Ravenswood Playground

Ravenswood Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.
This playground’s name has a complicated history. In 1831, Reverend Francis Lister Hawks (1798-1866) moved from South Carolina to New York and began work at St. Stephen’s Church in Manhattan. He moved to Flushing, Queens in 1832 to work at St. Thomas Church, and stayed there for the next 12 years. In 1833, one Colonel George Gibbs, a businessman from New York City, died. Gibbs had acquired the land that is now Ravenswood in 1814, and upon his death it was divided by three developers into nine estates. Reverend Hawks stumbled on the area in the 1830s, and named it Ravenscroft after his friend and fellow clergyman, John Stark Ravenscroft (1772-1830). Years went by, and the settlement deteriorated significantly. Hawks reconsidered having his friend’s name attached to such a location, and renamed it Ravenswood, a linguistic sleight-of-hand; Ravenswood and Ravenscroft bear the same meaning, as “croft” means “wood” in Middle English.

Ravenscroft himself was born on his parents’ plantation near Blandford, in Prince George County, Virginia on May 17, 1772. When he was a baby, his family moved to Scotland, where Ravenscroft received his early education. When he was six year old, his father died and he and his mother and siblings moved back to Virginia. At William and Mary College, Ravenscroft earned the nickname “Mad Jack” for his “vehemence of temper, speech and manner.” In 1792, he married Anne Spottswood Burwell. He became interested in religion, and it gradually became a larger part of his life. In May 1817, he was ordained a priest, and he served as rector of St. James’s Chuch in Boydton, Virginia for the next six years. His wife died in 1818, and four years later, he remarried to Sarah Buford. They adopted several orphans and raised them together.

Ravenscroft was about to become the assistant to Bishop Richard Channing Moore at Monumental Memorial Church in Richmond, Virginia, when the newly formed Diocese of North Carolina chose him as its first bishop. He was consecrated during the session of the General Convention in St. Paul’s Church, Philadelphia on May 22, 1823. In addition to serving as bishop, he also became rector of the Christ Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. At the time of his death on March 5, 1830, the number of congregations in North Carolina had more than doubled under his auspices. John Stark Ravenscroft is remembered and honored as the first bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in North Carolina.

The City of New York acquired this land on January 11, 1949 on behalf of the New York City Housing Authority for the Ravenswood Houses project, bounded by 34th and 36th Avenues, 12th and 24th Streets. The Housing Authority drew up plans to construct a community playground on the land, and finally surrendered the property to Parks on February 2, 1952. Just months later, Ravenswood Houses Playground opened, equipped with basketball, handball and shuffleboard courts, an ice-skating area, a softball field, swings, jungle gyms, and a sand pit. On June 18, 1987, Parks shortened the its name to simply Ravenswood Playground. The playground adjoins the Ravenswood Houses and the Queensview Houses, two of the city’s largest housing projects, and was renovated in 2000 thanks to a $500,000 appropriation from Councilman Walter L. McCaffrey

Park Information

Directions to Ravenswood Playground

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