Sol Bloom Playground
Sol Bloom Playground
Sol Bloom (1870-1949) was a self-made man who rose from poverty to success in business and a distinguished career in public service. The son of Polish-Jewish immigrants had no formal schooling but learned Hebrew from his mother and educated himself. Bloom first went to work in San Francisco at the age of seven and made his way up from the factory to the theater to the import business. As a young man, he moved to Chicago to manage the Midway amusements at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. His lucrative music publishing company (which issued songs that he wrote) led him to settle in New York in 1903. Seven years later, Bloom devoted himself to the real estate business, and made another fortune by building substantial apartment houses and some of Manhattan’s best known theaters (including the Apollo, Harris, and Music Box).
At the age of fifty, Bloom retired from business and entered politics. In 1923 he was elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives from Manhattan; Congressman Bloom began the first of his fourteen consecutive terms. As a veteran of the entertainment industry, he was involved with issues of copyright law and radio broadcasting, and he organized the national George Washington Bicentennial celebration of 1932. He worked on behalf of social causes such as the relaxation of immigration laws, intervention in the anthracite strike of 1926, modification of the Volstead Act, and he supported most New Deal legislation. Appointed chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 1940, Bloom developed critical legislation during and after World War II, including measures involving armament, universal service, lend-lease, and relief to foreign countries. He helped write the United Nations charter in 1945, and he ardently supported the creation of a Jewish state. Sol Bloom died in 1949. He was succeeded in Congress by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., who won a special election on the Liberal Party line.
Bloom lived in and represented New York’s 19th (later 20th) Congressional District, which included much of the Upper West Side. Flemish and Dutch settlers of the late 17th century called this region Bloemendaal, meaning "flowering valley." During the early 19th century, small villages developed among the country estates of the rich. The area changed dramatically as New York expanded north, Central and Riverside Parks opened, and Bloomingdale Road (now Broadway) was rebuilt as a grand boulevard. From the 1870s to the 1920s, cultural institutions, residential hotels, apartment buildings, mansions, rowhouses, and tenements rose on the Upper West Side. Urban renewal projects of the 1950s-1980s replaced old buildings with new construction such as large housing complexes and cultural institutions, as well as schools and playgrounds.
In 1962 the Sol Bloom School and Playground (P.S. 84) opened in an area undergoing redevelopment by the Urban Renewal Board of the City of New York. Parks architects had invited community leaders to make suggestions during the design of the new facility, which included a basketball and volleyball court; swings, seesaws, and slides for older and younger children; handball and shuffleboard courts; a sandpit; a flagpole; and a shower basin. The playground is jointly operated by Parks and Recreation and the Board of Education. In 1994, Congressman Bloom’s achievements having been consigned to history, the local school board renamed P.S. 84 for Lillian Weber (1917-94), a pioneer in Open Corridor education (without classroom walls) and a consultant who worked at the Sol Bloom School.
A $964,000 renovation was funded by Council member Ronnie M. Eldridge in 1997. Improvements include new play structures, a lanyard flagpole, baseball and basketball play areas, game tables, benches, and trees. The playground is decorated according to a playful theme, inspired by Sol Bloom’s name and its suggestion of the sun and flowers. Unique features include cast iron sunflower rosettes, a freestanding panel depicting animals from Frank Baum’s classic story The Wizard of Oz (1900), a sundial/compass of colored concrete, and a sunflower spray shower.
Sol Bloom lacked schooling and probably missed the opportunity as a child to enjoy carefree play, but he often played marbles and spun tops with neighborhood children, especially as a Congressman. His playful spirit and his outstanding accomplishments are celebrated at the playground which still honors his memory.