Parkside Playground and the adjacent Parkside Houses housing complex reflects the park’s proximity to Bronx Park, one of the largest parks in New York City. Bronx Park features the New York Botanical Gardens, the Bronx Zoo and Ranaqua, Parks Bronx headquarters. The borough and Bronx Park itself were named to honor the 17th century settler Jonas Bronck (1600-1643). Born in Sweden, he settled in the area known today as the borough of the Bronx in 1639. Bronck purchased approximately 500 acres of land from the Dutch West India Company and traded tools, clothes and utensils with local Native Americans for land.
The Parkside Houses complex, which surrounds this playground, was built in 1950 by the New York City Housing Authority. Two years earlier, on December 9, 1948, the Housing Authority transferred this parcel of land to Parks. Following the construction of the complex, Parks installed outdoor recreational facilities. In 1999, the playground was renovated; four handball courts were refurbished, the basketball courts were resurfaced, new play equipment was installed, and a small concrete frog was added.
Parkside Playground is located on the northern side of Arnow Avenue, interrupting Olinville Avenue. Arnow Avenue is named for the French Huguenot family, Arnaux, which once owned a significant portion of land in what is now the Pelham Bay area and Westchester County. The street was laid out in 1900, bisecting the George Townsend Adee estate from White Plains Road to Boston Road. Until World War I the road was known as Union Street.
Olinville, the name of the avenue and the neighborhood where the playground is located, originated from two settlements that were once located here. The villages, known as Olinville Number One and Olinville Number Two, were formed in the 1840s after a railroad station of the New York and Harlem River Railroad opened nearby in Williamsbridge. The two townships, incorporated into New York City between 1852 and 1854, were named for Bishop Stephen Olin of the Methodist Church. The neighborhood’s population grew in the second half of the nineteenth century, when the Third Avenue elevated subway was extended to meet the subway to White Plains Road.
Parkside Playground’s perimeter is lined with Pin Oak trees, which are found in parks and urban areas throughout the midwest and eastern United States. The tree’s popularity is due mainly to its full, pyramidal shape, glossy leaves, and ability to withstand harsh urban conditions. Pin Oak trees are attractive sources of fall color; their medium-green leaves become a vibrant red-bronze in the fall. These trees can grow to heights of 50 to 75 feet.
The park’s interior is dotted with Callery Pear trees. The Callery Pear, which grows to heights of 35 to 40 feet, was first developed as breeding stock in an attempt to incorporate pest resistance into the common pear tree. Though the experiment did not work, the Callery Pear’s cultivars became highly popular in urban settings because of their profuse early spring white flowers, brilliant red fall leaves, and hardiness. Though some varieties are structurally unsound and prone to limb breakage, the Callery Pear can be grown in most kinds of soil and is remarkably immune to harsh city conditions, including heat, lack of water, and compacted soil due to its shallow root system.