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Bronx Park

French Charley’s Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This playground honors the memory of Charley Mangin who owned a nearby French restaurant in the 1890s. His establishment, in the heart of a small French enclave of the Bronx, was popularly referred to as French Charley’s. After the French population moved out of the neighborhood and the restaurant closed down, a ball field and picnic area were built near the site and people referred to the area as French Charley’s Field. Bronx historian John McNamara also notes that Mangin’s daughter married Philip Bianchi, and she lived not far from where her father’s restaurant had stood.

In June of 1941, Parks developed this playground and the fields, and the WPA (Works Progress Administration) provided the labor force for the new construction. The WPA was a massive program initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a component of the New Deal. The WPA successfully instituted and administered countless public works, in attempt to pull America out of the depression. Within a year of its creation, the WPA provided paychecks to 3.6 million previously unemployed people in the United States. New York City received more of this funding than any other city in the country.

French Charley Playground lies within Bronx Park which, like the surrounding borough and the river that runs through it, honors the 17th century Swedish sea captain who settled the area, Jonas Bronck (1600-1643). After Bronck, this property passed through several different families before the city acquired 640 acres of it between December 1888 and January 1889. Inspiration for Bronx Park came about in the 1880s during a widespread movement to create public parks throughout the city. By 1890, the city had acquired the properties known today as Van Cortlandt, Pelham Bay, Bronx, Crotona, and Claremont Parks.

In 2000 Parks completed renovations totaling $257,342. Council Member June M. Eisland provided $107,310 for play equipment, safety surfacing, a set of large swings, the animal art sculpture of a frog, and a new double gate. Mayor Giuliani allocated $150,032 which paid for the removal of the old play equipment and asphalt paving. His funding installed a mushroom-shaped spray shower, a set of small swings, and an ID plaque that is embedded in the park’s surface.

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