Van Cortlandt Park

Classic Playground

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

Playgrounds and play equipment have always been designed with the goal of developing child creativity and improvisation. Classic Playground is named for the collection of traditional play equipment, seesaws, swings, and slides, in the playground.

In 1891 Charles Stover (1861-1929) created the New York Society for Parks and Playgrounds with the hope that the city would build more playgrounds with play equipment for children. Mayor Seth Low (1850-1916), NYC’s first mayor after the 1898 consolidation of the five boroughs, appointed Stover commissioner of Manhattan Parks. Stover worked with Lillian D. Wald (1867-1940), head of the Henry Street Settlement in the Lower East Side, to establish the Outdoor Recreation League. The league constructed nine playgrounds with swings, slides, and seesaws. Parks began recreation programs in 1902 to promote athletic activity and community involvement in the parks and playgrounds. In October 1903, Seward Park was dedicated as the first municipal park with play equipment. The play equipment served as a model for playgrounds across the city.

The playgrounds of New York City saw great change during the tenure of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981). Through Federal projects like the Civil Works Administration and the Works Progress Administration Moses funded the renovation of playgrounds making sandboxes, wading pools, swings, seesaws, and benches the norm. As Commissioner from 1934 to 1960, Moses increased the number of playgrounds in New York City from 119 to 777. In 1967, during the term of Mayor John V. Lindsay (1917-2000) and Parks Commissioner August Heckscher (1914-1997), “adventure” play equipment was first introduced in Central Park. Designed after European models, adventure playgrounds included catwalks, cargo nets, and free form climbing apparatus to encourage creative play.

Classic Playground is located in Van Cortlandt Park between Gouverneur Avenue and Orloff Avenue, along Van Cortlandt Park South. The playground features handball courts, basketball courts, a comfort station, a flagpole with a yardarm, benches, slides, seesaws, swings for tots and kids, and play equipment with safety surfacing. Council Member June M. Eisland provided $875,000 in funding for a reconstruction to be completed in 2002. The renovation brings new play equipment to the playground while preserving the traditional environment of Classic Playground.

Directions to Van Cortlandt Park

Know Before You Go

There are currently 2 service interruptions affecting access within this park.

Barbecuing AreasVan Cortlandt Park

Due to construction at Broadway and West 242nd Street, the entrance near the subway is closed. Please access the park at the stairway adjacent to the public comfort station (Broadway & Manhattan College Parkway). There is an accessible entrance at the end of the block. The barbecuing area at Van Cortlandt Park has temporarily been moved behind the Nature Center. For more information on the progress of this construction project, please visit our Capital Project Tracker page.
Anticipated Completion: Summer 2020

Hiking TrailsPutnam Trail

The Putnam Greenway Trail is currently closed for construction. For north-south access, runners and pedestrians can use the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail (enter at Mosholu Parkway & Van Cortlandt Park South), and bicyclists and pedestrians can use Broadway. For more information on the progress of this construction project, please visit our Capital Project Tracker page.

Anticipated Completion: Summer 2020

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