Wright Brothers Playground

Orville & Wilbur Playground

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

This playground is named to honor American aeronautical pioneers Orville (1871-1948) and Wilbur Wright (1867-1912). Susan and Milton Wright, a United Brethen Bishop, raised the Wright brothers in Dayton, Ohio. As students, the brothers displayed a passion for mathematics, engineering, and mechanical devices. After graduating high school the siblings incorporated the Wright Cycle Company in 1892. The company designed, built, and sold bicycles. The experience gained in bicycle design would advance the brothers’ quest to build a flying machine.

During the 1890s, aeronautical design was in its infancy. The Wright brothers intently followed the work of German engineer Otto Lilienthal. Based on his designs, the siblings produced several of their own one-person gliders. In 1896, Lilienthal lost control of a test glider and died in the ensuing crash. The accident illustrated the importance of pilot control in aeronautical maneuvers. Proper stability and control became the primary concerns of the Wright brothers’ research. The tandem tested unmanned kites and gliders at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, using various wingspans and wing shapes. The research intensified following their construction of a wind tunnel. The tunnel created a controlled environment that provided constant winds and protection from the elements and it also provided the world’s first accurate table of lift and drag. By 1902, the siblings began to perfect their design, employing a rear rudder to increase control. Later that year, they began developing and testing engine designs for their aircraft. They eventually settled on a 12 horsepower engine and a self-constructed propeller.

On December 17, 1903, Orville Wright piloted the first heavier-than-air flight near Kill Devil Hills in Kitty Hawk. The Wright biplane had a 12-foot wingspan, and including the pilot, weighed 750 pounds. The flight lasted 12 seconds and began a worldwide revolution in transportation. In 1905, the brothers presented their design to the United States War Department. Although they spent the next several years patenting and finding markets for their design, the public was not presented with the Wright biplane until 1908. The brothers gave air shows throughout Europe and the United States. In 1909, they incorporated the Wright Company, which manufactured airplanes.

Orville & Wilbur Playground is located on 156th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, adjacent to Public School 28 (The Wright Brothers School). In July 1957, the City of New York acquired this property through condemnation for school and recreational purposes. Since November 21, 1963, Parks and the Board of Education have jointly operated the playground. In 1986, Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern changed the property’s name from P.S. 28 Playground to its present title. In 1994, City Council Member Stanley E. Michels sponsored a $223,803 reconstruction of the playground. It now boasts 2 handball and basketball courts, a spray shower, swings, a comfort station, a flagpole with yardarm, assorted play equipment, and shady London plane trees.

Directions to Wright Brothers Playground

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