Place Category: Parks and Playgrounds
This playground pays tribute to the memory of World War I veteran Howard Ames Von Dohlen (1895-1918). Born in Ozone Park, Queens, Von Dohlen graduated from a local public high school and began work at the brokerage firm V.C. Brown. Von Dohlen was a member of the Men’s Club Epiphany Church of Ozone Park, and was also Superintendent of the Sunday School Epiphany P.E. Church. In June 1917, he enlisted in the U.S. Cavalry and was assigned to Troop D, Squadron A of the New York National Guard. Von Dohlen was promoted to corporal while stationed in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and then again to sergeant shortly before his unit sailed for France in May, 1918.
Until his death, Sergeant Von Dohlen assumed a leadership role during every engagement and battle in which the 27th Division fought. On three separate occasions he volunteered to carry wounded men to the dressing station through a heavy counterbarrage of enemy artillery and machine gun fire. On the morning of October 17, 1918, Von Dohlen was killed in action while commanding a machine gun section in the Battle of La Salle River in St. Supplet, France. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action .
Howard Von Dohlen Playground opened on July 15, 1934, and is one of nine playgrounds built by Parks through the War Memorial Fund. The fund was established in 1921 with $250,000 collected by the New York City Police Department. Until 1934, the money had remained untouched, during which time it had grown in value to $350,000. Seeking additional open spaces for children, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses obtained a legal ruling that permitted the Fund to be spent on several playground developments. The properties were intended to honor the memories of individual soldiers who had given their lives in combat.
The War Memorial Fund was transferred to Parks on March 19, 1934. With additional funding from the Federal Temporary Emergency Relief Administration, nine playgrounds were constructed within four months. Each site was equipped with a play area, wading pool, flagpole, commemorative tablet, brick field house and comfort station. Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia and Parks Commissioner Moses simultaneously dedicated the memorial playgrounds in a ceremony held at William E. Sheridan Playground in Brooklyn. The program was broadcast to all of the other playgrounds by means of an elaborate public address system.
Located in Jamaica, Queens, Von Dohlen Playground was one of thirty-two parks and playgrounds renovated with a $3.2 million grant from the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program in 1984. In 1993, Councilman Thomas White, Jr. sponsored the reconstruction of the comfort station at Von Dohlen Playground, and in 1998, he funded a $60,000 addition of new safety surfacing and play equipment.
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