Inspired by a steel sculpture of a giant called “Phoenix Man” which once stood nearby, the park’s designer, Jim Mituzas, created a play area that evokes the fairytale “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
In this story, Jack is a lazy boy who lives with his poor mother. One day, Jack’s mother asks him to go to the market and sell their cow because they have no money for food. A butcher stops Jack on his way to the market and persuades the boy to sell him the cow for a handful of magic beans. When Jack returns home his mother is very disappointed, and throws the beans into the garden. Overnight, a huge beanstalk grows up out of the garden into the clouds. Jack climbs the beanstalk and discovers at the top a castle where a giant lives. The giant is a wicked creature who keeps people locked in a dungeon until he feels like eating them. He also owns a hen that lays golden eggs and a magic harp that plays itself. The giant captures Jack and plans to eat him, but Jack escapes while the giant is sleeping. He steals the hen, the harp, and some of giant’s gold, and escapes down the beanstalk. The giant chases Jack, but the boy chops down the beanstalk, the giant tumbles to his death, and Jack becomes a hero.
This playground, bounded by Billingsley Terrace, Phelan Place, and Segwick Avenue, was first known as Billingsley Terrace Playground, for the road that wraps around it, named for Logan Billingsley. Billingsley was a prominent real estate developer in the 1920s and 1930s, and an authority on American Indian affairs. He was president of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce from 1928 to 1932. He also served on Mayor James J. Walker’s Planning Committee for the City of New York, and was chairman of a mayoral committee that competed for the selection of New York City as the site of the World’s Fair (it lost to Chicago). In 1951, Billingsley established the American Indian Hall of Fame at Anadarko and served as its executive director. He belonged to the Oklahoma Historical Society, and was also a member of the Association of American Indian Affairs and the New York Historical Association. As a developer, Billingsley built many apartment houses in the Bronx, including the Theodore Roosevelt Apartments on the Grand Concourse. In 1927, he spearheaded a plan to lengthen the Grand Concourse from East 161th Street to East 138th Street.
The Department of Citywide Administrative Services assigned this property to Parks on July 15, 1997. In 2000, the park was renamed Beanstalk Playground to coincide with a $680,000 renovation, funded by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Council Member Adolfo Carrion, Jr., and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer. The renovation added new game tables, play equipment with safety surfacing, fencing, benches, trees, shrubs, and, most important, the beanstalk theme. The design simulates the experience of climbing up Jack’s beanstalk. The stalk grows out of a bean-shaped spray shower, winds along the ground and up the ramp through the play equipment to a tower. A golden hen and a magic harp also adorn the playground. Huge footprints show the path of the giant.