In 1840, W.W. MacFarland built his estate on this land and named it Arrochar for the hills of his Scottish hometown. The original MacFarland Estate extended beyond Arrochar Playground to what is now the St. Joseph Hill Academy.
Taking its name from MacFarland’s estate, this neighborhood was called Arrochar Park at the turn of the century. It served as a seaside gateway to the popular resort areas of South and Midland Beaches. In 1914 the local Chamber of Commerce advertised Arrochar as “the Riviera of the harbor.” The area was also home to the famous architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who lived at 45 McClean Avenue. Richardson designed his home, and Frederick Law Olmsted, one of the two landscape architects behind Central Park and Prospect Park, was responsible for designing the surrounding landscape. Olmsted himself settled as a farmer in Staten Island in 1849 before moving to Manhattan in 1855. In his application for superintendent of Central Park, he cited his experience in the “direction and superintendence of agricultural laborers” on his Staten Island farm, Woods of Arden.
In 1920, P.S. 39 was built here. In 1945 the Board of Estimate assigned the property to be jointly operated by Parks and the Board of Education. The playground was originally known as P.S. 39 Playground.
Arrochar Playground offers play facilities for a variety of ages and interests. There are handball and basketball courts, a softball field, and play unit. Swings are equipped both for children and toddlers. A sculpture of a sea mammal recalls the waterways that surround the borough. The mature trees that ring the park are London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia), a species known for its ability to survive in harsh urban environments. The deciduous London planetree is widely planted for its attractive, scaly bark, and its quick growth to heights of 70 to 85 feet. These trees are a hybrid strain of the American sycamore and the Oriental plane tree. The species takes its name from London, England, where the tree was observed to flourish in spite of coal-polluted air.
In 1997, a $75,000 renovation funded by Council Member John A. Fusco added almost all of the features that exist in the playground today. In 1998, he sponsored a $9,263 renovation that refurbished the play equipment and handball courts, and added a cover of rubber safety surfacing. That same year, $1,700 was provided by Mayor Giuliani to renovate the sidewalks and pavement. Today, visitors participate in the life of the playground by providing voluntary care for it. Along with Parks, the playground’s primary volunteer caregivers are the girls and boys at P.S. 39.
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