The street was not always called St. Nicholas Avenue, however. Before the Dutch settlers who founded the colony of New Amsterdam (1600’s) had built the road itself, the route along St. Nicholas was already an old Indian path called Weekquaeskeek, after one of the Algonquin tribes living in the area (the word itself is believed to mean “place of the bark kettle”).
The name has changed several times over the years. During colonial times and up until the 19th century, the street was known as Harlem Lane, and was part of the old post road that led from lower Manhattan to the rest of New England, though there were some who called the street Kingsbridge Road instead, since it was used by those who wished to travel north toward the towns of Spuyten Duyvil and Kingsbridge.
The park itself is probably the most interesting of these landmarks. Built in 1906 by Samuel Parsons, Jr., an associate of Calvert Vaux, one of the designers behind Central Park, Morningside Park, and Prospect Park, St. Nicholas Park is situated in a naturally craggy terrain, and saw action during the American Revolutionary War as the primary location of the Battle of Harlem Heights, served as a military campground for Washington’s men before the battle and was the place for the first battlefield victory of the war. In fact, the park’s rocky southern-most point, known as the “Point of Rocks,” (which is today is near West 128th Street on the upper path at the southeast corner of St. Nicholas Park).
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