Saratoga Square Park
Saratoga Square Park, the second largest park in historic Bedford-Stuyvesant, takes its name from Saratoga Avenue just to the east, which was itself named in 1835 for the Revolutionary War Battles of Saratoga, New York on September 19 and October 7, 1777. On September 19, 1777, the British army, thanks to crucial help from German mercenary reinforcements and American ammunition shortages, narrowly defeated the American army at Freeman Farm, near the American camp. British General Burgoyne’s victory was short-lived, however, for reinforcements on the American side, a weakening British army, and diminishing British supplies combined to set the stage for American victory.
On October 7, 1777, General Benedict Arnold led the American army against German troops holding the British center and succeeded in driving the British into a northward retreat. Following a miserable march, Burgoyne’s troops sought refuge on the heights of Saratoga, where a swelling American army surrounded them. Burgoyne surrendered on October 17, 1777, following one of the most decisive victories in this nation’s history, one that convinced the French that an American alliance would be worthwhile. The resulting treaty paved the way for the eventual American triumph. Wounded in the leg at Saratoga, Arnold recovered; if he had not survived, and consequently not gone on to betray his country, some say his name would be numbered among America’s heroes, instead of becoming synonymous with the mark of a traitor.
The word Saratoga itself may be Iroquois or Mohawk in origin, perhaps meaning “springs from hillside.” Other possible meanings include “place of miraculous water in rock” and “beaver place.” Whatever its origins, Saratoga is a popular name used for parks and towns in New York State and throughout the country.
Prior to its acquisition as a park, this site, bounded by Saratoga and Howard Avenues and Halsey and Macon Streets, was the property of James C. Brower and his wife. It played host to visiting circuses until the City of Brooklyn purchased it in 1896 for $121,975. The park was soon graded and planted, and workers laid new paths and enclosed the area with an iron picket fence. A brick and wood frame shelter was erected in the park in 1903.
Standing in the center of the park is a bronze and pink granite memorial to the people of the neighborhood who gave their lives in World War I. The sculptor, J.S. Novelli, designed the bronze figure representing Columbia, a traditional American symbol of liberty whose origins date to the Revolutionary War. Columbia holds a frond of victory in her right hand and rests her left hand on a shield. When the monument was dedicated in 1921, it had two plaques bearing the names of fifty-three fallen soldiers from the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the plaques were stolen in 1974, but the shield still remains, reading, “E Pluribus Unum. In memory of the Heroic Dead by Residents of Districts 31-32 of City of New York. MCMXXI .”
The playground in Saratoga Square was built in 1936, and has since been renovated twice. A recent $205,000 renovation, funded by Mayor Giuliani, was completed in the summer of 2000 and provided brand-new play equipment, spray shower, saftey surfacing, swings, fences, pavement and landscaping for the playground.