During the early part of the twentieth century, Louis A. Dreyfus founded the L.A. Dreyfus Company in the neighborhood of Clifton. This company was based off of a discovery of his in 1909, in which he was able to manufacture a chewing gum base. After four years of steady growth, the L.A. Dreyfus Company had gotten so popular that the demand outweighed the supply by a great deal. With not enough room to swing a cat, Dreyfus had to relocate his company to New Jersey.The Location of Hero Park puts it between Grymes Hill, Silver Lake, and Ward Hill.
In 1914, around the time of the L.A. Dreyfus Company's heightened popularity on Staten Island, the First World War had begun. The United States had tried their best to stay neutral during the war. Once several of their ships had been sunk by Germany, however, the United States decided to enter the war in 1917. Almost three million Americans were drafted into the war in 1917 and 1918. By November of 1918, the war had ended, but so had the lives of many people.
Throughout the borough's parks, you will see many plaques which honor the residents of specific neighborhoods who gave their lives in wartime. The most respectable of these parks is a three-acre patch of land located in northeastern Staten Island. Roughly two acres of this land was donated to the City of New York by Louis A. Dreyfus and his wife in 1920, around the time they had to relocate their company. By 1985, another acre was acquired and added to the park. Today, it is known as Hero Park. It honors the 144 soldiers from Staten Island who had died in World War I.
When the land for Hero Park was first obtained, its prime feature was a granite boulder, reaching a height of sixteen feet. At the time of the park's dedication on May 31, 1920, a bronze tablet had been posted on the boulder telling of its origin. It stated that the boulder had been left during the Glacial Period and had been known as "Sugar Loaf Rock". It also explained that the boulder had once been the center of a field in which children would play.
In addition to this plaque, two others had been posted on neighboring sides of the boulder. The first, which was cast with an eagle holding two American flags, told of the park's dedication to the Staten Islanders who had given their lives during the war. The second listed all 144 of these men in four columns. In 1921, another tablet was posted to the boulder, honoring Mr. and Mrs. Louis A. Dreyfus. Aside from the four tablets attached to the boulder, four tablets were posted at the entrances of the park, each telling of Hero Park's use as a sanctuary.
While these tablets made an honorable gesture toward the families of those who had given their lives during the war, they were only a small part of the dedication. Within Hero Park, 144 Koster blue spruce trees were planted to honor each and every Staten Island man who had given his life in World War I. Tablets were embedded at the foot of each tree to give the name, military rank, age, and place of death for each of the men. During the 1970s, however, people-possibly family members-began to steal the bronze tablets. Soon after, the Department of Parks and Recreation removed the last of the tablets from the trees.
Hero Park is bounded by the streets of Howard Avenue, Louis Street, and Victory Boulevard. In 1920, it was landscaped by Max Schling. Aside from the 144 blue spruce trees, there is a great variety of other types of trees within the park. These include birches, maples and oaks, among others. Concrete benches were placed around the trees to cater to visitors of the sanctuary.