Monsignor Kett Playground
Monsignor Kett Playground
What was here before?
Through the 17th century, the Inwood area of Manhattan was inhabited by the Lenape, who relied on both the Hudson and Harlem Rivers as food sources. The area was later colonized by Dutch settlers, including the Dyckman family for whom the adjoining Dyckman Houses are named. Inwood remained rural through the 19th century, until the extension of the IRT Broadway-Seventh Avenue Line (today’s 1 train) in 1906 spurred rapid development.
Inwood also has a rich geological past and is known for the white, crystalline Inwood marble that makes up the area’s bedrock.
How did this site become a playground?
This land was acquired by the City of New York for the building of the Dyckman Houses public housing project in 1948 and transferred to Parks for the construction of a playground to serve the residents of the Dyckman Houses. At its opening in 1949, this park was designated the Dyckman Houses Playground, which was shortened to Dyckman Playground in 1986. It included a variety of play equipment, sports courts, and a square park house with a circular roof.
An extensive rehabilitation of the playground in 1995 added two full-size basketball courts, benches, swing sets, a play sculpture of a seal, and colorful modular play equipment, among other amenities. The park house, which doubles as a comfort station, was also renovated. The playground was completely reconstructed in 2022, a project that included a professional/college basketball court with permanent, high-capacity bleachers, handball courts, play equipment, and a new adult fitness area, as well as a cushioned workout surface. The playground’s comfort station was also replaced.
Who is this playground named for?
In 1997, this playground was named for Monsignor Francis J. Kett (1895-1969), pastor of nearby Saint Jude’s Roman Catholic Church. Born July 31, 1895, Kett attended Cathedral College and St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York.
Kett took a year's leave of absence from seminary to serve in the U.S. military as an infantry lieutenant in World War I. Following his ordination on May 26, 1923, Kett spent a summer at St. Peter’s Parish in Liberty, New York, before he was transferred to St. Andrew’s near City Hall, where he served as a priest for almost 20 years. Kett spent another five years as an administrator at Old St. Mary’s on Grand Street before moving to Inwood in 1949.
On August 21, 1949, Kett held the inaugural mass for his new parish, the Church of St. Jude, at the Loews Dyckman Theatre on Sherman Avenue and 207th Street. Despite economic obstacles, St. Jude’s grew under Kett’s leadership, and he quickly established a rectory over a drugstore on Sherman Avenue. The parishioners continued to worship at the theatre until the opening of the chapel on Tenth Avenue on February 21, 1952.
Within the parish’s first year, Monsignor Kett founded an athletic association and a Catholic Youth Organization. He also raised funds for the construction of St. Jude’s School. Mayor Robert F. Wagner and Auxiliary Bishop of New York Reverend Stephan A. Donahue addressed a crowd of 3,000 at the school’s groundbreaking ceremony on December 9, 1951. The school opened on March 2, 1953 and his Eminence Francis Cardinal Spellman presided at the blessing and dedication on May 17th. Monsignor Kett died on January 9, 1969, leaving behind a thriving parish and a legacy of devoted service.