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Inwood Hill Park

Payson Playground

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

George Shipman Payson (1845-1923) was born in Harpersfield, New York, the son of a minister. Two years after graduating from Yale University in 1862, Payson began his own theological studies at the Union Theological Seminary, from which he graduated in 1871. Three years later, Payson was ordained and installed as the Pastor of Mount Washington Presbyterian Church in Inwood. In 1883, Payson married an Englishwoman named Sara Armour, and they took up residence in the church’s parsonage. Because of the seventy-one apple trees that surrounded it at the time, the home was called “Paradise Parsonage.”

As minister, Payson wrote several papers and articles on history and theology. A member of the Philothean Society of Ministers, Payson served as its secretary from 1882 until the penultimate year of his life. In 1898, he received his Divinity Doctorate from New York University. In 1914, the 40th anniversary of Payson’s service to Mount Washington Church and the people of Inwood, the church built a parish house in order to assist in the care of the area’s growing population. He worked especially hard for the care of retired ministers, their widows, and orphans. In 1920, nearly half a century after first becoming minister at Mount Washington, Payson asked that his pastoral relationship be dissolved, effective the first of April. After a trip to England, the Paysons returned to Mount Washington in the fall and remained active church members. In the summer of 1921, George Payson’s health began to fail; he died in February two years later.

Payson Playground stands in the southeastern corner of Inwood Hill Park, at the junction of Dyckman Street and Payson Avenue. Dyckman Street is named for the prominent Dyckman family who first arrived in New York in the mid-17th century. By the time of the Civil War, the family farm covered 400 acres of Northern Manhattan, making it the largest on the island. The homestead still stands at 204th Street and Broadway where it is open as a museum managed by the Historic House Trust. Payson Avenue, from which this playground takes its name, was itself named for Reverend Payson. Until 1921, it had been known as Prescott Avenue. When the original church was created on August 18, 1844, there was no Presbyterian church within 4 miles. It was located just across from where this playground now stands—near the present day intersection of Broadway and Dyckman Street. When Payson served the Mount Washington Presbyterian Church, the church was located on this site. In 1929 the church moved to the northeast, to 84 Vermilyea Avenue. It has since grown tremendously, and continues to serve the community, offering a senior center and daycare center for local residents.

Parks acquired this site in 1925, but the playground was not actually built until 1939, under the administration of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981). During this time, the beautiful stone park house that stands near the playground was constructed. In addition to benches for leisure and picnics, the park features play equipment and swings for children of all ages, yardarm, and a spray shower. Council member Stanley Michels funded a $423,000 general reconstruction of the playground, which was completed in November 1994. Payson Playground provides local residents with an opportunity for organized play adjacent to the natural beauty of Inwood Hill Park.

Directions to Inwood Hill Park

Know Before You Go

Nature CentersInwood Hill Nature Center

Due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy, this facility is closed until further notice.

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