Cherry Clinton Playground
Cherry Clinton Playground
The land now occupied by Cherry Clinton Playground was owned by the Board of Education through the first few decades of the 20th century, and was used as the Seventh Ward Athletic Field until jurisdiction was transferred to Parks on June 16, 1938. The park was opened to the public on April 3, 1940 and included four paddle tennis courts, four handball courts, and a basketball-volleyball court. For years, the small park situated at the intersection of Clinton, Cherry, and Water Streets was known simply as "Playground." Not until 1985 was the park named Cherry Clinton Playground after the streets which border it to the north and west.
Cherry Street has had its name for over three centuries. During the 1660's, this land was owned by Goovert Loockermans, a wealthy Dutch merchant working for the firm of Gillis Verbrugge & Co. Loockermans operated a seven-acre orchard which was said to produce the best cherries in all of New York. When the land was sold in 1672 for sixty dollars, the orchard was lost.
On April 23, 1789, George Washington (1732-1799) arrived in New York, then the nation's capital, for his inauguration. It was his first trip to the city since the end of the Revolutionary War, and the city gave him a hero's welcome as both General and newly-elected President. Thousands of people crowded the waterfront between the Battery and Wall Street to greet Washington's ship as it sailed in. Governor George Clinton (1739-1812), the first Governor of New York and Clinton Street's namesake, met President Washington as he landed at Murray's Wharf. The two men made their way to 3 Cherry Street, George Washington's official residence, and the nation's first Executive Mansion.
One week after Washington's triumphant reception in New York, he was inaugurated as the nation's first President. George Clinton served as Governor from 1777 to 1795, and again from 1801 to 1804. He went on to serve as Vice President of the United States under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison from 1805 until his death in 1812. Clinton Street was originally called Warren Street, but was renamed in honor of Governor Clinton in 1792.
In 1993 the park underwent a $487,000 capital renovation funded by Council Member Kathryn E. Freed. The redesigned park provides opportunities for active recreation with a full complement of handball, basketball, and volleyball courts. Fourteen new cherry trees were planted to commemorate the history of the neighborhood and the namesake of the playground.
Members of the community have helped to care for the park since its renovation. The Two Bridges Tenants Association has been particularly involved in planning events which keep the park lively. Their vigilance and care call to mind the words uttered by President Washington to his guards upon his arrival in New York, "[T]he affection of my fellow citizens is all the guard I want."