Abigail Adams (1744-1818), for whom this playground is named, was the wife of the second United States President, John Adams. Abigail Adams was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the daughter of Elizabeth Smith and Congregational minister William Smith. The Smiths descended from a wealthy family of Puritan leaders and prominent merchants. While growing up, she read extensively from the family library and was given a substantial education by her grandmother and her family's learned friends. Young Abigail developed a deep Congregational faith and a habit of letter writing, both characteristics she retained for the rest of her life. In 1764, Abigail married John Adams, an aspiring lawyer, following a five-year courtship. During their first decade of marriage, the couple produced four children and maintained houses in both Braintree and Boston, Massachusetts.
In 1774, John Adams became involved in politics and moved to Philadelphia for the First Continental Congress. Throughout the next ten years, Abigail lived and raised her children without her husband; she also survived the Revolutionary War and managed the family farm. She stayed in contact with her husband and many others, including Thomas Jefferson, through letters. These letters, in which she referred to herself as Portia, indicate a growing interest in politics. In March 1776, she wrote a famous letter to John Adams that implores the statesman to dissolve slavery and create a new American government with equal rights for women.
In 1784, one year after the Revolution, Abigail traveled to Paris to join her husband who was serving a diplomatic post. While in Europe, Abigail directed the activities of the family farm through correspondence. Her letters from this period indicate a certain amount of unease; it seems that some of the practices of Parisian society offended her deep religious convictions. The following year, the Confederate States of America assigned John Adams minister to Britain. Again, Abigail's letters from Britain indicate displeasure with court society. In 1788, the Adams family returned to the United States. In 1789, John began his eight years of service as Vice President under George Washington. During her husband's presidential term, which began in 1797, Abigail assumed a vocal Federalist stance that was decried by the anti-Federalist press. Abigail concentrated the remainder of her life on the family farm in Braintree. Her son, John Quincy Adams, went on to be the sixth President of the United States. In 1840, her grandson, Charles Francis Adams, published her letters.
Abigail Playground lies adjacent to the John Adams Houses on East 156th Street and Tinton Avenue. The City of New York acquired the property through condemnation on April 1, 1959. The Housing Authority completed the John Adams Houses in 1964. On October 8, 1964, Parks assumed jurisdiction over the property and opened Abigail Playground. Parks operates and maintains the facility in service of the housing complex and the local Melrose community. In September 1996, the playground received a $31,000 requirements contract upgrade sponsored by Mayor Giuliani. The improvements included the installation of new safety surfacing. Abigail Playground features play equipment, benches, swings, climbing bars, a comfort station, basketball half-courts, and a flagpole with a yardarm.