John E. White Park

White Playground

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

This playground honors Staten Island World War I veteran John Edward White (1893-1918).

Born in Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island, White served as a trainman for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in St. George, Staten Island. Never marrying, White enlisted in the United States Army to fight in World War I (1914-1918), and became a member of the Allied Expeditionary Force. He gave his life assisting in the defeat of Germany.

White Playground is located in the Staten Island neighborhood of Fort Wadsworth, which takes its name from the nearby military installation overlooking the Narrows. At 300 years of age, Fort Wadsworth is the oldest continually manned United States military reservation, and, along with Fort Hamilton on the opposite side, monitors movement in the New York Harbor.

As early as 1663, the British controlled a fortification there, and it is from Fort Wadsworth that General Howe launched his attack on the colonists of Brooklyn. British troops maintained control of the fort until the end of the American Revolution, and when they were finally forced to evacuate in 1783, on looking American rebels gloated and jeered at the retreating troops. A commander of a Royal Navy warship became so incensed by this treatment that he fired a shot at the fort, a shot that most likely was the last of the revolution.

During the War of 1812, New York State built a new structure on the site. This was later replaced by the current fortification in 1847. The fort was named Fort Wadsworth in 1865 to honor Brigadier General James S. Wadsworth (1807-1864), a Union Army general who had been killed in the Battle of the Wilderness during the Civil War (1861-1865).

The primary fortification within Fort Wadsworth is Fort Tompkins. The light tower of Fort Tompkins was built in 1903, and is now a historic part of the Gateway National Park. The light guided ships traveling through New York Harbor until the mid-1960s, when the Verrazano Narrows Bridge was completed.

In October 1934, New York State transferred this property and several others to the City for $7.00, to be used for park and playground purposes. The City then conveyed the property to the Staten Island Parks Department in April 1935. The title was officially vested in New York City in June 1938. In accordance with Local Law #23, the park was named “John E. White Playground” in 1940.

White Playground features a play area, complete with several play units, kid and tot swings, and safety surfacing. Also in the park are several drinking fountains, a sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua), and a London Plane tree (Platanus x acerifolia). Sloping stairs lead up from High Street into a circular concrete area in which a flagpole with a yardarm is located. Stairs on either side of this circle lead down toward Lyman Street. The park, enclosed with a chainlink fence, may be entered via Lyman and High Streets.

Park Information

Directions to John E. White Park

  • White Playground

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