Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Boys Of Summer: 47(?) Years Later

After work today I went down to Coleman's Oval to see what remained of the original scene. Sort of like a revisitation of that Great Day In Harlem photograph by Art Kane. Incidentally that photo was taken around the same time (1958) Hard to believe that those guys were playing such great music and we were listening to Fabian and Frankie Avalon. Anyway, I knew what I would find, since I often drive by there. The park has been completely redone, but some of the original imprint is still there. This bench above is just about in the same spot. I noticed the historical sign about Coleman Oval and took a picture of it. Never knew about this guy.

Bounded by Cherry, Pike, and Monroe Streets, Coleman Square Playground lies on the border between Chinatown and the Lower East Side. It is named in honor of U.S. Army Corporal Joseph Francis Coleman (d. 1919), son of Thomas Coleman and Mary Hurley. Before World War I, the Coleman family resided on nearby Madison Street. Coleman fought in France as a member of the 321st Field Artillery, the 82nd Division of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). He died on June 16, 1919 at Base Hospital in Hoboken, New Jersey, after contracting tuberculosis in the trenches. Exactly six months after Coleman’s death, the Board of Alderman named this playground in tribute to him.

The land that Coleman Square Playground now occupies was once the graveyard of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. Founded in 1804, the church once stood at the corner of Chrystie Street and Broome Street. Sixty-two years after it was built, with a declining congregation and insufficient funds, St. Stephen’s was sold. After being exhumed from the cemetery, two thousand bodies were moved across the East River by boat and reburied in Cypress Hills Cemetery. Unfortunately, because only 250 families paid to have the names of their deceased relatives listed, most of the names have been lost to posterity.

Part of Coleman Square Playground stands under the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge, a two-level steel suspension bridge designed by Leon Moisseiff (1872-1904) and completed in 1909. The Manhattan Bridge connects Canal Street in Manhattan to Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. Its design is often mistakenly attributed to Gustav Lindenthal (1850-1935), designer of the Williamsburg, Queensboro and Hell Gate bridges, who submitted a plan for the Manhattan Bridge in 1903 that was rejected by city administrators. The architectural firm of Carrere and Hastings designed the grand arch and flanking colonnades that mark the entrance to the bridge on Canal Street. The bridge is 6,855 feet long, with a main span of 1,470 feet, and clears the East River at 135 feet.

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