This park, located in the Clinton Hill Historic District, was the site of the mansion of typewriter manufacturer John Thomas Underwood (1857-1937). In the late 19th and early 20th century, “The Hill” attracted many wealthy industrialists and merchants. The stately homes built by the Pratts, the Pfizers, and the Bedfords during this period included 336 Washington Avenue, Underwood’s red brick and brownstone house, with a glass-enclosed greenhouse.
Underwood emigrated from London, England to America as a teenager in 1873. He joined his father in business in John Underwood & Company. Beginning in that year, they pioneered the manufacture of typewriter supplies, carbon paper, and other accessories to support the early typewriters which were first manufactured commercially by E. Remington & Sons. Underwood and his brother Frederick moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn a decade later. In 1895 he bought the patent to Franz X. Wagner’s invention of the “front-stroke” machine which, unlike previous models, enabled the typist to see what was being typed. The new Underwood typewriter revolutionized the industry. By 1915, the Underwood factory in Hartford, Connecticut, was the largest of its kind in the world. A state-of-the-art Underwood typewriter was featured in the 1939 New York World’s Fair to represent the “World of Tomorrow.”
Underwood’s widow and daughter, Mrs. Grace Underwood Barton and Mrs. Gladys Underwood James, donated this property to Parks in four parcels between 1951 and 1953, at which time the mansion and greenhouse were demolished to make room for the neighborhood park. The park was named for its donors under a local law signed by Mayor Robert F. Wagner. It was opened to the public on May 30, 1956.
Originally separated into sections to accommodate different age groups and activities, this park was completely renovated in 1997 under a $900,000 capital project. The park was improved with the addition of two new playground areas, benches, a sprinkler system and fountain, chess and checkers tables, paving, landscaping and decorative elements that are consistent with the character of the historic district.