Bronx New Deal - Photo #477 - Olinville Playground

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Olinville Playground on the east side of Bronx Park at East 219th Street. The history of this playground seems to have been misplaced; there is no mention of it in the Parks Deparment press releases during the New Deal. The Parks Department itself has no information about its origins, and every conceivable Google search turns up a Big Zero, as do NY Times archive searches.

But it is in a place (the north end of Bronx Park) where 100% of everything was built by the WPA. The timing is right too; the Parks Department says, "Parks obtained the land for Olinville Playground in conjunction with the construction of the Bronx River Parkway extension in 1938". As Robert Moses said in 1938, "Without a doubt the greatest achievement of the past five year period of the park consolidation has been the increase, over three-fold, in recreational facilities and the general rehabilitation and reconstruction of park areas made possible by the relief program."

The June 22, 1941, press release mentions two marginal playgrounds just completed. One of them is Rosewood Playground, and the other one is not identified.

The July 29, 1940, press release says "Four playgrounds along the easterly boundary have already been opened to the public". After this, we have press releases announcing the opening of the 227th Street playground and the Parks Department website verifies that French Charley's Playground, opened in June 1941, with WPA (Works Progress Administration) [providing] the labor force for the new construction". This must have been the second marginal playground mentioned in the June 22 press release.

Since Reiss Field and Waring Playground were both completed in 1939, and French Charley's in 1941, there remains only one Bronx Park playground that could be the "fourth already opened": Olinville Playground. Perhaps the most compelling argument is that it looks exactly like the WPA-built playgrounds all around it: same fence, same swings, same surface, same flagpole and pedestal, same comfort station.

The New Deal in NYC 1932-1943 | Frank da Cruz | fdc@columbia.edu