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Bronx Park

French Charley’s Playground

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

This playground honors the memory of Charley Mangin who owned a nearby French restaurant in the 1890s. His establishment, in the heart of a small French enclave of the Bronx, was popularly referred to as French Charley’s. After the restaurant closed down, a ball field and picnic area were built near the site and people began to refer to the site as French Charley’s Field.

French Charley Playground lies within Bronx Park, which like the surrounding borough and the river that runs through it, honors the 17th century Swedish sea captain who settled the area, Jonas Bronck (1600-1643). After Bronck, this property passed through several different families before the city acquired 640 acres of it between December 1888 and January 1889. Inspiration for Bronx Park came about in the 1880s during a widespread movement to create public parks throughout the city. By 1890, the city had acquired the properties that became Van Cortlandt, Pelham Bay, Bronx, Crotona, and Claremont Parks.

In June 1941, Parks developed this playground and nearby fields, with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) providing labor for the new construction. The WPA was a massive program initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a component of the New Deal. The WPA successfully instituted and administered countless public works aiming to pull America out of the depression. Within a year of its creation, the WPA provided paychecks to 3.6 million previously unemployed people. New York City received more of this funding than any other city in the country.

In 2000 Parks renovated the site, adding new play equipment, safety surfacing, swings, and a new double gate.The project included the installation of a mushroom-shaped spray shower and a frog sculpture, providing artistic features that hint to the site’s natural history.

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