Happy Birthday! Seward Park celebrates 100 years
Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe (back row, right, in photo at left) and David Rivel, executive director of City Parks Foundation (next to Benepe), joined 100 P.S. 142 students to celebrate the centennial of Seward Park, the first municipally built (nonprivate) playground in New York City. According to newspaper reports, when the park, at Essex and Canal Sts. and E. Broadway, was officially opened on Oct. 17, 1903, an estimated 20,000 kids rushed in. The 1903 plan featured a large running track with an open play area and a childrens farm garden. The limestone and terra cotta Seward Park pavilion contained marble baths, a gymnasium and meeting rooms. Rocking chairs on the pavilions porch allowed mothers to sit while tending to small children. The Schiff Fountain was moved to the park in 1936, when the pavilion was demolished; a new recreation building was built in 1941, and a new park design focused on active play. Renovations in 1999 and 2001 celebrated the parks history, with period benches and light fixtures, a historic fence and a spray shower featuring a mosaic map of the neighborhood. The park is named for William Henry Seward, the New York statesman who orchestrated the purchase of Alaska.