Playground Find: Brownington, VT

Brownington, Vermont is located in the Vermont’s “Northeast Kingdom” (Essex, Orleans, and Caledonia counties), about 15 miles south of the Canadian border. It’s a very rural, picturesque part of the state. I was surveying a few properties in Brownington, VT for a work project and wanted to snap a photo of the church in Brownington Center.

DSC_1179

Brownington Center Church, 1854.

DSC_1181

Brownington Center Church, 1854.

Distracted by the building, I almost missed this gem behind it! 

DSC_1180

Vintage playground equipment sitting behind the Brownington Center Church!

Of course, I got out of the car to get a closer look at the playground equipment. First up – a classic 1950s jungle gym (see photos below). The American Playground Device Company (now the American Playground Company) produced similar looking jungle gyms in the 1950s. An easy way to distinguish earlier jungle gyms from 1950s jungle gyms is the rounded elements of the 1950s jungle gyms as opposed to the non-rounded and overall square structures of earlier versions. This jungle gym has “ST. JOHNSBURY, VT” stamped on one of its pipes. St. Johnsbury, is a larger town about 36 miles away from Brownington. Perhaps this was a hand-me-down piece?

DSC_1188DSC_1185DSC_1201

Next up, the slide. Slides are a little harder to date, but based on the design, it appears to be another 1950s apparatus.

DSC_1191

This slide is sinking into the ground.

DSC_1190

DSC_1189

Recreation Equipment Corp. Anderson, Indiana. 10-A. (Does anyone know what the 10-A represents?)

Next up: the mystery apparatus. I don’t even know what to call this one. It dates to the 1960s space age era of playground equipment, but nowhere can I find a name for it or a specific manufacturer. It’s part spaceship, part jungle gym, part submarine, part ladybug? Take your best guess. Do you recall playing on something like this?  DSC_1182DSC_1184

I’ve found a few similar images while searching online, but no luck with names. Do any of these ring a bell? Sources are in the photo captions. Click on each image or on the following links (clockwise, starting at top left): Photo 1, Photo 2, Photo 3, Photo 4. Any help in giving these a name or manufacturer would be much appreciated!

And what is an old playground without a merry-go-round? This is a later version, likely the 1970s, which you can tell by the shape of the handles and the pattern of the metal treads. It still spins – I checked! DSC_1193

Behind the merry-go-ground is an assuming fire truck. These types of play structures were common in the 1970s as well. DSC_1195DSC_1197

And that concludes the tour of the Brownington Center Church playground: pieces from the 1950s – the present (note the plastic playground pieces I did not feature). I hope kids are still enjoying these pieces.

Playground Find: Hancock, VT

Hancock, VT is a small town (population 323) located on Vermont Route 100 in Addison County, on the eastern edge of the Green Mountain National Forest. The two-room Hancock Village School was constructed in 1855 and operated as a school until 2009, when school consolidation measures caused the school to close. Since then the building has served as the town library and the town clerk’s office. The school is a contributing resource to the Hancock Village Historic District, which is listed in the Vermont State Register of Historic Places (VHSSS #0108-1-20). A playground remains on the former school grounds.

hancock school

Hancock Village School, December 1976 – Vermont State Register of Historic Places.

img_0532

Former Hancock Village School (now library and town offices), June 2019. The windows have been replaced.

img_0520

Swings with mountains and blue sky in the background.

img_0524

View of the jungle gym and the swings.

img_0525

The school in the background.

img_0526

A newer, plastic side is in on the left. 

img_0531

The apparatus is reminiscent of the “Muscle Man” equipment from the 1970s. 

img_0522

From the jungle gym: “Quality Industries, Hillsdale, Mich. 200028”

img_0530-1

No markings visible on the swings, but likely they date to the same time or earlier as the jungle gym.

img_0527

Swings.

