What was here before?
This playground stands on the site of the Woodmansten Inn, the former mansion of the Pearsall Family. In the 1920s, the Inn became a roadhouse presenting music by great performers of the era before it burned down in the 1930s. Another section of the park was once the grandstand for the fabled Morris Park Racetrack built in 1888 and owned by businessman and thoroughbred horseracing enthusiast John A. Morris (1836-1895). The complex included a racetrack, stables, and a five-story clubhouse in the style of a Pompeiian villa. Before it closed in 1904, it was the most fashionable attraction in the Bronx at its peak.
The City of New York acquired this site for development in 1907. In July 1908, the Aeronautic Society of New York leased the racetrack from the City and used it to hold the world's first public air meet. The airfield remained in operation through December 1910, after which the land was divided into 3,019 lots and auctioned off.
How did this site become a playground?
The City of New York acquired the property for Loreto Playground by condemnation for park purposes in 1949 and it opened in 1951. In 1988, lighting was installed in the playground to allow for evening sports. In 1997, the playground and play equipment were upgraded. For several years, the playground featured a roller hockey rink, which was upgraded in 2000 and 2005, though usage of the rink declined and by 2015 plans were made for its removal. In 2021, it was replaced by a multi-use field for baseball and soccer and a walking track.
Who is this playground named for?
This playground honors slain New York City Police Officer Alfred Loreto (1902-1950). On the evening of July 21, 1950, Loreto was off-duty and standing near his home on nearby Hering Avenue when he saw two armed men kidnapping a neighbor. Loreto pursued the two escaping gunmen and rescued the victim but was shot during the pursuit and later succumbed to his injuries. At the community’s urging, the City named the playground for Loreto the next year. At a 1985 ceremony commemorating the 35th anniversary of Loreto's courageous act, a plaque was installed in the playground honoring Loreto and all other New York City police officers who died in the line of duty.