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Gun Hill Playground

Gun Hill Playground

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

This park and nearby Gun Hill Houses are named for Gun Hill Road. The story of Gun Hill Road begins with the Mohegan Indians, who used a Bronx River crossing here that they called “Cowangongh,” meaning the “boundary beyond.” When the British arrived in the Bronx in the mid-17th century, they widened the trail, and built a crossing over the Spuyten Duyvil Creek, which they named Kingsbridge. Thereafter, the road and the settlement on the west side of the river took the name of the new bridge that linked Manhattan to the Bronx.

This east-west thoroughfare was an important road during the Revolutionary War, and the Americans and British fought fiercely to control it. In January 1777, a small group of American soldiers dragged a cannon to the top of a hill west of the Bronx River and fired upon a British force below. That hill, which is now known as Gun Hill, stands inside Woodlawn Cemetery. The road was named Gun Hill Road around 1875, and it remains a major east-west traffic artery to this day, stretching from Van Cortlandt Park South to Pelham Bay Park.

This playground is located on Magenta Street in Williamsbridge, between Holland and Cruger Avenues. Magenta Street is believed to be named after the 1859 battle at the Italian city of Magenta. An allied force of French and Italian soldiers defeated Austrian invaders in a victory that helped bring about a unified Italy. So impressive was the victory that French textile designers who invented a new reddish-pink dye shortly after the battle, named the color after the Italian town. Prior to 1900, a small colony of French weavers lived in Williamsbridge, as did a growing number of Italian immigrants. The word ‘magenta’ came to symbolize Franco-Italian unity; thus the street was named to celebrate the early inhabitants of this neighborhood.

The City of New York acquired the land for Gun Hill Houses and playground in 1948 by condemnation, and immediately transferred the property to the New York City Housing Authority. The playground opened on December 29, 1952. The playground contains a comfort station, flagpole, fountain, and ten benches. Local residents can simply enjoy the fresh air, or participate in basketball, handball, paddle tennis, or shuffleboard. There is also a wading pool, seesaws, slides, swings, a sandpit, and a jungle gym with safety surfacing. Perhaps most appreciated, the spray shower provides cool fun on hot summer days.

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