Arrochar Playground

Arrochar Playground

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

This playground, bounded by MacFarland Avenue, Major Avenue, and Sand Lane, takes its name from the surrounding neighborhood of Arrochar in eastern Staten Island. Starting in the 1830s, New Yorkers retreating from overcrowding and disease that took hold of lower Manhattan in the 19th century arrived in Arrochar. The name "Arrochar" appears to derive from a Staten Island resident and esteemed Wall Street lawyer, William Wallace MacFarland, who settled here circa 1871, and named his new home in memory of the hilly landscape of northwestern Scotland of his forebears. He sold off some 130 acres in 1890, but continued to live there until the time of his death in 1905.

Some of the land from the MacFarland estate became the footprint for this playground. Other portions are now part of Saint Joseph’s Academy (including the original homestead used by the MacFarland family), and the former Arrochar Train Station, which provided train transport along the eastern and southern shores of Staten Island until 1953.

Staten Island experienced growth after the War of 1812 when the city’s economy started to strengthen after the war. The southern shore experienced an influx of new residents, some of whom were wealthy and built large homes, farms, and estates – notably the designer of Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, who settled as a farmer in Staten Island in 1849. Henry Hobson Richardson, celebrated 19th-century American architect, moved to Staten Island at the suggestion of Olmsted and built a house in Arrochar in 1868. The house, landmarked in 2004, still stands nearby at 45 McClean Avenue. Near the beaches of Staten Island’s south shore, Arrochar became a seaside resort in the post-Civil War period. By 1914, the local Chamber of Commerce described Arrochar as "the Riviera of the (New York) harbor".

In 1920, an elementary school, Public School 39, was built here. In 1945, during the tenure of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, NYC Parks built a playground adjacent to the school, which served as a "Jointly-Operated Playground", owned by the Department of Education and maintained by NYC Parks.

This site is part of Parks' Community Parks Initiative—a multi-faceted program to invest in under-resourced public parks and increase the accessibility and quality of parks throughout the five boroughs. Opened in 2018, the project transformed the previous large asphalt field into an expansive multi-purpose play area that provides color and variety, and will better serve both the adjacent school and the neighborhood’s active recreation needs. The play equipment has been updated and an elaborate new spray shower feature was added.

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