Junction Playground is named for the historic Junction Avenue trolley line that ran through Queens. In May 1894, the first-ever Brooklyn City trolley car entered Queens County. At the end of the month, the Grand Street line was opened, running between the Maspeth Depot and Broadway. The line was soon extended to Junction Avenue and across to Bowery Bay.
The opening of the line was a ceremonious event, and the first trolley car to travel the line carried a roster of distinguished passengers that included the president of the Brooklyn Heights Rail Road. When the car reached Jackson’s Mill during the opening run, the passengers stopped to tour the old mill whose water wheel and grinding stones were then still intact. They then continued on to enjoy Gala Amusement Park on Bowery Bay, the current site of LaGuardia Airport. The Junction Avenue line was operated as part of the Grand Street line until 1929, when it was established as its own route. The two lines operated separately until 1936, when Junction Avenue was again run as an extension of the Grand Street route.
The Junction Avenue line ran through the neighborhoods of Corona and Frog Town (East Elmhurst), which have inadvertently preserved a rich history of the trolley lines. During the 1920s and 1930s, developers built up streets on both sides of Bowery Bay Road and Flushing Avenue, now Astoria Boulevard. Since the Brooklyn City Railroad did not want to negotiate a new franchise, it kept the line as it was, and residents grew accustomed to trolley traffic in their backyards. In the 1930s, the other parcels of Old Bowery Bay Road were eliminated, so the trolley tracks were the only testament to old street configurations. A decade later, the City paved over much of the line, transforming the stretch into a commercial street. However, one can still find spots of exposed trolley tracks and original bricks where the pavement has worn away, thus affording a glimpse of 1890s Queens.
Corona, Jackson Heights, and East Elmhurst, neighborhoods that border the north shore of Queens, were originally part of the Colonial Dutch settlement of Newtown (1652). The area became densely populated after the Queensboro Bridge opened in 1909. From 1940 through the1960s, the area was a haven for renowned jazz musicians, actors, and entertainers including Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Jimmy Heath, Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Godfrey Cambridge, and Louis Armstrong.
This playground, bounded by Junction Boulevard, 34th Avenue, and 96th Street, was built on the site of former P.S. 115 in Queens. When the new P.S. 149 was opened in 1936, P.S. 115 was abandoned. While the title for the property was still vested to the New York City Board of Education, NYC Parks was able to obtain jurisdiction for use as a playground through a five-year permit in August 1936, and in February 1947, jurisdiction was transferred to NYC Parks.
The park has undergone two significant reconstruction projects. In December 1996, the playground’s steel fences were renovated and in 2001 the parks play equipment and safety surfacing were reconstructed. The playground has two large jungle gyms, one of which is shaped like a “Gold Spike Rail Road” engine. The park’s railroad theme keeps true to its name—it conjures memories of an old trolley junction point, and serves as a meeting junction for neighborhood residents who congregate at the park to enjoy the playground.