Peter Detmold Park

Peter Detmold Park

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

This park honors Peter Detmold (1923-1972), once a tenant of Turtle Bay Gardens, a conglomerate of 20 townhouses on East 48th and 49th Streets, between Second and Third Avenues in Manhattan. Detmold fought in World War II, serving under General Patton at the relief of Bastogne and during the climactic fighting of the Battle of the Bulge in France. According to friends, Peter always held himself like a military man, and retained the physical strength he acquired as a soldier.

After returning from the war in 1945, Detmold graduated from Cornell University with a major in history and a minor in music and continued on to earn a Master Degree in medieval history. Detmold was a man of diverse interests. He was fond of reading musical scores, collecting model trains, and working on the genealogy of his family name. Among his civic pursuits, Detmold served as president of the Turtle Bay Association and founded the Turtle Bay Gazette. Detmold lived in Turtle Bay Gardens on East 49th Street, and, with fellow activist Jim Amster, launched the Turtle Bay Association in response to plans to turn 49th Street into a major commercial thoroughfare. When landowners began to rent out office space in residentially-zoned areas, Detmold defended the rights of tenants and homeowners, protecting the quiet, neighborly spirit of the area, now a designated historic district.

On the night of January 6, 1972, after returning home from a meeting of the East Side Residential Association, Detmold was murdered. This park was named in honor of Detmold that same year.

Originally a crescent shaped inlet of the East River, Turtle Bay gets its name from the turtles that lived in it before 1868, when the City filled it in to make space for expansion. Parks acquired the property for Peter Detmold Park, located along the F.D.R. Drive from 49th to 51st Street, in three parts between 1942 and 1951. On October 21, 1986, community leaders and residents broke ground for the $794,000 restoration of the park that included a gazebo, a wooden entranceway, World’s Fair benches, new asphalt and new lighting. Parks also constructed a wall to shield the park from the F.D.R. Drive. In 1999, City Council member A. Gifford Miller funded a $100,000 renovation, which included a complete reconstruction of sidewalks and fencing.

A plaque and gazebo in Peter Detmold Park honor Peter’s friend James Amster (1908-1986), a strong force in the development of the park. In 1944 Amster bought an aging tenement house, and a few other pieces of property containing run down structures east of Third Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. He improved the lots, creating offices, stores, and apartments. The area is now known as Amster Yard. Together, Amster and Detmold are largely responsible for the buildings that stand in Turtle Bay today.

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