Marble Hill holds the singular geographic distinction of having been a part of Manhattan, an island unto its own, and a part of the mainland. The neighborhood lies on a rock precipice in the Bronx that is bounded by West 230th Street, Exterior Street, Johnson Avenue, and the Harlem River. Originally, Marble Hill physically belonged to the Manhattan Island, separated from the Bronx by Spuyten Duyvil Creek. Two bridges, Kings Bridge (1693) and Farmers’ Free Bridge (1759), connected the neighborhood to the Bronx mainland. During the Revolutionary War, Patriots built a dozen forts in the neighborhood to defend the bridges. Contrary to plan, the bridges served as the escape route for General George Washington’s troops following his defeat in the Battle of Harlem Heights.
During the early nineteenth century, the neighborhood was the site of several marble quarries. Subsequently, the neighborhood assumed its name from the marble industry and its hilly terrain. In 1876, the New York State Legislature decreed the construction of the Harlem River Shipping Canal. When completed, in 1895, the canal severed Marble Hill from Manhattan, creating an island with Spuyten Duyvil Creek as its northern perimeter. The new channel effectively shortened the water route between the Hudson River and Long Island Sound by 14 miles. Soon after the canal’s completion, builders filled Spuyten Duyvil Creek, thereby connecting the island to mainland Bronx. Since the turn of the century, Marble Hill residents have successfully petitioned to remain within the governance of Manhattan; interestingly, for years telephone directories listed residents in both Manhattan and the Bronx.
Marble Hill Playground is located on Marble Hill Avenue, between West 228th and West 230th Streets. The City of New York acquired this property, along with the area that comprises the Marble Hill Houses, on August 26, 1948. The Board of Estimate assigned the parcel to Parks on July 5, 1950. Marble Hill Playground opened in April 1952, to serve both the local community and the adjacent Marble Hill Houses.
In 1986, the playground received a $650,000 renovation, which provided for the installation of play equipment, 4 spray showers, a new staircase and entranceway. In addition, the playground boasts a recessed pool, 1 full basketball court, 2 basketball backboards, 4 handball courts, a comfort station, safety surfacing, swings, and a tot playground. The flagpole’s base contains a plaque dedicated by the Kingsbridge Historical Society in honor of the Revolutionary War battle of Harlem Heights.