This park, located at the intersection of White Plains Road, Westchester Avenue, and the Cross Bronx Expressway in the Bronx, is named for nearby Virginia Avenue.
Originally settled as farmland, in December, 1924 a street named Gray Avenue was laid out on the present site of Virginia Avenue. It is commonly thought that a surveyor of the area renamed the throughway Virginia Avenue to commemorate his birthplace in Stratford, in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Supporting this theory are the names of the adjacent streets, Stratford and Commonwealth Avenue.
The State or Commonwealth of Virginia was named for the British virgin Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603). The first successful British colony on North American soil, Virginia was settled by British explorers in 1607. Captain John Smith was elected as its first governor that same year. The area became well known for its tobacco production, and earned the nickname “Old Dominion” due to the loyalty it showed to the British monarchy during the English Civil War in the 1640s. By the mid 18th century Virginian political leaders were expressing discontent with the British government, and along with the leaders of Massachusetts, took the initiative to begin the American Revolution (1775-1783). Prominent Virginians included Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), who penned the Declaration of Independence, George Washington (1732-1799), the general of the revolutionary forces and the nation’s first president, and Patrick Henry (1736-1799), the powerful speaker who served as Virginia’s first governor when it joined as the 10th State in the Union on June 25, 1788. Virginians dominated early politics; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison (1751-1836), and James Monroe (1758-1831) served as four of America’s first five Presidents, and Virginian John Marshall (1755-1835) expanded the powers of the Supreme Court as Chief Justice (1803-1836).
Virginia fell into economic decline in subsequent years, and during the 1840s found itself torn on the issue of slavery. Large pockets of northwestern Virginia favored abolition and eventually joined the Union, however, the Virginian economy would have been crippled without slavery, and Richmond served as the capitol of the Confederacy during the Civil War (1861-1865). Virginia was host to many Civil War battles, and a private home in the town of Appomattox Courthouse was the site of the Confederate surrender.
Virginia Park and nearby Virginia Playground first opened on July 21, 1956. In 1996, City Council Member Lucy Cruz allocated funds to renovate the park’s asphalt walkways. Despite being surrounded by trains and expressways, Virginia Park offers a lush refuge with its grassy sitting areas and wooden benches, surrounded by abundant honey locusts, pin oaks (Quercus palustrix) and London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia).