Horace Harding Playground
This playground, located in the Queens neighborhood of Rego Park, is named in honor of Horace J. Harding (1863-1929), banker and businessman extraordinaire whose influence greatly impacted many turn-of-the-century local and national institutions.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Horace J. Harding (1863-1929) entered the banking world at age 20. In 1898, he married Dorothea Barney and joined her father’s firm. He soon became a senior partner of Charles D. Barney and Company. Shortly thereafter, Harding’s meteoric rise shocked the financial world. He served as a director for a multitude of companies; among them are the New York Municipal Railways System, American Exchange Irving Trust, Bronx Gas and Electric, American Express, Continental Can Company, Public Service Corporation of New Jersey, Southern Pacific Company, United States Industrial Alcohol, American Beet Sugar Company, and the Wabash Railway. Harding was also an avid art collector and he served on the Board of Trustees for the Frick Collection.
Harding strongly supported the development of the Long Island highway system. As a landowner in Wheatley Hills, he persuaded other residents to accept the “great parkway plan” of Long Island State Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981). Developed as early as 1924, the plan proposed a system of parks interconnected by scenic parkways. At his urging, residents accepted the Northern State Parkway, which connected Queens with Lake Ronkonkoma in Suffolk County. Harding also supported the construction of what would become Moses’s Long Island Expressway. In 1929, New York State Road 25D, a future Long Island Expressway service road, was named Horace Harding Expressway in recognition of his support.
Horace Harding Playground is located on 62nd Drive, between 97th and 98th Streets in the Rego Park neighborhood of Queens. Prior to development, Chinese farmers had owned this land and formed an exclusive farming enclave in this area, growing produce for sale in Manhattan’s Chinatown. In the 1920s, the Real Good Construction Company bought out these farms and built one-family row houses, multi-family homes, and apartment buildings.
In 1923, developers Henry Schloh and Charles Hausmann named the area “Rego Park,” shortening the name of their construction company from “REal GOod.” In the first half of the 20th century, Rego Park attracted Irish, German, and Italian immigrants. From 1970 on, the neighborhood’s demographic shifted to Russian, Chinese, and Jewish residents, while enclaves of Indians, Iranians, Koreans, Colombians, and Romanian immigrants have added to the remarkable diversity of this community.
Parks, which acquired this property in 1961, jointly operates the playground with the Board of Education. The park opened as P.S. 206 Playground in 1967. In 1985, Parks changed the name to Horace Harding Playground in accordance with its proximity to Horace Harding Expressway. Mayor Giuliani has provided $160,000 for an upcoming playground renovation. Today, the playground offers park-goers numerous opportunities for recreation: a baseball diamond, two basketball courts, a volleyball court, a sandpit, wooden play equipment, and a sprinkler. The park features several concrete animal sculptures including a dinosaur, a turtle, and a porpoise.