Queensbridge Park

Vernon Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.
Admiral Edward Vernon (1684-1757) was a storied naval commander whose name graces many streets and locations in this country. Vernon joined the English Navy in 1700, and rose steadily in rank. He was appointed a member of Parliament in 1722, and staunchly opposed the government of Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745), the head of the Whig party who is regarded as Great Britain's first prime minister. Meanwhile, tensions were building between England and Spain, whose commercial rivalry was becoming more than either power could bear. Vernon encouraged a confrontation with Spain, and in 1739, Walpole gave way under pressure from the House of Commons and finally declared war on Spain. Vernon's 1739 capture of Portobello, a town in central Panama on the coast of the Caribbean Sea, won him great popularity. In 1741, he led a joint expedition with the incompetent General Wentworth against the Cartegena and Santiago de Cuba. The expedition failed, and Vernon was recalled. The war ended later that year. Vernon died in 1757.

Admiral Vernon is remembered by the British as "Old Grog", an affectionate nickname he earned from the grogram cloak he wore in foul weather. Eventually, the name was given to the drink that he had served to his sailors to curb their drunkenness-rum diluted with water.

George Washington's (1732-1799) half-brother Lawrence is responsible for bringing Vernon's name to America. Lawrence had served under the Admiral in a campaign against the West Indies, and in 1743, built a mansion and town in Fairfax County, Virginia. He called them both Mount Vernon.

In 1842, a turnpike connecting Queens to Brooklyn was built and named Vernon Avenue. The Vernon Avenue Bridge stretched over Newtown Creek, a tributary of the East River that runs inland for three miles and serves as the boundary between Brooklyn and Queens. The bridge connected Long Island City, Queens and Greenpoint, Brooklyn. On October 30, 1965, the City of New York had the Abbey-Smith Wrecking Company remove the bridge because it was no longer needed. Today, the G subway line runs directly under the route of the former bridge. Vernon Avenue has since become Vernon Boulevard, and runs solely along the East River in western Queens, stretching from Long Island City to Astoria.

Vernon Playground resides at the northeast corner of Queensbridge Park, and was known simply as the Queensbridge Park Playground, until Commissioner Stern renamed it after nearby Vernon Boulevard in the late 1990s. Queensbridge Park is so named because it lies under the Queensboro Bridge, which was designed by renowned bridge engineer Gustav Lindenthal in collaboration with Leffert L. Buck and Henry Hornbostel, the men who co-designed the Williamsburg Bridge. In March 1908, the project was completed at the cost of $20 million and fifty lives and one year later opened to traffic. Today, approximately 155,000 vehicles cross over the Queensboro Bridge daily.

The City of New York acquired this land in 1939. The nearby Queensbridge Housing projects entitled the New York City Housing Authority to jurisdiction over the land, however it was understood that Parks would maintain it. Queensbridge Park contains a variety of facilities, including the colorful play equipment, swings, benches and water fountain that characterize Vernon Playground. In 1996, Council Member Walter L. McCaffrey funded the $379,590 total reconstruction of this playground, removing old play apparatuses and installing new equipment.

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