Isham Park is a historic park of 20 acres (81,000 m2), located in Inwood, Manhattan, New York. The park was created largely through gifts of land from the William Bradley Isham estate to the city from the Isham family. It sits roughly between Broadway, Seaman Avenue, Isham Street, and West 214th and 215th Streets.
The park once stretched to the Harlem River, but with the development of Inwood Hill Park and the reconfiguration of area streets, the boundary for the most part became Seaman Street, though the baseball fields across the street are now part of Isham Park and not Inwood Hill Park. The new park’s scale now exceeds that of the original Isham estate. Due to their declining condition, the Isham house, which originally came with the park gift, was torn down in the 1940s.
Isham Park is noted for some exposed marble outcroppings that date from the Cambrian period at its southern end. This is a popular location for visiting College Geology classes. The northeastern corner includes a public garden. While the middle of the park at the top of the hill is a grass lawn, most of the rest of the park has trees and brush growing in a very wild manner.
From estate to park
In 1909, William Isham died in his house on 61st Street, and in June 1911, his daughter, Julia Isham Taylor, proposed to New York City nearly 6 acres (2.4 ha) of the estate on the condition that it was turned into a park named after her father. In March of the following year, her aunt, Fora E. Isham followed suit. More than 5,000 people celebrated the gift of the new park in September 1912, with a march to the park, speeches by dignitaries, and children performing folk dances.
In March 1915, Samuel, who died of a June 1914 aneurysm, bequeathed another 24 lots of land to the city, which the city received in April 1915.
In October 1917, Taylor purchased the land at the corner of Isham Street and Seaman Avenue, famous for its marble outcrop, and gave it to the city to add to the park. In December 1917 she also introduced another 22 lots of land. The Ishams then sold the last remaining portion of their property to a developer in 1922. It will lead to a building line on Isham Street just south of the Isham Park entrance.
The city itself extended the park at about this time by purchasing property in 1925 and 1927. The idea of establishing Inwood Hill Park has been resurrected and the town is buying or condemning much of the area’s acres of land. These were all added to Isham Park at first, but eventually Isham Park was restored to roughly the boundaries of the Isham estates, and the remaining land was aggregated into Inwood Hill Park.
The Isham house was part of the donation to the city, and has been used for various civic-related events for many years, including a museum and a meeting place for the American Revolution Daughters. However, due to the poor state of the building, it and the greenhouse were demolished by Parks Commissar Robert Moses in the 1940s, although a large garden remained there until at least 1912.
A cement platform was placed in the park at some point in the 1930s, at the corner of Isham Street and Park Terrace. There was a World War I cannon, but it was removed in 1943 to be melted down and reused in World War II. Children who played there were told it would be replaced after that war, but this was never done, and the platform deteriorated and collapsed.