Mariners Harbor Playground
Mariner’s Harbor Playground
This playground takes its name from the neighborhood of Mariner’s Harbor, once a home for both active and retired sailors and their families. This neighborhood of quiet streets still has many of the homes built by these seamen, and Van Name, DeHart, and Van Pelt Avenues all bear the names of early area residents. Many of the first homes were built on a stretch of Richmond Terrace then known as “Captains’ Row.’”
Erastus Wiman (1834-1904), a prominent Staten Island businessman, first developed this area as an entertainment center of the late 1880s that centered on a new rail station. He called it Erastina. A Churchville, Ontario, native, Wiman moved to Staten Island in 1864 when he transferred to the New York branch of the Montreal firm, R.G. Dun & Co. Wiman’s desire to make Staten Island as prosperous and accessible as its near neighbors had a significant impact on local development. He was influential in the consolidation of Staten Island’s railway and transit lines, the negotiations for a connection between the new Staten Island Railway and the Baltimore & Ohio, and the creation of a central hub at St. George. Wiman, who also named St. George after his associate George Law, operated casinos and staged shows to increase the popularity of the Erastina area. Among the most popular were Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, which visited in 1886 on its return from Europe, Forepaugh’s Circus, and local baseball games. These shows drew revelers to Staten Island in the thousands. A few years later, as the seafaring population increased in the neighborhood, it began to be called by its present name.
Until the early part of the 20th century, two large, long-term employers dominated the local economy of Richmond Terrace. These were Brewer’s Dry Dock and the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard. During World War II (1914-1918), Bethlehem workers produced a significant percentage of the aircraft used by the U.S. Navy. Between 1942 to 1944, the shipyard provided one-tenth of the Navy destroyer planes, including 75 landing craft. The company fell on hard times in the ten years following the war, finally closing in 1958.
The City acquired this site in August 1912. Fourteen years later, the City transferred the property to Parks. It opened as Mariner’s Harbor Playground on December 10, 1934 with a basketball/volleyball court, a playground, and a spray shower. The site name was changed several times over the years, to Mariner’s Playground in 1996 and to Harbor Playground in 1997, before its original name was recently reinstated.
Today the park, at the intersection of Harbor Road and Richmond Terrace, has swings for toddlers and children donated by the City Parks Foundation, wood and steel benches, a full-size basketball court, hanging bars, and asphalt surfacing. Safety surfacing was installed in the playground in 1997, with the aid of $35,034 in funds from Mayor Giuliani.