Joyce Kilmer Park

Joyce Kilmer Park

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

This park, bounded by the Grand Concourse, Walton Avenue, 164th and 161st Streets, is named after Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918), poet, journalist, and soldier. Kilmer was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey and attended Rutgers from 1904 to 1906, graduating from Columbia College in 1908. He began his writing career in New York in 1909, contributing freelance articles and poems to a number of publications before he joined the staff of the New York Times. He is most famous for his poem, "Trees," written in 1913, which has been learned by millions of schoolchildren. While stationed in France during World War I, Kilmer wrote for Stars and Stripes, the Army weekly. On July 30, 1918, he was killed in action on the Western Front.

The park was formerly called Concourse Plaza from 1902 until the Board of Aldermen renamed it for Kilmer in 1926, two years after it was acquired by Parks. It was completely redesigned in 1936, at which time its two monuments, the Louis J. Heintz statue and the Lorelei fountain, were placed in their present locations. The Heintz statue by Pierre Fietu was dedicated in 1909 in honor of the Bronx’s first commissioner of street improvements who pioneered the construction of the Grand Concourse.

The Lorelei fountain celebrates the German poet, Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), author of an ode to Die Lorelei -- a siren from German mythology who lured sailors to their deaths on the Rhine. The fountain was created by German sculptor Ernest Herter for the poet's home city, Dusseldorf. However, political groups opposed to Heine's Jewish origins and political views blocked its installation there. The fountain was finally erected in the Bronx in 1899, thanks to a subscription led by Americans of German ancestry. After years of deterioration caused by weathering and vandalism, the Lorelei fountain and the surrounding landscape were restored in 1999 with $1.87 million in funds allocated by the mayor, the city council and the borough president. In 2004, the playground was restored with $1.784 million in funds also from the mayor, city council and borough president.


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Directions to Joyce Kilmer Park

  • Joyce Kilmer Park

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