle Avenue and 162nd Street, the DeGraaf home lent its name to the surrounding neighborhood, which was popularly known as Grove Hill.
Eventually the Grove Hill name faded from use as this area became associated with the larger neighborhood of Melrose. Andrew Findlay, who first surveyed the district in the 1850s, named it in memory of Melrose, Scotland, home to the famous medieval abbey immortalized in the writings of Sir Walter Scott. Cauldwell Avenue, which forms the eastern border of the playground and runs to St. Mary’s Park, was once called Park Street. In 1916, the avenue was renamed to honor Senator William Cauldwell, who worked to join the “annexed districts” of Morrisania, West Farms, and Kingsbridge to New York City, which were separate towns until 1874. Senator Cauldwell’s father, Andrew, is believed to have built the first substantial house in Morrisania, erected in 1848 on Washington Avenue near 170th Street.
Eagle Avenue, once home to the large breweries Hupfel’s and Ebling’s, runs west of the playground. The former stood at 160th Street, and the latter, which opened in the 1880s, was located at 156th Street, a site once known as Carr’s Hill. The presence of the breweries testified to the large German population in the neighborhoods, and they persisted until the 1940s, when Ebling’s Brewery closed. Melrose’s African American and Puerto Rican residents first began moving to the area in the 1950s.
The City acquired the land for this playground in two stages in 1963 and 1985. The playground formally opened in 1971 for use by the adjacent Public School 157 and by community residents. In 1987 Parks Commissioner Stern gave this parkland its current commemorative name.
Grove Hill Playground was renovated in 1997 for $120,000 provided by Council Member Pedro G. Espada. New play equipment and safety surfacing were installed, and repairs were made to the sidewalks, paths, handball and basketball courts. In 1999 Council Member Espada spent an additional $22,000 to renew the playground’s unusual circular comfort station, which is one of only a few structures of its type in the New York City’s parks system. Other features of the playground include its locust trees (Gleditsia triacanthos) and callery pear trees (Pyrus communis), and a community garden, located toward the rear of the park along Eagle Avenue.