Seton Falls Park

High Rock Playground

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

Seton Falls Park is home to beautiful wetlands and woodlands, a bird sanctuary, and several playgrounds, including High Rock Playground. This playground takes its name from the semicircular rock and wood formation that rises behind it. Seton Falls Park derives its name from the prominent waterfalls built in the park by the Seton family. In the 19th century, these landowners were instrumental in the political and social affairs of what was then the town of Eastchester.

The best known member of the family was Elizabeth Seton (1774-1821), the first American to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. After the death of her husband in 1803, she converted to Catholicism and moved with her five children to Baltimore, establishing the American Sisters of Charity in Emmitsburg, Maryland in 1809. It was the first Roman Catholic religious order in the United States. Another family member, Robert Seton, was the first American Catholic priest to become a Monsignor.

Siwanoy Indians formerly inhabited the surrounding land, which they used for hunting and fishing. In 1654, English colonist Thomas Pell purchased a large parcel of land from the Siwanoys. Pell invited farmers from Fairfield County, Connecticut to settle here, and they incorporated the area into the town of Eastchester in 1666. The Bronx and lower Westchester were the scene of significant military activity during the Revolutionary War. One battle occurred in what is now Seton Falls Park in 1781, as the British retreated under fire by the Patriots. Ownership of the area changed after the war, when many British loyalist landowners lost their property.

James Roosevelt, ancestor of Presidents Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt, was the first owner of this land after the Revolutionary War. Nathaniel Prime, a wealthy New York banker, later acquired the area and called his estate “The Cedars,” for the land’s bounty of red cedar trees. Upon his death, the property was transferred to Prime’s daughter Emily, who married William Seton, the eldest son of Saint Elizabeth Seton. It was he who renamed the 51-acre estate “Cragdon” and transformed it into a working farm with two ponds. Rattlesnake Creek was dammed inside the estate and formed a waterfall that gives its name to the present-day park.

Although not yet officially a park, the site was commonly used for recreation in the early 1900s. On June 10, 1914, the City acquired 32 acres of the former Seton estate for the Department of Health to build a hospital for contagious diseases. Twenty-nine acres of this parcel were assigned to Parks on June 11, 1930, following 15 years of community resistance to the hospital plan. The remaining three acres were annexed in 1932. Additional lands were assigned to Parks in 1983 and 1985.

The land this playground occupies, now the western extension of Seton Falls Park, formerly belonged to the Department of Education. In 1997, Commissioner Stern named the playground for its unique geological feature. Today High Rock Playground, bound by 233rd Street and Dereimer Avenue, includes play equipment with safety surfacing and a drinking fountain. High Rock Playground also stands near an entrance to the Seton Falls nature trail.

Park Information

Directions to Seton Falls Park

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