Our local parks and playgrounds become such neighborhood fixtures, it’s difficult to imagine that they weren’t always part of the cityscape.
That’s why it’s so jarring to see this 1959 photo of the junction of Bank, Bleecker, and Hudson Streets—but no Bleecker Playground, the cheery place of swings and sand always crowded with happy kids and captive parents.
Anchoring that corner in the early 20th century was the formidable Henry I. Stetler brick warehouse. (Beside it is a bandstand-turned-comfort station.) It fits right into the far West Village of the time, an area of warehouses and light industry.
In 1927, a spectacular fire raged through the Stetler warehouse, injuring dozens of firefighters and causing the city to condemn the building. A changing West Village came up with a reason to raze it in the 1950s.
“In 1959, demand for a safe play space for neighborhood children prodded the city to acquire the Stetler Warehouse south of historic Abingdon Square to make way for a playground, the first in the area,” states nycgovparks.org.
Seven years later, Bleecker Playground opened (above, in 2010, and at right). It feels like it’s been in the neighborhood far longer.
[Top photo: New York City Parks Photo Archive; second photo: Jonathan Kuhn via New York City Parks Photo Archive; third photo: Wally Gobetz/Flickr]