Jacob H. Schiff Playground
Jacob H. Schiff Playground
This parkland honors philanthropist and financier Jacob H. Schiff (1847-1920). Born into a middle-class Jewish family in Frankfurt, Germany, Schiff immigrated to the United States in 1865. Soon after his arrival in New York City, he found success as a Wall Street investment banker. In 1875, Schiff joined the banking firm of Kuhn, Loeb and Company. As a partner in the firm, and later as its senior partner, Schiff helped Kuhn, Loeb and Company become one of the most prominent investment companies in the world.
Conscious of the plight of many other Jewish immigrants, Schiff became involved in numerous charitable causes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1884, he helped found the Jewish Montefiore Home. The hospital treated the chronically ill among the city’s poor. With Schiff as its second president and primary benefactor, Jewish Montefiore Home rapidly expanded. Throughout the 1890s, Schiff also financed the work of public health advocates Lillian Wald and Mary Brewster.
In addition to his charitable work for the poor and sick in New York, Schiff contributed to many educational institutions, including Columbia University, Harvard University, Cornell University, and Barnard College. Schiff also helped found the Jewish Theological Seminary, and provided the funds for the establishment of the department of Semitic Literature at the New York Public Library. Five years after Schiff’s death, Harvard recognized his unstinting support of education by creating the first Jewish Studies department in the United States in his honor.
This parkland, which is shared by Public School 192, also known as Jacob H. Schiff School, was once home to the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. By World War II, the orphan asylum closed and was transformed into army barracks. Shortly after the war, City College acquired the building for use as a classroom and dormitory, naming it “Army Hall”. The building eventually closed in 1952 and was demolished when NYC Parks and the Board of Education (now the Department of Education) jointly acquired the land in 1956.
In 1987 this park was renovated and renamed to match the adjacent school. The park underwent reconstruction in 2000, and in 2004 NYC Parks completed a renovation that included the installation of a synthetic turf sports field, new bleachers, a drinking fountain, and new fencing. In 2005, the CITYarts organization celebrated its 37th year with the Pieces for Peace mosaic facing the playing field. The work stretches 213 feet across and incorporates artworks submitted by youth from around the world.