The jungle gym bears the stamp, “Quality Industries, Hillsdale, Mich., 200028.” Quality Industries began in 1974, and the named changed to Recreation Creations, Inc. (RCI) in 1996. The name changed to Recreation Creations, Inc. in 1996. Without more available information, it is difficult to date this date playground equipment. However, it is reminiscent of similar 1970s playground apparatus, such as the Game Time Muscle Man. The edges appear more rounded than the example linked, possibly indicating the Hancock playground is a later design. If you have a better idea of the manufacture date, let me know. The swings did not have any markings on them.

It’s a shame that the building and the grounds no longer serve as a school, but at least the playground remains; what a picturesque spot for a playground.

Historic Playground: Goshen Jungle Gym

The former Goshen School (ca. 1860) is now used as the Goshen Town Offices. While it still stands in its general form, the fenestration (rhythm and size of windows) has been altered greatly, to the point of loss of integrity.  The only photo I can find is from a German Wikipedia page, or from a Bing Maps streetside view, but it does show you what I mean in terms of altered fenestration.

goshen town offices

Screenshot (dated 2015) from Bing Maps Streetside View. The windows have been replaced and there would not have been a door breaking up the bank of windows on the façade.

At first glance, this might not even look like a school to you; however, evidence of the building’s history as a school sits across the dirt road in a small playground.

IMG_0847

A jungle gym in Goshen, VT.

This jungle gym resembles those available commercially in the 1940s-1950s, though it is appears to be a locally made (vernacular, if you will) version. Some of the pieces are stamped with “Goshen School” and “Brandon Iron”.

IMG_0848

IMG_0849

This reads “Goshen School”.

IMG_0850

Don’t fall in the creek – it’s just behind the jungle gym.

IMG_0851

Curved pieces of playground equipment were more common in the mid 20th century, as opposed to early decades.

IMG_0852

Connection details.

IMG_0853

This reads “Brandon Iron.”

“Brandon Iron” conjures up the iron industry of Brandon, even though this metal is steel, not iron. Historically, the Town of Brandon was rich in water power and abundant in iron ore, which led to the growth of the iron industry in Brandon Village and nearby Forestdale by 1810. Once the railroad arrived in 1849, competition hurt the iron industry, and by the 1865 the Forest Dale Blast Furnace no longer operated. What had been the Brandon Iron and Car Wheel Company (est. 1850) and the Conant Iron Works became the Howe Scale Company, a manufacturer of scales. It extremely unlikely that this playground apparatus was constructed during the operating years of the Brandon Iron and Car Wheel Company, so the “Brandon Iron” must refer to something else.

IMG_0854

More details.

Vermont history buffs – any guesses as to the origin of this apparatus?

All photos are courtesy of Devin Colman, 2018.

Craftsbury Standard School & Playground

Historic schoolhouses are commonly found throughout Vermont, some converted to residences, some as museums, some abandoned, some creative rehabilitations, and some remain in educational use. In the 1930s schools faced state regulation, and had to comply with standards in order to become a Vermont “Standard School.” These regulations were for the quality of education. Schools were also required to have a certain amount of light (which is why you see the bank of windows on schoolhouses). When schools met these standards they displayed a plaque (see image below).

Very few have historic playgrounds in the school yard, most likely because of change in use and change in playground regulations. What an exciting find to see this playground at a school in Craftsbury, Vermont.

Historic schoolhouse in Craftsbury, VT.

Historic schoolhouse in Craftsbury, VT.

With a small playground on the property.

With a small playground on the property.

A Standard School.

A Standard School.

The playground has three apparatuses: jungle gym, swings, and a merry-go-round.

The playground has three apparatuses: jungle gym, swings, and a merry-go-round.

The jungle gym seemed so small; it must be for younger kids!

The jungle gym seemed so small; it must be for younger kids!

Swings.

Swings, with a great view over Craftsbury. The metal poles are stamped with presumably the name of the school (too faded to read clearly) and “Craftsbury Vermont.”

It's a bit low to the ground, but it's still completely functional.

It’s a bit low to the ground, but it’s still completely functional.

A bicycle rack!

A bicycle rack!

The date of this playground equipment is likely the 1920s/1930s. I’ve yet to find a giant stride; have you?