Grove Hill Playground
Grove Hill Playground
Grove Hill Playground, bounded by Eagle and Cauldwell Avenues on 158th Street, lies in a an area that was once a neighborhood referred to as Grove Hill.
Eagle Avenue was once comprised of hilly, rocky terrain, and was included as part of the property purchased from the powerful Morris family by the area’s first developers, William Carr and Henry Purdy in 1847. By the late 19th century, however, the land had been sold to area breweries. Established in 1865, the Hupfel Brewery quickly developed into a successful local family business. When Prohibition went into effect during the 1920s, the Hupfels chose not to enter the bootlegging market as some of their competitors did, instead they converted their brewery into a mushroom farm.
Another prominent company, the family-operated Ebling’s Brewery controlled the upper end of what would become Eagle Avenue from the 1880s to the 1940s. Though the family would surround the area with opulent brick and marble houses, the true center of the brewery was Carr’s Hill on East 156th Street, which had been hollowed out to serve as an enormous storage vault. The property also included the Ebling Casino, which hosted concerts, operas, dances, and Oktoberfests all of which drew large crowds to Eagle Avenue.
The origin of Eagle Avenue’s name is disputed; some accept the legend that Civil War veterans built a cemetery nearby in Rae Place and named the street to honor our National bird, while others argue that the street was created in 1853 and named for the 1850s soldier Commodore Henry Eagle.
Cauldwell Avenue is named after the late 20th century politician and educational administrator, William Cauldwell, whose father Andrew had been the first resident of Morrisania. Cauldwell quickly rose through a series of administrative positions and served as head of the Bronx Board of Education in the 1870s. Cauldwell strongly supported New York City’s proposal to annex the Bronx (annexation took place on January 1, 1874). One of the city’s most influential local politicians, Cauldwell later became a state senator, and in 1916, Park Street was renamed Cauldwell Avenue.
Located on the border of both Eagle and Cauldwell Avenue, the Grove Hill Playground is situated in former Grove Hill, the local name given to the vicinity of Cauldwell Avenue and East 161st Street during the 19th century. In the 1870s and 1880s, when much of the area was part of the De Graaf estate, Grove Hill specifically referred to the location of the hill’s summit at Eagle Avenue and East 162nd Street.
This property was originally acquired in 1963 to serve as a recreational area for the students of P.S. 157. The Board of Education was granted the one-acre property, but jointly operated it with Parks from its opening in 1971. On June 19, 1985 the city acquired a smaller appendage adjacent to the original playground; this land was placed under the jurisdiction of Parks. In 1985 the playground was renovated to include basketball courts, handball courts, a pavilion and a colonnade.
On June 18, 1987, Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern invoked the neighborhood’s history by renaming the P.S. 157 Playground the Grove Hill Playground. Grove Hill Playground’s colonnade is a unique collection of green pillars that surround its comfort station and create an archway leading to an impressive garden behind the playground. The playground also contains sprinklers, play equipment with safety surfacing, and seal and bear animal sculptures at the park’s entranceway. The neighboring garden is maintained year-round and has picnic tables to accommodate its numerous weekend visitors.