The History of Eibs Pond
Eibs Pond was created over 15,000 years ago as one of the
"kettle ponds" left by the receding Wisconsin Glacier. The glacier carved
holes in the ground which collected water and clay for hundred of years.
Eibs Pond is the largest kettle pond in New York City. There are actually
three main ponds - Hattie's Pond, Eibs Pond, and the Small Pond.
Eibs Pond was named for a German-American family who owned land in the
area during the 1800s. They used the pond as a watering hole for their
horses and the cows on their adjacent dairy farm. Descendants of the Eibs
family continued to live on this site until 1971. The ponds were always
in danger from development. The topographical map at right, from 1907,
shows Nroad built right up to the southern edge of Eibs Pond. You can see planned
extensions of Neckar, Weser, and Elbe Streets (dotted lines) to cover the entire pond
area and join an curved extension of Palma Drive that would run between the north and south Ponds
all the way over to Mosel Avenue on the east. Manton Place would also be extended to cut
across these streets and the pond and join Hanover Place.
The pond enjoyed movie fame when from 1914 to 1917 several episodes of
The Perils of Pauline, starring Pearl White and Milton Berle,
were filmed in this area. In 1914, D.W. Griffith directed the film Birth
of a Nation, shooting his Civil War battles sequences around the
pond. From 1915 until 1935, Eibs Pond served as a water hazard for the
Fox Hill Golf Links. During the winter, club members would participate
in curling competitions on the frozen pond. In the 20s, a military hospital
was constructed nearby. From 1944 to 1945, this site served as an army
base. Italian prisoners of war were kept here and offered courses in English,
hygiene, and military discipline.
During the Depression years of the 1930's, the area around
the pond started to be used as an unofficial dumping ground - as you can
see in the picture at right. During this time a fence ran through the
middle of Eibs Pond and Small Pond. Remnants of the fence can still be
seen in the Small Pond. In the 1960's, the half of Eibs Pond to the south
of the fence was filled in with rubble for the parking lots and buildings
of the Stueben Street housing. In 1973, a large area of land including
the pond area was purchased by Aetna Life and Casualty Company. This led
to plans by the Urban Investment Development Company for the construction
of an apartment building and multi-story hotel overlooking the pond.
In 1981 Congress passed the Wetlands Protection Act. Amid concerns over
the environmental impact of building on this ecologically delicate site,
the company chose to donate a 17-acre tract around the Pond to the Trust
for Public Land (TPL) in return for a $500,000 tax cut. The TPL later
sold the upper six acres of the land to developer Fred Weiss for low-
income housing. But it kept an option to preserve the lower 8.14 acres
in their natural state as a park.
In 1987 the TPL exercised this option, giving the 8.14 acres to New York
State. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation then
designated Eibs Pond and the surrounding area as Class 1 Protected Wetlands
- the highest level of protection. A 100-foot wide protected no-build
zone, seen in the picture at right, was established around the pond. As
you can see from the picture, the planned extensions of Neckar, Weser,
Elbe, and Manton, and the planned extention of Palma Drive to Mosel Avenue,
were still on official city maps.
Two years later, in 1989, Eibs Pond was fficially named a New York City Park.
Since then there has been almost continuous community action to restore
the park. See the Restoration page.