Bronx Parks: A Year-Long Celebration

Indian Prayer Rock, Pelham Bay Park South. Through early photographs and newspaper accounts, local historian Jorge Santiago identified this massive boulder site as the rock formation once known as the Indian Prayer Rock, with a plaque commemorating the Bronx Parks system. (Photo: NYC Parks Photo Archive)

Indian Prayer Rock. Local historian Jorge Santiago identified this rock formation. (Photo: NYC Parks Photo Archive)

The year 2013 marked the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the Bronx parks system and a yearlong celebration ensued, featuring special events, volunteer projects,  lectures, bike tours and much more.  The Bronx Parks 125 committee, chaired by Dart Westphal, planned a program that included four symposia highlighting the historic nature of the parks, a website featuring 125 favorite things in Bronx Parks, as well as web-based self-guided tours and a marketing and outreach campaign to encourage support for our beautiful green spaces.

Mr. Westphal presented a lecture at Bartow-Pell Mansion on the subject of Bronx parks, surveying their rich history and pointing out the influence parks had on the development of the borough as a whole. He gave special attention to Pelham Bay Park and the great mansions that once dotted this area. Bartow-Pell is the only historic mansion remaining.

The goal of the Bronx Parks 125 Committee was to build support for “the continued stewardship and improvement of this marvelous legacy.”  The Committee’s efforts were wholeheartedly supported and encouraged by The Historic Districts Council, an advocacy group for New York City’s historic neighborhoods. HDC selected the Bronx Parks system to be one of the prestigious winners of their 2013 “Six to Celebrate” program.

The image of Indian Prayer Rock, seen above, shows a plaque that was placed there to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Bronx Parks system. The plaque is long gone, but local historian Jorge Santiago found the holes left by screws once holding it in place. According to a 1913 article from The New York Times researched by Mr. Santiago, the Indian Prayer Rock plaque was one of six plaques placed in Bronx Parks at 30th anniversary ceremonies. Scouts, soldiers, bands and noted speakers all participated in those festivities, with the Parks Commissioner and Borough President on hand to pledge support for the preservation and upkeep of Bronx parks.

Posted in Uncategorized