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Weeksville Playground

Weeksville Playground

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

Bounded by Atlantic Avenue, Howard Avenue, and Herkimer Street, this playground takes its name from the surrounding Brooklyn community of Weeksville.

Weeksville first appeared on a local map in 1849, encompassing a region nearly as large as contemporary Bedford-Stuyvesant. After the abolition of slavery in New York State in 1827, Brooklyn became a popular settlement area for free blacks from the South and from New York. In 1838, James Weeks (1776-1863), a free black settler from Virginia, acquired much of the area that eventually became Weeksville from the 240-acre Lefferts family estate. The Lefferts were among the most prominent families in Brooklyn at this time. Peter Lefferts (1753-1791), a fourth generation American who served as a lieutenant in the Colonial Army, built a home on the property in 1783 to replace an earlier family home that had been burned during the Battle of Long Island (August, 1776). In 1918, the house was moved from its location in Prospect Lefferts Gardens to Prospect Park, and it is now open to the public as a museum and cultural center.

In the years before and immediately after the Civil War (1861-1865), the population of Weeksville grew substantially. The cultural vibrancy of the community grew with the population. Susan McKinney-Steward (1847-1918), the first female black physician in New York State and the third in the nation, was born in Weeksville. The first black policeman in the City of Brooklyn, Moses P. Cobb, is said to have walked to Weeksville from North Carolina. Several prominent African-American service organizations, such as the Howard Colored Orphanage Asylum, the Zion Home for Aged Relief, and the African Civilization Society were all founded in Weeksville during the late 19th century.

The construction of Eastern Parkway in 1870 and the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge 13 years later increased access to the area, undermining the community’s distinctive character. Weeksville soon became subsumed within the larger adjacent community of Bedford-Stuyvesant, and the neighborhood’s name was almost forgotten. In 1968, however, the name Weeksville was revived amid ever-growing interest in local and African-American history. That same year, the Hunterfly Road Houses, which date back to the late 17th and early 18th centuries, were discovered during site clearing.

The structures were part of the old Weeksville community, and are located on Bergen Street between Buffalo and Rochester Avenues. Largely through the efforts of the Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant History, which now occupy the houses, and the schoolchildren of nearby Public School 243 (the Weeksville School) these houses were saved from almost certain destruction. Today, the Hunterfly Road Houses contain a museum of African-American history and culture, and have been designated city and national historic landmarks.

Although the City of New York had acquired a 0.14-acre plot of land on this site in 1912, for 12 years, the land lay dormant. In 1924, Parks acquired the land. For years, residents referred to the parkland as the Weeksville Playground. In 1985, Parks officially named the site, and in 1989 and 1990 two additional parcels were added. The first was a 0.018-acre plot located on the southwestern corner of Howard and Atlantic Avenues. The second was a 0.14-acre plot adjacent to the Mount Calvary Unified Freewill Baptist Church on the northern side of the existing park.

Between 1996 and 1998, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani provided $176,000 for playground renovations. In 1996, infrastructure renovations were completed, and new asphalt and sidewalk pavements, steel fences, and gates. In 1997, Parks installed new play equipment, as well as safety surfacing, new benches, and a park identification plaque. The year 1998 saw the renovations to Weeksville Playground fully completed, with the installation of a new flagpole with a yardarm and new trees.

Park Information

Directions to Weeksville Playground

  • Weeksville Playground


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