In the late 19th century, many of Staten Island’s beaches became fashionable and popular resort areas. There, visitors found relief from the crowding and close development of Manhattan and Brooklyn. During the day, vacationers enjoyed the beaches, while at night they frequented the grand hotels, casinos, and music halls.
Midland Beach’s resort area opened on August 29, 1896. The Midland Terminal Company, which developed the resort, was a subsidiary of a trolley organization, and the growth of the recreation facilities was thus inextricably tied to the growth of trolley service in the area. Over the next few decades, Midland Beach’s popularity grew and the area continued to expand. By 1917, however, worsening economic conditions and disastrous fires took their toll on the resorts and the area began to decline. Subsequent efforts to revive the beach as a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project during the Great Depression (1929-1940) were frustrated by further fires and newly troublesome water pollution. Midland’s carousel, built by the renowned factory of Charles I. D. Looff (1852-1918), came through every fire miraculously unscathed, and continued in operation until the mid-20th century.
The Midland Beach Promenade opened in 1958 as an extension of the nearby WPA project, Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk. When the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened in 1964, the resort section of this now largely residential area once more came alive. Suddenly, the summer bungalow community became a convenient commuting suburb filled with year-round residents. Today, the area boardwalk offers a beautiful view of the Verrazano Bridge, Gravesend Bay, and Coney Island. On a clear day, one can see as far as the Marine Parkway Bridge and the Rockaways (five miles south to the right of Coney Island).
Midland Field, bounded by Mason, Boundary, Midland, and Bedford Avenues, was acquired in two pieces. The Board of Estimate (a now defunct municipal body) assigned the first parcel, which is actually a part of the school site for I.S. 2, the Egbert School, to the Board of Education in 1959. The site is operated jointly by Parks and the Board of Education. The site’s border was extended when the adjoining lots became parkland in 1962. Originally known as J.H.S. 2 Playground, the site was renamed by the Parks in 1985.
In 1993, a $400,000 fund from Councilman John Fusco went toward the renovation of Midland Field and Midland Playground across the street. The completed work included new sprinklers, asphalt, fencing, sub-surface drainage systems, and benches, as well as baseball backstops and new play equipment with safety surfacing. In 1996, a chain link fence and guide rails were installed with $41,600 from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and two years later, an additional $80,362 from the mayor funded the installation of a steel fence. Midland Field offers athletic instruction through the Coaches on Wheels program. Soccer classes as well as both football and baseball competitions are held on the field throughout the year.
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