Continuing north we come to the entrance at Reservoir and Sedgwick Avenues
to Old Fort Four Park
proper name according to the Parks Department website, but labeled as
Fort Four Playground). It was opened in late 1934, some months before Strong Street Playground
at the other end of
. Not the press
releases, nor any other material I can find, give any credit to the New Deal
for this park but since it was built in the same time frame on the same
street as the Strong Street facility, and since the Parks Department is not
thanking Mr. Rockefeller or other rich benefactor, and since Robert Moses'
design and construction staff was entirely composed of “relief
labor”, no other origin for this park seems plausible.
Anyway, the issue of who to thank was a bit unclear in October 1934 because
the CWA had been shut down six months earlier, and the WPA would not begin
until five months later; other agencies such as FERA were picking up the
slack in the interim on an ad-hoc basis. But by the time Strong Street was
finished, the WPA was well-established and it is indeed acknowledged in the
Strong Street Playground press release
That leaves us with the question: who built Washington's Walk? Was it already there
when Moses' workforce descended on this area in 1934-35?
In 1924 the City of New York commissioned the Fairchild Aerial Camera
Corporation to produce detailed aerial photos of all five boroughs that
could be assembled into a giant map. The first image at left is of the
Kingsbridge Heights / Bedford Park area of the Bronx, and second image zooms
in on the Jerome Park Reservoir. Click the images to see them full size.
You can also go to the NYPL site or the NYC.GOV site where tools
are available to zoom even further. A close look at the Washington's Walk
area reveals no signs of parklike features such as paths or terraces where
they exist today. In fact, Webb Avenue didn't even reach Reservoir avenue
in 1924, which is where the Washington Walk steps are.
So unless the Bronx Borough Parks Department or the Bronx Borough President
built Washington's Walk between 1924 (when this photo was taken) and 1929
(when the Depression struck), then the entire stretch from the Strong Street
Playground to Old Fort Four Park, including Washington's Walk and its paths,
lighting, benches, trees, and overlooks, were one single project.
Unfortunately Bronx Borough Parks Department reports are not available for
list). However, close inspection of the Press Release for
October 14, 1935 reveals a “new playground” opening at
“Reservoir Avenue between University and Webb Avenues (Fort
No.4)”. Although there is no playground there today, this is the
precise location of a portion Washington's Walk, so we know it was created
in 1935. Add to this the fact that Hugh S. Johnson, one of the
architects of the New Deal, was present at the ceremony, and that WPA
labor indisputably built the park a few feet to
the south, and considering the facts laid out in Reference , the
chances of Washington's Walk not being a New Deal creation are
Walk: Old Fort Four Park, New York City Department of Parks website.
- New York City Parks
Department press release of October 25, 1934: “The Department of
Parks will open three more playgrounds on Sunday, October 28th, at 3:30 p.m.
These playgrounds are located at ... and at Fort No. 4, Sedgwick and
Reservoir Avenues, in the Bronx.”
- New York City Parks
Department press release of October 14, 1935: “The Department of
Parks will open twelve new playgrounds throughout the city on Monday,
October 14th at 4:00 P.M. Mayor La Guardia, Park Commissioner Robert Moses,
General Hugh S. Johnson, Victor Ridder, Bronx Borough President James
J. Lyons will speak at the opening of the Macomb's Dam Playground at Jerome
and Sedgwick Avenues in the Bronx. Their speeches will be rebroadcast to the
other playgrounds ... In the Bronx they are at Hunts Point and Spoffard
Avenues and Faile Street; East 164th Street to Teasdale Place East of Boston
Road; Reservoir Avenue between University and Webb Avenues (Fort No.4)
and at Jerome and Sedgwick Avenues.”
- New Deal Assistance in
NYC Parks Department Projects, 1934-43.
Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library:
N.Y. City (Aerial Set) Section 1D, The New York Public Library Digital
Collections (1924), labeled “City of New York, Board of Estimate and
Apportionment, Office of the Chief Engineer, July 1, 1924,.”
set of 1924 aerial views of NYC, NYPL, labeled “Only Public
- NYCityMap at
GIS.NYC.GOV. Click where it says Map Type and then click "1924 Aerial".
Then drag and zoom. The resolution is amazingly good.