In 1924 Merrick Boulevard was widened and its former route became 169th Place, creating a small parcel of land that was assigned to NYC Parks. In 1932 the semicircular traffic island was named after two local residents who were killed in the First World War.
John Proctor and James Hopson were members of the 369th Infantry of the National Guard, known informally as the Harlem Hellfighters. Formed in 1913, this unit was comprised of African-American servicemen at a time when the country’s armed forces were segregated along racial lines. The U.S. Army mustered the unit into Federal service in 1917, and the 369th Infantry Regiment went to France that December, among the first 100,000 troops of the American Expeditionary Forces.