Place Category: Parks and Playgrounds
This park honors the memory of Lieutenant Frank McConnell (1896-1918), the first Richmond Hill resident killed in World War I.
A star member of the Princeton crew team (Class of 1919), McConnell lost his life on July 26, 1918, in northern France during the Second Battle of the Marne. This battle marked a turning point of the war. The Germans succeeded in crossing the Marne River, but made little subsequent progress. On July 18, 1918, the Allied commander, General Ferdinand Foch, counterattacked with forces that included McConnell’s division. One of the fiercest centers of combat was at Château-Thierry, where the American troops won their first decisive victory of the war. The German troops were forced back across the Marne in what was one of the first large-scale retreats by the German army. In addition to this park, a Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post is named in McConnell’s honor.
The surrounding neighborhood of Richmond Hill is rich in history. The hill itself was formed by the Ice Age glacier which shaped all of Long Island. In 1776 the Battle of Long Island was fought along the ridge in Forest Park, near what is now the golf course clubhouse. Protected by thick woods, American riflemen used guerilla warfare tactics to attack and defeat the Hessian soldiers, although the larger battle was won by the British. In 1868, a successful banker named Albon P. Man bought the Lefferts and Welling farms, and hired Edward Richmond to lay out the community. Over the next decade, streets, schools, a church and a railroad were built. Many of the Victorian homes of old Richmond Hill are still standing in the area today. Jacob Riis, the famous documentary journalist, author, and photographer, lived in Richmond Hill.
After being used as a public park for more than two decades, in 1944 this parkland, located at Atlantic Avenue, Lefferts Boulevard, and 94th Street, was officially assigned to Parks by local law. In 1964, a local law passed naming this park in McConnell’s honor. McConnell Park is home to the Morris Park World War I Memorial, a large granite monument adorned with a bronze plaque. McConnell Park functions primarily as a sitting area, shaded by an abundance of Pin oaks (Quercus palustris), and makes a fitting memorial to those who served their country in time of war.
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