Tudor Grove Playground
Tudor Grove Playground
Built by Fred F. French (1883-1936), a prominent New York developer after World War I, Tudor City was a pioneering venture in urban renewal. Tudor City was designed as a “city within a city,” and adapted what was called Garden City design to high-density Manhattan. The Garden City concept combined the best aspects of country and city, emphasizing the integration of green space in urban living areas, and was advocated by the Englishman Ebenezer Howard in his 1898 book To-Morrow, A Peaceful Path to Social Reform, (later retitled Garden Cities of To-Morrow). His ideas laid the foundation for such communally oriented suburbs in the United States as Forest Hills Gardens, Queens, designed in 1910 by Olmsted’s sons and Grosvenor Atterbury.
Tudor City was built between 1925 and 1928, in an area of tenements and slaughterhouses. It assembled more land than any previous development in Manhattan, and the success of this middle class development came to serve as a model for others across the country. Its design concept, elaborated by architect H. Douglas Ives, was based on the use of green space and the Tudor Revival architecture that gives it its name. Tudor City is built around a core of privately owned parks, includes 12 cooperatively owned buildings and provides about 3,000 apartments and 600 hotel rooms.
The Tudor Revival style is a fusion of Gothic and rustic English architecture that emerged in the 19th century. Using colorful materials and exposed wooden beams from rustic homes, the style incorporated Gothic details and appointments. Already being used in suburban developments at the time, Tudor City introduced the Tudor Revival into an urban setting, and brought the qualities of an English manor into the city. In addition to its aesthetic and symbolic attributes, Tudor Revival was easily accommodated within New York City’s zoning ordinances; in 1916, New York became the first city in the United States to introduce a zoning ordinance that regulated the shape of buildings. Architectural details were not allowed to project more than eighteen inches, and at times were restricted to just four.
The shallow details of the Tudor Revival style easily fit these guidelines. While people often associate Tudor City with gargoyles, the sculptures that grace the tops of the buildings are actually grotesques. A true gargoyle is an elaborate waterspout to keep rainwater off a building’s roof, and projects horizontally from the building’s facade. The grotesques in Tudor City, like the other stylized architectural details, do not project from the facade, but rather rise above it. Because of its architectural and historical significance, Tudor City was designated a historic district in 1988.
The City of New York bought the site for this park in 1948. Located on East 42nd Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, it was acquired with other parks to improve the approach to the United Nations. Both Mary O’Connor and Tudor Grove playgrounds serve as extensions to the open space provided by the Tudor City green.
This park was completely reconstructed in 1995 with $190,184 provided by Council Member Andrew S. Eristoff. The improvements included drainage, lighting, bluestone pavement, curbs, benches, and new play equipment with safety surfacing. The playground offers play equipment with safety surfacing, planters, and benches and ornamental street lamps, all under the shade of large London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia).