Parks in NYC: Seward Park

Seward Park offers three full acres of green space to Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Found north of East Broadway and east of Essex Street, the park offers visitors a shady relief to the hustle and bustle of the town. The park, named after New York Senator William Henry Seward (1801-1872), was one of the first municipally ran playground in the U.S. and a model for many others. With a rich history and masses of room to play, Seward Park Manhattan is amongst the Lower East Side’s treasures.

In the later 1890s the Outdoor Recreation League (ORL) worked to bring arranged games to public playgrounds. The ORL was instrumental in building playgrounds in community parks and is crucial to history of Seward Park.

In 1897, the land that would one day become Seward Park was obtained by the city of New York. The ORL transformed the area into a playground, including a children’s garden and a track for running. Opening on October 17, 1903, the park’s other innovations such as a recreation pavilion and gymnastic equipment, marble baths, and meeting rooms made it a model for future playgrounds across the nation.

The history of Seward Park continues in the 1930s and 1940s, when the park underwent a series of transformations. A little of the park’s east side was taken over by the the city’s government and used for street purposes. In 1936, the park bought the Schiff fountain from Rutgers Park. The alteration was completed by the addition of a basketball court, more playgrounds, horseshoe courts and an area for roller and an ice skating rink.

The 1950s saw more transformations in Seward Park history. As the encircling Lower East Side neighborhood grew, another section of the park was redeveloped by New York City. Many streets were closed and family homes were built to replace apartment buildings.

The current history of Seward Park is indicated by a 1999 refurbishment that payed homage to the first ORL plan. The park now features a central oval with a spray shower and map of the Lower East Side, period lighting and furniture, and quotations from local residents spanning the neighborhood’s rich history. These changes brought the park the nearest to it’s original 1903 appearance. With it’s beautiful curving walking paths sports facilities, playgrounds, plenty of benches, Seward Park is still a fave place for residents of the Big Apple and visitors alike to play.

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