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Macombs Dam Park

Macombs Dam Park

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

Macombs Dam Park was named for the Macomb family of millers who, in the 19th century, operated a dam and grist mill on this site. In 1813, Robert Macomb was granted permission by the New York State Legislature to construct a dam across the Harlem River, which was necessary to operate a lock which controlled navigation along the river.

By 1858, the old dam had been entirely removed and the toll-free Central Bridge was constructed. Central Bridge was replaced in 1890 with a new structure designed by engineer A. P. Boller. Its massive steel swing span was considered at the time to be the world's heaviest movable mass. The present Macomb’s Dam Bridge is the third oldest major bridge in New York City, after the Brooklyn and Washington bridges. The property for Macomb's Dam Park was acquired by condemnation between 1897 and 1924. Opening in 1899, the park drew neighborhood children and aspiring athletes to its extensive array of recreational facilities—including baseball diamonds, tennis courts, rest areas and a playground. The quarter-mile track was a favorite with both local and international runners alike. Hannes Kolehmainen used the park to train for the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, where he won three gold medals for Finland.

In 1914, the Parks and Playgrounds Association established new playgrounds in eight Bronx parks. The playground at Macomb's Dam Park was one of them, opening in the summer of that year with swings, shoot-the-chutes (slides), see-saws, swings, sand boxes, and basketball courts. The original Yankee Stadium opened just east of the park a decade later, to become the home of great Bronx heroes and legends of the diamond. In 1936, a fountain by Martin Schenck and Arthur V. Waldregon was installed in Macombs Dam Park, consisting of a large granite basin, carved limestone dolphins, and a lion's head.

In 2006, the City reached a land-swap deal with the New York Yankees to allow construction of a new stadium on the old Macomb's Dam Park site in exchange for a suite of new or restored park and athletic facilities in the area. The new Macombs Dam Park and Heritage Field, here on the former site of the original "House that Ruth Built," opened in 2010. In homage to the historic stadium, the park and field incorporate numerous references to the old home of the Bronx Bombers—including a 130-foot-tall iconic baseball-bat chimney and a 12-ton piece of the neo-classical frieze that once adorned Yankee Stadium.

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