Place Category: Parks and Playgrounds
The long history of this site features colonial settlers, a tasty apple, a beloved children’s poem, subway construction, and a neighborhood playground. In the mid-1600s Captain Samuel Moore was granted eighty acres of land in the area to recognize the efforts of his father, Reverend John Moore (1620-1657), in arranging the purchase of Newtown from local Native Americans. Captain Moore built a house here in 1661, and the property was handed down from generation to generation of his descendants. During the Revolutionary War, the British General William Howe made his Long Island headquarters at the homestead. The site is also known as the birthplace of the famous “Newtown Pippin” apple.
Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863) was the great-great-great grandson of Reverend Moore. Born in New York City, Clement spent much of his boyhood and youth at the family estate in Newtown. He was tutored at home by his father and graduated from Columbia College with a B.A. in 1798, an M.A. in 1801, and an honorary LL.D. in 1829. Moore served as a professor of Oriental and Greek literature at the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan from 1823 until he retired in 1850. Fluent in six languages, he published numerous scholarly works, including a Hebrew lexicon, a biography, and several treatises and addresses.
Moore is best known as the inspired author of the delightful children’s poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” He composed the poem for his wife Catherine Elizabeth Taylor Moore and their children in 1822. A family friend had the poem published anonymously in the Troy Sentinel the following year. With subsequent publication in newspapers, magazines, and illustrated editions, the poem became a classic popularly known as “The Night before Christmas.” Moore died in Newport, Rhode Island in 1863.
Around the turn of the century, most of the Moore estate was divided into building lots and sold at auction. The site of the homestead, however, remained in the family until the Board of Transportation acquired it during the construction of the Independent Subway in 1930. The buildings were razed in 1933. Soon after Parks acquired this property from Transportation in 1954, plans were drawn up for a new playground, with play equipment and athletic facilities for children.
In 1987 the City Council renamed the playground (previously known as Elmhurst Playground) to commemorate the location of the Moore homestead. In 1992 capital reconstruction of the park was interrupted when workers unearthed a brick cistern formerly used to store water for the old homestead. Subsequent archaeological investigation determined that the cistern was made of European-made bricks used as ballast on ships bound for American shores. It contained old foundations and household goods from 1900 to 1930, such as dishes, bottles, cans, and clothing.
Improvements to the playground included the refurbishing of the comfort station and the installation of new play equipment, safety surfacing, spray shower, benches, pavement, and plantings. The renovated playground provides a merry location each Christmas when neighborhood children gather to recite the poem that begins with the familiar words, “‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”
- Moore Homestead Playground
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