John Golden Park
John Golden Park
Known as "Mr. Bayside," John Golden (1874-1955) was recognized as the dean of Broadway producers and a patriarch of New York City show business. Born in New York on June 27, 1874, he spent his early years in Wauseon, Ohio and returned to his native city at the age of fourteen. Despite several odd jobs, a brief stint at New York University Law School, and a thirteen-year career with a chemical manufacturing firm, Goldens primary ambition was to work in the theater.
In 1916 he produced his first Broadway show, Turn to the Right. Following its tremendous success, Golden produced over 150 plays and musicals. These included The First Year, Three Wise Fools, and Lightnin, which established a record (since broken) of 1291 performances on Broadway. Golden also worked as a playwright and composer. Among the many musical numbers he wrote were "Poor Butterfly" and "Goodbye, Girls, Im Through."
Golden was an active statesman for the theatrical profession. During World Wars I and II he organized a free-ticket service for servicemen. Golden was one of the founders of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Playwrights (ASCAP) in 1914 and served on the original Board of Directors of the City Center of Music and Drama. He was an eminent member of the theatrical fraternity known as the Lambs Club and served as "Shepherd" of that group from 1942 to 1944. Appointed the New York City Chairman for United Nations Day in 1954, Golden authored the "United Nations All Faith Prayer For Peace."
He and his wife Margaret moved to Bayside in 1920 and subsequently made their estate available to the community. The well-maintained grounds were often used by neighborhood residents, including golf caddies practicing their swings, little leaguers playing baseball, and Sunday picnickers walking among the gardens. Some Bayside residents remember seeing Golden strolling in his white suit, broad-rimmed hat, and spats, carrying a silver-handled cane.
Upon his death on June 17, 1955, Goldens will bequeathed his Bayside estate to the City of New York as a park "for the use and enjoyment by the young people of the community of all races and creeds in a manner similar to that in which I made this property available for recreation and community acts during my lifetime." The dedication of John Golden Park took place on October 18, 1965. The speakers included Mayor Wagner, Robert Moses, Parks Commissioner Newbold Morris, department store owner Bernard F. Gimbel, President of Actors Equity Association Frederick ONeal, cartoonist Rube Goldberg, comedian Harry Hershfield, and restaurateur Vincent Sardi Jr.
The park was laid out with curving paths that linked up to those in neighboring Crocheron Park. While baseball diamonds were already in place, new construction transformed the former estate into a modern park. Improvements included new tennis courts, picnic areas, and parking lot. Additional trees, shrubs, and ground cover greened the park.
Since 1983 members of the John Golden Park Block Association have planted trees, organized yearly picnics, and helped to beautify the park. They rededicated the park and installed a plaque in memory of Mr. Golden in 1995.
Another plaque, placed at a park ballfield in 1996, honors the memory of Tony DePhillips (1912-1994). DePhillips played basketball for the New York Whirlwinds (predecessors of the Knicks) and baseball for several farm teams of the New York Yankees, as well as for the Cincinnati Reds. From his Bayside sporting goods store, he founded DePhillips Athletic League, the first little league in Queens, in 1949.