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St. George Park

Pinocchio Playground

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

Pinocchio is one of the most beloved children’s characters ever created. The touching tale of a wooden puppet who strives to overcome his selfishness and become a human boy was written by Carlo Collodi (1826-1890), the pen name of Carlo Lorenzini. The name for this playground is derived from the pin oak trees that inhabit the site, the wood from which Pinocchio was carved.

Carlo Lorenzini was born in Florence, Italy to a cook and a servant. Collodi was the name of his mother’s home village. He began his writing career working for a newspaper, and wrote his own satirical paper Il Lampione (The Lantern) until the government closed it down. He later worked as a civil servant for the Italian Department of Education, where he attempted to initiate educational reforms. Lorenzini’s story-writing career began in the 1850s, when he translated a series of French fairy tales so effectively that someone suggested that he write his own. He responded with Giannettino, an educational children’s tale that became his first major success. From then on, he devoted himself to writing for children because, as he put it, “Adults are too hard to please!” In 1881, Lorenzini sent the manuscript of The Adventures of Pinocchio to a newspaper in Rome. The newspaper published the story as a serial from 1881-1882, and the story appeared in book form in 1883, all to an enormous popular reception. The story was translated into English in 1892, and was again very popular.

In the late 1930s, Walt Disney (1901-1966) decided to present the story as an animated movie to follow up the rousing success of Snow White. At first, the writers and animators adhered closely to the original story, but Disney was dissatisfied with the results and scrapped six months worth of footage. Disney and his collaborators reworked the story to better fit the demands of the screen, spending countless hours refining characters and adding more comedic moments. Many critics consider the resulting film one of Disney’s best, and it remains popular to this day.

The City acquired this entire block on Stuyvesant and Wall Streets in 1900 for school purposes, but by 1902 plans had changed. The school was never built and the land was allocated for other purposes over time, including a museum and police station. In 1955, the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences, the owners of the museum, requested this property for development as a sitting area. Six years later, Parks took over the project, installing benches, red brick paving, a holly tree (Ilex opaca), and a red brick wall with an iron picket fence. Most of the trees in the park are pin oaks (Quercus palustris), the inspiration for the name Pinocchio Playground.

The most unique features in the playground are its two bells. The smaller of the pair, which once rang in the old P.S. 10, was made in the McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore, Maryland in 1895. The larger bell came in 1910 from E.A. Williams & Son, Bellfounders, of Jersey City, NJ. Its original home is now unknown, although it is assumed to be from an old terminal. There have been train and ferry terminals over the years on Staten Island, many of which no longer exist today.

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