This playground opened in 1954 as the Melrose Houses Playground. The neighborhood of Melrose was originally settled by the Morris family, who were granted nearly the entire southeastern portion of the Bronx by the British crown in the late 1600s. By the 1850s, the Morrises began selling their land to families, forming suburban communities surrounding Manhattan. Around that time Melrose was given its name by the Scottish surveyor Andrew Finlay, paying tribute to Sir Walter Scott’s literary work Melrose Abbey, a popular piece at the time.
The neighborhood then experienced an influx of German immigrants, whose churches, theaters, and beer gardens would dominate the cultural identity of the area until the 1950s. Although relatively isolated at first, in the late 19th century more people settled the area, and Melrose Avenue was built in 1891. The development of rapid transit transformed Melrose from a suburb into a bustling urban area, especially after the completion of the first subway line in 1908, which connected it to Manhattan.
Melrose gradually became one of the largest commercial and entertainment centers of the Bronx. Its theaters were well attended, and its large warehouses, such as Alexander’s, were the first of their kind to appear in the borough. During the early 1900s, many Italian, Russian, and Jewish immigrants settled in the Melrose neighborhood. By the 1940s, the original German presence had declined, but the problem of overpopulation was rising.
Further immigration and urbanization led to an influx of Puerto Ricans and African Americans. In the 1950s, the city responded by allocating funding for the building of low-income housing projects. In the 1960s and 70s, Melrose fell into an economic decline, but it has recently enjoyed a significant commercial rebirth due to the completion of a new civic center, police station, and housing.
Located on Courtlandt Avenue between East 153rd and 156th Streets, this playground lies adjacent to the Melrose housing projects, for which it was created as a recreational facility. The Board of Estimate approved its construction in 1953, and the park was opened as Melrose Playground on June 4, 1954 with basketball, handball, shuffleboard, and paddle tennis courts, see-saws, slides, swings, a sand pit, and a wading pool.
In 1998, the site was significantly improved with funds from Council Member Pedro Espada. While many parts of the playground were renovated, most visible was the addition of new play equipment and swings. Honey locust (Geditsia triacanthos), Norway maple (Acer platanoides), and sweet gum (Liquidambar spp.) trees are dispersed inside and outside the playground, adding to its attractiveness. On May 5, 1999, Commissioner Stern renamed the park the Mayaro Playground.
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