Martin Luther Playground

Martin Luther Playground

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

Martin Luther (1483-1546), German theologian and reformer, was an important figure in the initial development of Protestantism. After entering the Catholic priesthood in 1507, Luther pursued theological studies at the University of Wittenberg, where he later became a professor. He also served as a preacher at a parish church and as a district vicar of the Augustinian order.

Luther came to reject the customs of the established church and instead ascribed moral authority solely to the scriptures, avowing "justification by faith alone." He strongly objected to the church’s sale of indulgences as a means of repentance, a practice associated with corruption, and voiced this challenge in the Ninety-Five Theses, which he posted on the door of the Wittenberg castle church on October 31, 1517.

Luther refused to recant his statements to appease the church and publicly burned the papal bull that condemned his writings as heretical and contradictory to Christianity. Consequently, in the year 1521, he was excommunicated by Pope Leo X and the Diet of Worms called for the suppression of his teachings. Despite this censure, Luther’s critique of papal abuses of power and affirmation of a "priesthood of all believers" won him much popular support and spawned a movement which quickly spread throughout northern Europe. Lutheranism emerged as a distinct sect as a result of Luther’s conflicts with other reformers, and was officially defined by the Augsburg Confession of 1530. Luther’s other legacy was his translation of the bible from Greek to German, which he completed in 1534.

This playground was named for Martin Luther in 1987. It is across Second Avenue from the Lutheran Medical Center, which was founded in Sunset Park in 1883. The voluntary, non-profit hospital was at one time called the Norwegian Lutheran Deaconesses’ Home and Hospital after its founder, Sister Elizabeth Fedde. It has occupied its present site on 55th Street since 1977.

Martin Luther Playground was originally acquired by the city in 1907. The property was expanded in 1940 and was opened to the public on June 5, 1942. Improvements to the playground in 1996 included the addition of benches, drinking fountains, animal art sculpture and play equipment.

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