Richard and Sarah Smith left a legacy for the construction of Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse, which is dedicated to the memory of their adult son Stanfield. James H. Windrim, one of Philadelphia’s most well-known late 19th-century architects, created Smith’s lovely, 16,000-square-foot Playhouse as a playground for kids. The Ann Newman Giant Wooden Slide, a beloved piece of play equipment for generations of Philadelphia children, is located at The Playground, built on its original historic environment of 6 1/2 acres of open fields, forested terrain, and sloping hills.
Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse’s goal is to encourage and offer children an opportunity for unstructured free play.
Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse serves as a “thought leader” and aids adults in understanding the value of play in children’s lives by stewarding, consulting on, and advocating for freedom in the city, region, and country.
Employees at Smith include play and child development experts, such as those with Playwork training who create and promote play opportunities and those skilled in building community partnerships to make these possibilities possible.
Smith is a warm, secure, and accepting place where people of all backgrounds are respected. They offer education and contact between kids and families from various racial and socioeconomic backgrounds to foster awareness and acceptance of diversity.
Smith participates in an integrated, cooperative group of East Fairmount Park stakeholders and works to improve access to the park and encourage locals and tourists to the region for a range of play- and outdoor-inspired learning activities.
They offer year-round urban nature play to make the most of the natural resources available to Smith due to its unique location and to allow kids and families to take advantage of their services during all four seasons. They carefully design their activities around this priceless resource because they are stewards of our park and woodlands.
Despite their nationwide reach, they have a specific dedication to and connection with the families and kids in their neighboring areas. Serving this community—to whom Smith is seen as “belonging”—is a top focus.
Their efforts and historic facilities are supported by dependable public and private financing. Their financing is derived from various sources, including businesses, people (including a flourishing alum group), local, regional, and national foundations, and generated income (including from their building).
They take particular pride in Smith’s past. They use its historical importance as one of the country’s earliest designated play areas to inform their activities regarding the history of their historic location and the generations who have benefited from Smith.
The Board of Directors and employees of the Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse believe
- It’s important to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in and access play. Advocating for freedom is a practice that should be commonplace.
- People should play more since it’s good for their hearts, brains, and bodies.
- Spend time outside, and you’ll develop an appreciation for and a sense of duty toward the natural environment.
Standing the Test of Time
Over more than a century, Smith’s business activities were nearly entirely sustained by the interest the Trust earned. In 2003, the ongoing Concerned Residents founded a non-profit organization in response to the Playhouse’s decline and the Playground’s closure because of security and accessibility difficulties. Called Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse Inc. to fund the site’s restoration, maintain the facilities, and expand services. This was done to address both of these issues. The Playground was closed. Because the Trust’s assets are no longer enough to sustain Smith, the board and staff are working hard to acquire additional financing from individuals, organizations, and foundations to support Smith’s day-to-day operations and long-term projects.
Smith’s business activities were funded mainly by interest from the Trust for more than 100 years. In 2003, a group of concerned citizens founded Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse Inc. as a non-profit organization to raise money for the site’s restoration, upkeep of the facilities, and expansion of services in response to the Playhouse’s ongoing deterioration and the Playground’s closure due to safety and accessibility concerns. The Trust was no longer enough to sustain Smith, so the board and staff have been working hard to find new funding sources from people, businesses, and foundations to support the organization’s ongoing operations and capital initiatives.
Since 2003, Smith’s board of directors has successfully exceeded a 100% increase in the organization’s operational revenue. In addition, Smith University has successfully collected more than seven million dollars in support of its capital drive to repair the Playhouse and Playground. Thanks to generous contributions, Smith reconstructed the Ann Newman Giant Wooden Slide and unveiled two brand-new, high-performance play spaces at the Playground. These new features meet all current safety rules and are accessible to children with special needs. In 2008, Liberty Property Trust generously provided the materials for and erected the Liberty Labyrinth. Two years later, in 2010, Smith repaired the Playhouse roof, external walls, cornice, windows, terraces, and the first-floor interior of the Playhouse.
In August of 2009, the Tot-Lot, geared for children under 5, opened its doors. Plans for future renovations include doing more restoration work on the Playhouse’s interior to increase the amount of space dedicated to programming and making enhancements to the front lawn to transform it into an attractive, all-natural play area.
James H. Windrim, who was considered to be one of Philadelphia’s most influential architects in the late 19th century, created The Playhouse with the express purpose of providing a place for children to play. The open plan of the three-story, 16,000 square foot brick, and masonry edifice boasts windows that reach from floor to ceiling, porches, and room after room filled with a variety of play activities such as riding tricycles, tumbling, and putting on a puppet show. The Playhouse is located in its original environment, which consists of 6 and a half acres of open fields, forested terrain, and steep hills. It is the site of the century-old Ann Newman Giant Wooden Slide, a play experience cherished by several generations of children in Philadelphia.
The clientele of Smith has been quite varied since it opened in 1899. For the nearby neighborhoods of Strawberry Mansion, Brewerytown, and Fairmount, Smith is a unique asset. The Playground and Playhouse are visited by children from more than 500 zip code regions in the vicinity, including every zip code in Philadelphia, demonstrating that Smith’s constituency transcends geographical borders. To be accessible to everyone, Smith has never charged an entry fee but invites families to join to show their financial support.
You may contact them at (215) 765-4325 or learn more by checking out their website.