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Exploring a Kingsbridge Connection in Central Park

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Several months ago, I learned that there was a plaque in Central Park indicating that the old Kingsbridge Road had once run through that area. Up until that moment, the only current Kingsbridge markers I knew about were in the Bronx, like Kingsbridge Terrace, Kingsbridge Road, the Kingsbridge neighborhood, and of course the Kingsbridge Library. So I decided to investigate, and that led to a long and bizarre adventure that didn’t end exactly the way I planned.

First things first. That plaque? I knew that it existed because I saw it as a Pokestop while I was riding on the express bus past Central Park. Finding points of interest represented by Pokestops isn’t an exact science—many times the object is no longer at that location, or maybe it was never at that precise spot to begin with. Still, I thought that it was definitely worth trying to find it.

Old Kingsbridge Road plaque

According to the map, the plaque seemed to be located somewhere behind the Conservatory Garden, and that happens to be one of my favorite locations in Central Park. Since I had one day left of my vacation, I decided that I’d spend the morning visiting the park so that I could take some pictures of the plaque and the surrounding area to share through our social media. Since my Teen Advisory Group has suggested numerous times that one of the ways we could improve our library’s social media feeds would be to include more videos, my photography idea started to evolve. I decided that not only would I walk through the gardens, find the plaque, and take pictures of it, but I would also shoot a time-lapse video of a walk through the garden, weaving along the paths, looking at all the flowers and the fountains, and finally ending at the Old Kingsbridge Road plaque.

I left my apartment packing only the essentials, since I was going to be walking for a while. I packed my iPhone and took an extra charger. And I brought an extra shopping bag in case I decided to do some fancy food shopping on the Upper East Side on my way home. I headed to the park, and just as I walked through the garden gates I felt a couple of drops of rain. Which was odd, because I’d checked the weather forecast before I left home and no rain was predicted, which is why I hadn’t packed my umbrella. So I walked over to take shelter under some trees and waited for the rain to pass.

Long story short: over an hour later, the rain STILL had not stopped. I discovered that none of the shelter available in the Conservatory Garden was truly waterproof, and that a shopping bag doesn’t work quite as well as an umbrella. I was absolutely soaked down to my bones, I was so waterlogged that my iPhone wouldn’t recognize my thumbprint anymore, and I STILL hadn’t found the plaque. Although that’s not for lack of trying.

First I’ll tell you what I did and didn’t find on that terribly rainy day, and then I’ll tell you what I discovered during some armchair exploring afterwards.

During my wet and miserable walk I discovered a plaque about Mount Saint Vincent and a “Before There Was a Park” sign which both explained part of the Kingsbridge Road connection:

Mount Saint Vincent plaque

Before There Was a Park

But for the life of me I could not find the “Old Kingsbridge Road” plaque that started this wild goose chase, even though the Pokemon Go GPS indicated that I was RIGHT THERE:

Pokemon Map

However, the more I walked around, the more I discovered overgrown areas and areas that were blocked off with construction equipment.  Which made me think that this area of the park was being renovated, which might explain why that plaque was so elusive.

After I got back home and began the long process of drying out, I decided to try the much safer alternative of exploring the Central Park - Kingsbridge Road connection online. That was how I put some more pieces together and learned both about the history of the area and why I saw all of that equipment there.

Excavated in Central Park: Traces of Anti-Redcoat Fortifications, Never Needed

Unearthing the City Grid That Would Have Been in Central Park

McGowan's Pass

160 Years of Central Park: A Brief History

Mount Saint Vincent Plaque
 

I’d like to end this post with a satisfying conclusion, perhaps a sense of closure as I explain that the "Old Kingsbridge Road" plaque was being cleaned on the day I visited, or that the GPS was just a little bit off and the plaque was actually a few yards away. Well, it turns out that after doing a little more digging, I did get closure of a sort. When I did a search for Kingsbridge on the NYC parks website, the only item that came up was that Mount Saint Vincent Plaque.  At first I was ready to assume that the Old Kingsbridge Road plaque was just one of the many examples of a Pokestop serving as a moment trapped in time, a piece of history that now only exists in the virtual world. But then I looked more closely at the picture on the plaque, and I realized that the historic photo on the “Old Kingsbridge Road Plaque” and the “Mount Saint Vincent Plaque” were exactly the same. Which means that there are actually two different Pokestops corresponding to ONE object. So it turns out that there’s no such thing as an “Old Kingsbridge Road Plaque” after all.

Oops.

In my defense, I’d like to think that I would have figured this out earlier if I hadn’t been wandering around in a rainstorm at the time, squinting at signs while holding a shopping bag over my head.  It was only by looking over all the photos in a much drier and calmer environment that I was able to figure out that the game and I were both mistaken.

So let’s think about the moral of this story. What lessons have we learned?

  • If you come up with a plan and that plan doesn’t work, then “adopt, adapt, and improve” … or in this case, just try to salvage what you can.
  • Pokestops are usually accurate, but not always.
  • A shopping bag is not the same thing as an umbrella.
  • And always pack an umbrella, just in case!

Wet in the Rain

To learn more about Kingsbridge Road, the Kingsbridge neighborhood, the Kingsbridge Library, and the King’s Bridge which led to all of those names, there are many sources of information available to you. You can check out all of the websites I listed above, and fall down lots of virtual rabbit holes as you explore all the links they contain. You can read this blog post written by one of our adult librarians about the history of our library and our neighborhood, and check out highlights of a neighborhood walking tour we gave several months ago. You can look through our digital collections to find Kingsbridge-themed photographs.  And you can find even more Kingsbridge content in our catalog!

 

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Interesting, and appreciated,

Interesting, and appreciated, read for an 8am-5pm cubicle dweller in Lansing, Michigan. Carry on.

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