Markham Playground

Markham Playground

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

This playground is named after political poet and Staten Island resident, Edwin Markham (1852-1940).

Born Charles Edward Anson Markham on April 22nd, 1852 in Oregon City, Oregon, Markham moved to California at the age of five with his mother after his father’s death. There he attended school and worked as a farm laborer until he began studying at California College in 1868. In 1872, Markham became a teacher in the San Francisco school system, then a principal. He would later become the headmaster of the Tompkins Observation School of the University of California, a position he held for about ten years. It was as a teacher, Markham later said, that he developed a social conscience.

Over the course of his life, Markham would write and speak out against child labor, advocate on behalf of impoverished Jews in Eastern Europe, and press for the creation of the state of Israel.  In 1899, Markham received notoriety when the San Francisco Examiner published “The Man with the Hoe,” a poem inspired by Jean-François Millet’s (1814-1875) painting, L'homme à la houe (1863).  The painting depicts a farmer working the earth with a hoe in hand. Some criticized the poem as a radical work of socialism, but more praised it for its humanity.  Shortly after the publishing of his poem, Markham relocated to New York City with his third wife and fellow writer, Anna Catherine Murphy.

The couple settled on Staten Island in 1909 at 92 Waters Avenue in Westerleigh, which was then known as Prohibition Park for its distinction as the headquarters of the National Prohibition Party.  True to the ideals of his chosen community, Markham himself did not drink, and also refused electricity and telephones in his home. Instead, he chose to furnish the rooms with a great number of books, which attracted many literary giants of the day such as Upton Sinclair (1878-1968), John Burroughs (1837-1921), and Kahlil Gibran (1833-1931). They would meet in salon-style gatherings on the first Sunday of every month.

Markham died of pneumonia on March 8th, 1940 and left 15,000 books and 10,000 letters to the library of Wagner College. A recipient of international awards and the author of several books, Edwin Markham urged readers to “come let us live the poetry that we sing.” 

In 1947, the City of New York acquired the land for Markham Playground, bounded by Willow Road East, Houston Street, Forest Avenue, and the Martin Luther King Expressway. Markham Intermediate School was built in 1959 and the playground opened in 1962 as J.H.S. 51 Playground. In 1985, NYC Parks Commissioner Henry Stern (1935-2019) renamed it Markham Playground. The playground is jointly operated by NYC Parks and the Department of Education.

 

 

After a renovation in 2020, Markham Playground’s facilities include new synthetic turf field with a painted running track surrounded by new basketball courts and an area for an outdoor classroom. The playground is enjoyed by students at the Edwin Markham School and members of the surrounding neighborhood. 

Park Information

Directions to Markham Playground

  • Markham Playground

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