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.

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Brownington Center Church, 1854.

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Brownington Center Church, 1854.

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

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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?

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

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This slide is sinking into the ground.

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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.

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.

Build a Playhouse!

Yesterday we talked about a dream house from a child’s perspective along with children’s impressions on the built environment. To follow up on that topic, I wanted to share a few pages from a book I found last summer in an antique shop in Barton, Vermont. It caught my eye because of my ongoing interest in playgrounds.

The cover of the Children’s Playhouse booklet from The Home Workshop Library, published 1950 by the General Publishing Company, Inc.

The Home Workshop Library was a series of books for the industrious DIY-ers in the post World War II era, that reprinted articles from Popular Homecraft magazine.

Inside cover.

“A playhouse is in the largest sense, a child’s castle. It is also a safe haven for young energy and a storage place for a child’s priceless treasures.”

Table and contents and the first design.

Ranging from playhouses to playground equipment to bunk beds to playhouses, the pages are filled with plans and specifications and equipment needed.

page 6 and 7 – directions for the playhouse

Pages 8-9: info about construction and post foundations.

“A Wee House for Wee People”

Who wants an elephant slide?

I think I will build a playhouse in my backyard (someday). Anyone else? Have you used old plans to design a structure, whether a slide or a house? The Home Workshop Library also includes household furniture. Anyone have a copy or something similar?

Preservation Photos #57

Let's get back to playgrounds. This slide was manufactured by Recreation Equipment Corp. Note the pedestal supporting the slide. It is located in Ripton, Vermont.

Anyone have an idea on the date? I’ll have to search the patents.

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.