Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Park Fit for Heroes

Hero Park was built on land donated by Dr. Louis and Berta Dreyfus back in 1920. The centerpiece of the park was (and still is) the glacial Sugar Loaf boulder and its plaques commemorating the 144 Staten Islanders who died in the First World War.

Dr. Dreyfus(whose house I posted about in the past) had invented a process for manufacturing chewing gum base in 1909 had become fairly wealthy as a result. He founded the L.A. Dreyfus Company in Clifton in 1909. Dr. Dreyfus died quite unexpectedly in 1920 at the age of 52. He was about to give a speech at the opening of the new trolley line in St. George when he suffered a heart attack, fell into the arms of Msgr. Cassidy of St. Peter's and was taken off the stage as the Police Band broke into the Star Spangled Banner.

Dr. Dreyfus' widow, Berta, donated thousands of dollars to numerous churches and charities over the years. In return she got IS 49 named after her. Woo hoo! When she died it was clearly a notable event. Even Mayor LaGuardia came to her funeral.

(r. to l. Pastor Carl Sutter, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia)

Hero Park was the park my friends and I went to go sledding at when Silver Lake was too much effort and where we played football on a the same ridiculously sloped area along Victory Boulevard.

Often it was just a place to hang out. When I was younger I had heard tales of "older kids", mostly the brothers of my friends, having keg parties up in the wooded patch near Howard Avenue. The cops might show up, make sure they weren't too loud, and then roll by for a beer before going off duty. By the time I was old enough for keg parties the cops weren't that accommodating anymore.

My time just hanging out at Hero Park was spent mostly around and on the Sugar Loaf boulder. With its eagle topped plaque it was a striking focal point of the park. When the plaques started vanishing we were all dismayed. In recent years the Friends of Hero Park have helped refurbish the park and replaced the missing plaques.

View Larger Map

I tried to track down whatever happened to Dr. Dreyfus' company and finally found out in an article on the Free Library site. After Dreyfus' death the firm continued to grow. In 1935 it became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wrigley and in 1949 it outgrew its home base and moved to Edison, NJ. In 2005 Wrigley, in order to survive, consolidated its gum base production in Georgia and closed the Edison plant. There are some touching words about how grateful they were for the LA Dreyfus plant's employees' dedication over the decades but business being what it is it was time for a change.

1 comment:

Dave said...

That boulder is actually a glacial erratic, meaning it was carried here in a glacier from Canada about 15,000 years ago. As big as it seems, like and iceberg, only half of it is actually exposed.

The More You Know....