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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.

This park was named for the Macomb family of millers who, in the 19th century, operated a dam and mill on the site. In 1813 Robert Macomb was granted permission by the New York State Legislature to construct a dam across the Harlem River. Macomb's dam was required to operate a lock, keeping navigation open along the river. However, only small boats were able to pass through the lock, severely limiting the river's capacity. By 1838 residents along the riverbank questioned the private usurpation of the public waterway. Led by Lewis G. Morris, the angered citizens chartered a coal barge and paid the crew to break through the dam with axes. Charges were filed against Morris, but the court, declaring Macomb's dam a "public nuisance," prohibited obstruction of the Harlem River by dam or bridge.

By 1858 the dam had been entirely removed and the toll-free Central Bridge was constructed. The bridge was replaced in 1890 with a new structure. The Department of Public Parks commissioned engineer A.P. Boller to design the new bridge. Its massive steel central swing span was considered at the time to be the world's heaviest movable mass. After the Brooklyn and Washington Bridges, Macomb's Dam Bridge is the third oldest major bridge in New York City. The bridge was named Macomb's Dam Bridge by the Board of Aldermen in 1902. It was designated a city landmark in 1992. The property for Macomb's Dam Park was acquired by condemnation in 1897 and 1924. The park opened in 1899, drawing neighborhood children and aspiring athletes to its extensive recreational facilities including a track, baseball fields, tennis courts, comfort stations, and a playground. The quarter-mile track was a favorite for local and European runners. Hannes Kohlesmainen used the park during his training for the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, where he won three gold medals.

In 1914 the Parks and Playgrounds Association established new playgrounds in eight Bronx parks. The playground at Macomb's Dam Park opened in the summer of that year with swings, shoot-the-chutes (slides), see-saws, swings for different age groups, sand boxes, and basketball courts. According to the 1914 Annual Report of the Department of Parks, children were "drawn to these playgrounds where they were able to give full vent to their excess of feelings, and enjoy to the fullest extent those kinds of exercise which were conducive to their well-being both mentally and physically." Yankee Stadium, to the east, was built in 1923 and became home to great Bronx heroes and legends. Babe Ruth Memorial Stadium, dedicated to baseball favorite George Herman "Babe" Ruth, further enhanced the facilities of Macomb's Dam Park.

Directions to Macombs Dam Park

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