Playground Preservation: Protecting the Cultural History of Slides and Swings

Writing for the blog of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Kaitlin O’Shea presents a brief history of the formal playground and explores the challenges of preserving these relics of our cultural history without compromising child safety.

Did you know that the formal playground originated in Germany in 1885? Or that "[i]n 1906, the Playground Association of America formed to promote ideas of playgrounds to communities, including benefits, construction, layout and design, and the conduct and activities to occur on playgrounds"? These are among the interesting tidbits offered by O'Shea in her brief history of the playground. 

In an abridged version of a paper written for a course in the University of Vermont Historic Preservation Graduate Program, she provides an overview of the seven key phases in the development of the playground and examines some of the challenges in preserving historic playgrounds, which no longer measure up to today's safety standards. "Playgrounds are about more than equipment," argues O'Shea. "Their location, design and construction speak to humanitarian goals, school activities, community development and planning, which offer cultural context."

"The value of a playground lies in place," she continues. "Beginning as healthy respites for urban dwellers and expanding to be safe places for children to gather with adults, playgrounds have continued to host community events, sporting games, and outings for all ages. "

Full Story: How We Came to Play: The History of Playgrounds


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