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Stars & Stripes Playground

Stars & Stripes Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

John Philip Sousa (1854-1932), also known as the “March King”, enjoyed a lengthy career as a composer, bandmaster, and musician. One of ten children, Sousa was born in Washington, D.C. At the age of six he entered the Esputa Conservatory of Music where he mastered the violin. At the age of thirteen he enlisted as an apprentice in the U.S. Marine Band, of which his father was a member, and then toured with various theater orchestras in his early twenties. Sousa rejoined the U.S. Marine Band in 1880 and, as its director for over twelve years, greatly elevated the band’s popularity and professionalism.

After his military discharge in 1892, Sousa formed his own ensemble, touring North America annually in addition to making four European tours, a world tour, and participating in three American Expositions. Sousa’s reputation was founded on his strong public presence and the humor, patriotism, and military spirit with which he enlivened 110,000 concerts until 1931, the year his orchestra disbanded. Sousa located his headquarters in New York, where he made his home in various hotels as well as the penthouse of Carnegie Hall between 1892 and 1914. His summer engagements at Manhattan Beach and Coney Island inspired musical compositions such as “Manhattan Beach March” (1893), “I’ve Made My Plans for the Summer” (1907), and “New York Hippodrome” (1915).

Sousa’s most famous marches include “Stars and Stripes Forever” (also the name of a 1952 film about Sousa), the “Washington Post March,” and “El Capitan”. In addition to writing over fifty songs, three novels, and an autobiography, Sousa was the inspiration for the Sousaphone, invented in the 1890s. Honors received by Sousa include the Royal Victorian Order of Great Britain, the Golden Palms and Rosette of the French Academy, military rank of Lieutenant Commander, and election to the Bronx Hall of Fame for Great Americans in 1973.

A high school on Baychester Avenue was named for Sousa in 1959, and his famous march provides the name for this playground. Jointly operated by Parks and the Department of Education, the playground was approved in 1955 and opened on January 12, 1961. Located at Baychester Avenue and Crawford Avenue, the playground is situated adjacent to Seton Falls Park.

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Stars & Stripes Playground Weather

  • Sun
    Sunny
    60°F
  • Mon
    Mostly Sunny
    66°F
  • Tue
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    66°F
  • Wed
    Partly Sunny
    58°F

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