The neighborhood of Bath Beach is named for the town of Bath, England, home to an impressive complex of Roman baths. The Romans founded the town in the 1st century A.D., and named it Aquae Sulfis – “Hot Springs” – because they found hot springs naturally occurring there. The Romans ascribed medicinal effects to the springs and built baths around them; the complex – with a cooling system and lead-lined pools – was discovered, largely intact, in 1755.
Bath Beach itself was once a fashionable resort. The 1862 construction of the Brooklyn, Bath, and Coney Island Line railroad connected the region with Manhattan, prompting its transformation from a farming community into a weekend outpost for New York high society. Throughout the Gilded Age, the shoreline of Bath Beach boasted yacht clubs, villas, and the famous Captain’s Pier Restaurant at the base of 19th Avenue. Also in Bath Beach was the Bath House resort, opened by Doctors Barley, Rogers, Tillery, and Bard in the late 18th century near Gravesend Bay that was a popular destination for convalescents. In the 1880s, real estate magnate James Lynch bought 350 acres of farmland from the Benson family and incorporated it into his planned suburb of Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea. Present-day Bath Beach encompasses the southern half of this village; the area north of 86th Street lies within the present-day neighborhood of Bensonhurst.
In 1961, the Board of Education (BOE) allocated funds to acquire a site for the future J.H.S. 281 to replace the outdated J.H.S. 128, located at 21st Avenue between 83rd and 84th Streets. In July 1963, BOE (now the Department of Education) received approval from its Site Selection Board and Mayor Robert F. Wagner (1910-1991) to purchase Block 6891, bounded by 24th Avenue, Bath Avenue, Bay 37th Street, and Cropsey Avenue, for approximately $37,600. The Mayor approved the project that month, and the Site Selection Board gave its approval on July 15, 1963. That same day, the property was acquired by condemnation, and Parks agreed to develop a jointly-operated playground on the site that would serve J.H.S. 281 (now I.S. 281) and the surrounding community. The project commenced in 1968, with a total budget of $207,350, and opened on September 30, 1970, on Bath Avenue between 24th Avenue and Bay 37th Street.
The playground was reconstructed in 1999 with funding provided by the City Council. Improvements included new play equipment with safety surfacing, a sparrow animal-theme spray shower, water fountains, a compass, and decorative asphalt pavers. The playground also features baseball diamonds, basketball and handball courts, and gingko and London plane trees.