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.

National Merry-Go-Round Day!

July 25, 1871 marks the first patent for the carousel (also known as a merry-go-round). If there was ever a holiday meant for Preservation in Pink to celebrate, National Merry-Go-Round Day is the one. It’s probably been a while since you’ve seen a merry-go-round on a playground; most seem to have been eliminated for safety reasons. While I distinguish between merry-go-round and carousel, they are  interchangeable in terms, according to the national holiday calendar. Here’s the explanation:

Along with the roller coaster, the merry-go-round is one of the oldest amusement rides. Also known as the carousel, the merry-go-round rotates on a circular platform around a pole. The platform holds seats for riders.  A motor spins the platform around the large central pole. Between rows of seats, passengers ride wooden horses and other animals. Poles anchor the animals in place.  Once in a while, the colorful animals move up and down. The movement simulates galloping. Meanwhile, calliope music plays, adding a light-hearted atmosphere.

Besides carousels, any rotating platform may also be called a merry-go-round. By comparison, children power the playground merry-go-round. They push off using the bars or handles. The riders cling to the same bars as the platform spins. Since the riders determine the speed, the harder they push, the faster they go. Not surprisingly, one of the thrills of riding the merry-go-round included becoming dizzy.

  • The earliest known depiction of the merry-go-round is in 500 A.D. The Byzantine Empire’s ride depicts baskets carrying riders suspended from a central pole. 
  • In the 1840s, Franz Wiesenoffer created the first merry-go-round in the United States in Hessville, Ohio. 
  • July 25, 1871 – The first carousel patent. 

In honor of the holiday, here are a few merry-go-rounds and carousels that I’ve come across over the years, from newest to oldest. As you can see, there aren’t too many. Slides and swings are much more common.

we found the playground. this is what we do.
Some flamingo fun in 2010 – testing out a newer version of the merry-go-round. 
merry go round1

1970s merry-go-around in the Outer Banks, NC. 

merry go round2

1970s merry-go-around in the Outer Banks, NC. 

 

IMG_7349

A homemade merry-go-round found in Waterville, VT. Photo taken 2013. The playground no longer remains. 

craftsbury7.jpg

1940s  merry-go-round found in Craftsbury, VT. Photo taken 2014. 

craftsbury4.jpg

1940s era playground equipment in Craftsbury, VT (2014). 

Seen any good merry-go-rounds lately? They were always my favorite. Enjoy!

Waterville, Vermont Playground

You never know where or when you will come across an awesome historic playground! The small town of Waterville, Vermont is such an example. The current library and town offices are housed in the former Waterville Central School, which is a classic 1930s two-room schoolhouse (a relatively common building type in Vermont). The school sits on a hill above the road, with its playground in front, basketball court and playing field behind the school.

The Waterville School.

The Waterville Central School.

Rear of the Waterville school - the window banks are classic indications of schools. This building had two classrooms as indicated by the windows.

Rear of the Waterville school – the window banks are classic indications of schools. This building had two classrooms as indicated by the windows.

This ramshackle playground remains on the property grounds, though it’s fallen into disrepair. A passerby mentioned that a couple used to take care of the playground, but he’s not sure what happened in recent years. Still, it’s a great look at a historic playground. I call this one historic because it has presumably original equipment and it is located in its historic setting.

View of the playground from the school.

View of the playground from the school.

The playground sits below the school.

The playground sits below the school.

Look at that slide built into the hill!

Look at that slide built into the hill!

Obviously, I had to test the slide!

Obviously, I had to test the slide!

The worn merry-go-round and swings in the background.

The worn merry-go-round and swings in the background.

One seesaw where there used to be two.

One seesaw where there used to be two.

This leads me to guess that it's a handmade seesaw.

This leads me to guess that it’s a handmade seesaw.

Playground swings.

Playground swings.

Another view of the swings.

Another view of the swings.

A swingset on the playground with a seesaw, swings, and steps to nowhere - probably previously to a slide.

A swing set on the playground with a seesaw, swings, and steps to nowhere – probably previously to a slide.

Only two steps on the swing set.

Only two steps on the swing set.

A slide would have been here, it seems.

A slide would have been here, it seems.

How old is this playground? Many of the apparatuses appear homemade, which makes it more difficult to determine. However, based on the type of equipment it is plausible to say that playground dates to the early days of the school, ca. 1930s. Anyone have any thoughts on that? Maybe there was even a giant stride on the playground (sadly, no signs of one). But, what a great playground, right? Now it just needs some TLC.

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?

Playgrounds of Yesterday

Following up yesterday’s Preservation Photos #25 post, which featured the Giant Stride, here’s a glance at other unique playground equipment from the early 20th century. Of course there are many sources with great photographs and information, so consider this a sampling.

First, a search through the Library of Congress digital records always provides good entertainment:

Another Giant Stride (or is it a may pole?) - at a playground in New York City, ca. 1910-1915. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division (click).

Merry-go-round, ca. 1918-1920. Source: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs (click).

A playground apparatus that reminds me of a merry-go-round and a giant stride combined. Source: Library of Congress (click).

A children's city playground. Source: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs (click).

Seesaw, 1902, in Chicago, IL. Source: American Memory, LOC (click).

With the digital world taking over, Flickr is a wonderful resource as well. People share their own images as well as scanning in magazines, advertisements, etc. By searching for “playground” in the uploads or the “playground” groups, you will find some awesome images. Most of it will be mid 20th century, not ca. 1910 or 1920, but it’s fascinating in a different way. Check out the sets by Nels_P_Olsen on Flickr for images of vintage defunct and surviving playgrounds.

Part of the 1975 Miracle Equipment Company playground catalog. Click and scan through the other pages. Source: Nels_P_Olsen.

More from the Miracle Playground Equipment catalog. I include this one for my sisters and our friends at Norwood Elementary: that thing we always called the spider web -- apparently it's a geodesic dome (note bottom). Source: Nels_P_Olsen, flickr (click).

For more, try the “old playground furniture” group. See also this August 26, 2009 “Playgrounds” post from PiP.

How’s that, Erin? Enough to hold you over? I’ll post more in the future. When you’re out exploring, be sure to let me know of any great old playgrounds! Let’s go build a giant stride in the backyard for now.