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Mapes Pool is bordered by its namesake, Mapes Avenue, and by Prospect Avenue, East 179th and 180th Streets. Located in the Bronx neighborhood of East Tremont, the avenue is named for the Mapes family, prominent Bronx landowners and businesspeople who were among the earliest colonial settlers of this area.
Thomas Mapes (1628-1687) and his wife Sarah Purrier (1630-1697) were the first members of the family to come to the Bronx. At the end of the American Revolution, the Mapes family opened a store in West Farms Village, at Boston Road and 179th Street, a site previously occupied by De Lancey’s Mills. The store, which sold general goods such as coal, paint, flour, feed, and seeds, later became known as the Mapes Temperance Hotel. The family operated three stores in the West Farms area, as well as a Bronx River dock at 173rd Street. They continued to be family owned and operated into the early 20th century.
The Mapes family sold their estate and farm, located in present-day Parkchester, in 1887, and the property was developed into the village of Stratton Park, a primarily Irish community. In 1938, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company designed and built one of the largest housing developments in the nation there. With over 12,000 units, Parkchester was conceived as a self-contained mini-city, with its own shopping facilities and a special bus route.
This former village of East Tremont was once known as Upper Morrisania. In the mid-19th century, Postmaster Hiram Tarbox proposed the new name, to avoid mail confusion with the village of Morrisania. He suggested Tremont for the three hills that the neighborhood encompassed: Mount Eden, Mount Hope, and Fairmount. The neighborhood experienced some decline after the construction of the Cross-Bronx Expressway in the 1940s and 50s, but has recently improved. Many new apartment buildings have been constructed, and old ones restored, under the guidance of local development groups like Phipps Community Development Corporation and SEBCO (South East Bronx Community Organization).
In 1968, the City acquired the block that includes the pool site for school purposes. The original plan included three sections: P.S. 129, a joint-operated playground, and a mini-pool at the end of the lot. The playground designation was rescinded in 1971, but the pool opened as planned on August 19 of that year. A wrought-iron fence surrounds the open-air pool. There is a baby pool ranging from 12 to 18 inches deep, and a larger pool of a uniform 3 feet 6 inches in depth. Benches, two lifeguard chairs, a covered sitting area, and public restrooms line the perimeter of the site.