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Garibaldi Playground

Garibaldi Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.
This playground was named for Italian patriot and leader Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) by a local law passed by the City Council and signed by Mayor Edward I. Koch in 1985. The naming was initiated by the Italian Historical Society of America as a tribute to Garibaldi as well as to the strong Italian heritage that is shared by many Brooklynites, especially residents of Bensonhurst.

Giuseppe Garibaldi was a crusader for the unification of an independent Italy. He was born on July 4, 1807 in Nice, when it was part of the Napoleanic Empire. Garibaldi first fought for Italian independence as a young sailor in 1834 with Giuseppe Mazzini, the Italian nationalist who led the Young Italy Movement. After this uprising was crushed, he fled to South America where he remained in exile from 1836 to 1848. While there he fought against Argentinian dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas in the Uruguayan Civil War from 1842 to 1846.

Following the revolutions of 1848 that swept across Europe, Garibaldi returned to Italy in 1849. He led the defense of the Roman Republic which Mazzini had established in February of that year, but it quickly fell to French forces. Subsequently Garibaldi went to the United States where he lived for four years in exile in Clifton, Staten Island, recovering from arthritis and earning his living by making candles. This site is marked by the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum on Tompkins Avenue.

Garibaldi returned to prominence a decade after he had left his homeland, leading his volunteer army of 1,000 Red Shirts in the spectacular capture of Sicily and Naples (known as the “Kingdom of Two Sicilies”) in 1860. These states joined Sardinia in becoming the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 under King Victor Emmanuel II of Piedmont. Garibaldi’s international reputation was such that President Abraham Lincoln offered him a command in the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861. Garibaldi declined, choosing to remain in Italy in order to participate in further military campaigns.

This property, located in Bensonhurst on 18th Avenue between 82nd and 83rd Streets, was acquired by Parks in 1937. The granite monument was installed here on October 3, 1990 by the Italian Historical Society of America in honor of Garibaldi. Another monument to the “George Washington of Italy” was sculpted by Giovanni Turini and erected in Washington Square Park in 1888.

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