Williamsbridge Oval in The Bronx is a repurposed reservoir. Like a number of other New York City parks, among them Highland Park on the Brooklyn-Queens border, Silver Lake Park in Staten Island, and Bryant Park in Manhattan, it sits where the city once stored drinking water.
The 17th-century farmer John Williams was reputed to have built the first bridge across the Bronx River. The ancient span was named for him, and the surrounding community acquired the name "Williamsbridge."
The city opened the Williamsbridge Reservoir in 1889 and used it as such until the 1930s. At that point its floor was raised to just 12 feet below street level and it was repurposed as a park, opened with fanfare by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses in 1937.
The Bainbridge Avenue entrance, near the Valentine-Varian House
Inside, parents and kids were lined up for something – face painting, possibly, we couldn't tell – outside the Recreation Center.
It was a warm, muggy day, but only one kid was playing in the sprinkler.
A lot more were on the field, including teams of big kids playing football in uniforms.
We walked around the oval's quieter, tree-lined, but slightly nerve-inducing edge.
An impressive pink fungus stared up at us from the base of a sturdy-looking tree.
Not all the facilities were in use, and some aspects of the park don't appear very well maintained. There's no Williamsbridge Oval Alliance to supplement the Parks Department's limited budget. This isn't a rich part of town.
At the northern end it's easy to perceive the difference in elevation between the park and the street, and imagine the space's past as a reservoir.
All photos © Jon Sobel, Critical Lens Media