Place Category: Parks and Playgrounds
This playground, located next to the Montefiore and Old Springfield Cemeteries, was acquired as a city park in 1951 and developed as a recreation facility for different age groups. It featured a baseball diamond, softball diamond, and basketball courts in the northern and central portions of the park. The playground in the southern part of the park included a sandpit, shuffle board, and wading pool, and separate pieces such as swings, slides, and seesaws lining the edges of the park. In 1980 a jungle gym was installed as the playground’s centerpiece.
The playground was formerly called Cambria Playground for the surrounding neighborhood, known as Cambria Heights. As of the early 1920s, this area was mostly farmland owned by the Buck, Fausner, and Hartmann families. Developer Oliver B. LaFreniere and the Cambria Title, Savings, and Trust Company of Cambria County, Pennsylvania acquired the land, laid out streets, and erected homes. They hoped the poetic place name would lure prospective buyers. After World War II, Cambria Heights, like the larger neighborhood of St. Albans, was settled by large numbers of African-Americans. Jazz pianist Chick Corea and jazz saxophonist Paul Gonzalez lived in the community.
In 1989 the playground was named for Frederick Cabbell (1927-1988), who had died a year earlier. Cabbell served on the New York City police force from 1953 to 1984, rising to the rank of detective, and was an active resident in Cambria Heights for over twenty-five years. He directed the Cambria Heights Little League for twenty-two years, led Boy Scout Troop #176. In recognition of Cabbell’s outstanding service to the neighborhood, the community initiated the name change. Seven Council Members from Queens and Brooklyn introduced the local law to name the park, and Mayor Edward I. Koch signed the bill on December 28, 1989, three days before he left office.
The 1998 reconstruction of Frederick Cabbell Park was made possible with $1,000,000 from Council Member Juanita E. Watkins and $600,000 from Borough President Shulman. The new design gives the playground the spirit of a European fairytale set in medieval times. The grand spray shower includes five three-foot-tall blue spheres and six playful gargoyle statues which look children eye-to-eye as they dart around the water. Other welcoming accents in the Gothic style include an ornamental double gate and arched fencing, a weathervane, a directional rosette, and an urn. Kindergarten swings and separate play units for toddlers and preteens are decorated with rosette-inlaid arches and feature a color-scheme (blue, yellow, red, and black) reminiscent of stained glass. More contemporary wire mesh figures depicting ball players decorate the fencing around the baseball area. A new safety surface around the play equipment, additional seating, and trees make this fantastical atmosphere complete.
- Cambria Playground
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