Grove Hill Playground
Grove Hill Playground
What was here before?
The area of Eagle Avenue, which runs along the playground’s western border, was once hilly, rocky terrain. It was part of the property that the area’s first developers’, William Carr and Henry Purdy, purchased from the powerful Morris family in 1847. By the late 19th century, the land had been sold to area breweries.
Established in 1865, the Hupfel Brewery quickly developed into a successful local business. When prohibition went into effect during the 1920s, they converted their brewery into a mushroom farm. The family operated Ebling’s Brewery, just across the street from this site, from the 1880s to the 1940s. The center of the brewery was Carr’s Hill on East 156th Street, a knoll that had been hollowed out to serve as an enormous storage vault for beer. The property also included the Ebling Casino, which hosted concerts, operas, dances, and Oktoberfests, all of which drew large crowds to Eagle Avenue and 156th Street.
This property housed garages and industrial buildings until the mid-twentieth century.
How did this site become a playground?
This site was originally acquired by the city in 1963 to serve as a recreational area for the students of P.S. 157. Beginning in 1938, the Board of Education agreed to provide land next to schools where NYC Parks could build and maintain playgrounds that could be used by the school during the day and by the public when school is not in session. This site has been a Jointly Operated Playground (JOP) since its opening in 1971.
On June 19, 1985, the city acquired a small parcel adjacent to the original playground, which was placed under Parks’ jurisdiction. In the same year, the playground was renovated to include basketball courts, handball courts, a pavilion, and a colonnade. The colonnade is a unique collection of green pillars that create an archway leading to a garden behind the playground. The playground also contains sprinklers, play equipment, and seal and bear animal sculptures at the park’s entranceway. Additional renovations were completed in 1997 and in 1999, and in 2022 the park’s unusual circular comfort station was renovated.
Who is this playground named for?
In 1987, Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern renamed this playground Grove Hill Playground, referencing the neighborhood’s history.
Grove Hill was a name given to Cauldwell Avenue and East 161st Street during the 19th century, specifically referring to the location of the hill’s summit at Eagle Avenue and East 162nd Street. In the 1870s and 1880s, much of the area was part of the Henry P. De Graaf (d.1896) estate, a businessman who founded the DeGraaf & Taylor furniture firm and was the president of the Bowery Bank.