J. Hood Wright Park
J. Hood Wright Park
Located between 173rd and 176th Streets, from Fort Washington Avenue to Haven Avenue, J. Hood Wright Park is named for the former owner of the site. Wright (1836-1894), a wealthy banker and financier from Philadelphia, lived in a mansion at 175th Street and Haven Avenue. He made large anonymous contributions to what is now the Washington Heights Branch of the New York Public Library. A plaque at the branch entrance honors Wright for his role in changing the status of the library from a subscription library to a free library in 1883. He also was instrumental in the founding of a hospital in New York’s Manhattanville neighborhood.
The land was acquired by condemnation on October 26, 1925 by the City of New York for the specific purpose of creating a much-needed park and playground, since the nearest playground was over a mile away. The original deed included a clause that required part of the park to be used as a facility for the recreation of senior citizens. The octagonal room and rest rooms connected by a curved loggia were constructed in 1935. Until the late 1960s there had been a concession stand located near the Danziger Senior Center, which is named for Frederick J. Danziger, president of the center in the late 1940s and early 1950s. J. Hood Wright Park is mentioned in Florry of Washington Heights (1987) by Steve Katz, a book about a teenager growing up in the neighborhood in the post-war years.
The park has handball, volleyball, and basketball courts, a multi-purpose playing field, and a dog-walking area. Vistas of the Hudson River and of the George Washington Bridge beckon visitors to the overlook at the northwest corner of the park. Additionally, the overlook features 3000 A.D. Diffusion Piece, a sculpture by Terry Fugate-Wilcox installed in 1974. Made of magnesium and aluminum plates bolted together, the artwork is expected to diffuse, or mix, by the year 3000. Other notable park aspects are the rock formations at Haven Avenue that include a cave similar to the rock shelters at Inwood Hill Park, and an outcropping of Manhattan schist at the park’s southwest corner.
J. Hood Wright Park has recently undergone substantial capital improvements. The playground and court game area were reconstructed under a $2,051,000 project funded by former Manhattan Borough President Ruth W. Messinger and Council Member Guillermo Linares. Improvements included new safety surfacing, wrought-iron gates, spray-shower, benches, trees, and pavement. The adventure playground equipment was custom-designed to resemble the George Washington Bridge. Council Member Guillermo Linares funded the $1,820,000 reconstruction of the recreation center and comfort stations. The Friends of J. Hood Wright Park are neighborhood residents who are involved with community events, clean-ups, and gardening within the park.