Cedar trees are celebrated for their valuable wood, which is generally red, scented, and highly resistant to decay. The Phoenician civilization, ancient inhabitants of present-day Lebanon who invented the alphabet, built a trading economy on the sale of cedar timber. Native Americans of the Pacific Coast hollowed out red cedars, transforming them into ocean canoes, and carved them into totem poles. The wood is so durable that many of these have been found preserved after six to ten thousand years. A true cedar is any of four species of the genus cedrus, although the name is also used for a variety of other pines that share the characteristic red scented wood.
The Cedar Playground property, named for its location between Cedar and Sedgewick Avenues and West 179th Street, once belonged to Dr. George Cammann, the first man to successfully market the binaural stethoscope, the tool doctors use to listen to the heartbeat. The City acquired the Morris Heights area property on September 3, 1884, through the Aqueduct Commission. This body, which was responsible for supervising work on the new Croton Aqueduct, was dissolved in 1910. All of its projects fell under the jurisdiction of the Department of Water Supply, Gas, and Electricity. In 1934, that department surrendered the property to Parks. Cedar Playground was opened on December 19 of the following year.
A small segment at Cedar Avenue and the curve of West 179th Street was added to the park in 1955 as a sitting area. A few years later, in 1962, nearby West 178th Street was eliminated, and a small strip of it was added to the park. In 1988, Mayor Edward I. Koch funded a $896,470 reconstruction of the playground which included the installation of new play equipment, a ball field, greenery, wood and steel benches, game tables, stairs, lighting, fencing, sidewalks, street curbs, and concrete and hexagonal asphalt pavements.
The eastern boundary of the park is a steep, high embankment with a stairway rising up from the playground proper to a small sitting area at the level of Sedgewick Avenue. Other features include a flagpole with yardarm and a decorative stone wall. Cedar Playground contains no cedars, but the park does boast American elm (ulnus americana) and sweetgum (liquidambar styraciflua) trees.
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