Thomas Jefferson Park

Thomas Jefferson Park

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

What was here before?

This was once the site of James Roosevelt’s (1760-1847) farm which extended from 5th avenue to the East River and 110th street to 125th street. He was a financier and farmer and a relative of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945).

How did this site become a park?

This park was planned and named by the Board of Aldermen in 1894, though the land for it was not purchased until 1897. The park opened on October 7, 1905 to provide organized play to the children of "Little Italy," as the crowded tenement district in East Harlem was then known.

The pool opened in 1936, one of eleven immense outdoor public pools the Parks Department opened that summer. The heroically scaled pools project was financed by the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA), as part of a massive effort to alleviate adverse health conditions and provide safe recreation in predominantly working-class communities.

In 2017, a skate park was constructed and the following year, the basketball courts were reconstructed. The playground was renovated and expanded in 2021 with new accessible multigenerational play areas and rain gardens. The barbeque area was made ADA compliant and the color scheme reflect the pattern that the London Plane trees cast.

Who is this park named for?

This park is named for Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) who had a profound influence on the formation of the American legal and political system. Though Jefferson himself owned several hundred enslaved people on his Virginia estate, Monticello, in 1776 he was enlisted as the principal author to draft the Declaration of Independence. He went on to serve as governor of Virginia (1779-81), minister to France (1785-89), and Secretary of State under Washington (1790-93). He was elected Vice President in 1796 and then served two terms as President from 1801-1809. Aside from his political influence, Jefferson’s legacy includes creating the decimal monetary system and founding and designing the University of Virginia.

Directions to Thomas Jefferson Park

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