Maple Grove Park

Hoover Playground

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

Herbert Clark Hoover (1874-1964), the 31st president of the United States, was born in West Branch, Iowa and grew up in a Quaker (the Society of Friends) household. His parents died when he was quite young, and he and two siblings were raised by relatives in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Hoover studied mathematics at a business school in the nearby town of Salem, and continued his studies after meeting a mathematics professor who helped him gain admittance to the new Leland Stanford Junior University, in Palo Alto, California. Hoover entered Stanford in 1891, part of its first class, and graduated four years later with a bachelor’s degree in mining engineering. He married his college sweetheart in 1899, and the couple had two sons.

Hoover worked for a top engineer in San Francisco for a couple years after his college graduation. He soon joined forces with a London mining company that sent Hoover abroad in order to introduce American mining methods to Australian gold mines. The company eventually transferred Hoover to China, and he continued to work his way up in the mining business. By 1914 he was the chief consulting engineer or managing director in a number of mining companies. Hoover still wanted more, however; he sought a life in public service.

Hoover pursued this goal when World War I broke out in 1914. He soon took the title of Belgian Relief Commissioner, supervising the distribution of food and supplies to refugees in Belgium and France. When the United States entered the war in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) appointed Hoover to a post as U.S. Food Administrator. He was responsible for the widespread conservation measures taken by Americans during the war. Because of his administration over the Grain Corporation, the Food Purchase Board, and the Sugar Equalization Board, citizens started to “hooverize” their agricultural products, conserving them for the war effort.

After the war, Hoover headed the Department of Commerce under President Warren G. Harding (1865-1923). During his seven-year tenure as secretary of Commerce, Hoover strengthened government regulation of mining, patent codes, radio broadcasting, and commercial aviation. He resigned from the post in 1928 to accept the Republican Party nomination for president. Hoover ran against Democratic nominee Alfred E. Smith (1873-1944), the governor of New York State and a Tammany Hall politician. Since Hoover was well-known throughout the country for his relief work and his success in the Department of Commerce, he won the election in a landslide, taking all 444 electoral votes and over 21 million popular votes.

During the infancy of the Hoover presidency, the country enjoyed the Roaring Twenties’ last six months of economic prosperity. Hoover implemented agricultural reforms, including the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929 and the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act of 1930. However, when the New York Stock Exchange crashed on October 29, 1929 in a day of panic selling, the tides turned towards economic crisis. The Great Depression had begun.

Hoover was unable to reverse the damage done by the market crash, nor could he restore the public’s confidence in the nation’s economy. Democrats used the Great Depression as ammunition against Hoover and embarked upon a campaign to paint the president as callous to the hardships of Americans. In 1932, Hoover ran for reelection against the Democratic New York governor Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), and lost in a sweeping defeat. Despite Hoover’s advances in foreign affairs, including the improvement of U.S. relations with several Latin American countries, he was unable to stand up against the Democratic campaign, which blamed him for the Depression.

After Hoover left the White House, he returned to his home in Palo Alto, California. He expanded his presidential library, the Hoover Library on War, Revolution, and Peace, and donated the 200,000 volumes to Stanford University. Hoover remained involved in domestic and foreign affairs, organizing relief funds and taking a public stance against Roosevelt’s policy concerning World War II. In 1947, President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) appointed Hoover to the post of chairman of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government. Hoover led this commission, known as the Hoover Commission, under both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations.

Throughout his career, Hoover published several books on topics ranging from mining to public policy, including his three-volume Memoirs. He retired from public service in 1955 at age 81. In 1964, he died in New York City, at age 90.

The City acquired this property in January 1946 in conjunction with the construction of the Van Wyck Expressway. In March of that year, this area was made into parkland. The playground, bounded by Manton and Main Streets in Briarwood, was dedicated on June 22, 1995. The playground underwent renovations in November 1994 following a $570,000 allocation by Council Member Morton Povman. New features installed during the reconstruction included play equipment, safety surfacing, spray showers, wood and steel benches, and drinking fountains. Site work and path renovations were also conducted.

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