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Smith Memorial Playground to add new features as it celebrates 125 years of fun

Smith Memorial Playground in Fairmount Park celebrates 125 years
Smith Memorial Playground in Fairmount Park celebrates 125 years 02:52

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Slipping down the wooden slide at Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse is a right of passage. Generations have hopped on the potato sacks and slid down the boards. This year, to mark its 125th anniversary, the institution is planning and undertaking several new projects to keep the play space in tip-top shape for the next generation.

"Smith is a gem," Shadirah Myrick, Smith's operations manager said. "I played here as a kid, my grandparents played here as a kid, my parents played here as a kid."

The memories at Smith are created and recreated. It is an experience those who work at Smith have heard about time and time again.

"She said in fact, in this very space, I had my fourth birthday party, and I'm 64 now," Executive Director Frances Hoover recalls. "So, 60 years ago, (she) was in this space, and (she's) now bringing (her) granddaughter, and she's going to have a similar experience. So, we hear a lot of that."

Smith is kicking off a huge milestone celebration this summer, after delighting families for 125 years with its six-and-a-half acres of playgrounds and its three-story, 16,000-square-foot playhouse.

"We consider ourselves pioneers in the playground movement," Hoover said. "It's actually one of the very first - among the first - playgrounds in the entire country."

Nestled among the lush trees in East Fairmount Park, Smith was founded in 1899 with the goal of fostering play while keeping admission free. To celebrate 125 years, the play space is now undergoing improvements and planning several new features.

"We are fixing some of the beams on the slide to keep it stabilized," Myrick said. "Anything to keep the slide alive, we're definitely going to make sure it's done. We're going to be installing a zipline. We are really hoping to add a water feature, a splash playground."

Work on the zipline is set to get underway in a couple of months, and Smith hopes to start on the splash playground within a year. However, the nonprofit relies heavily on donations and volunteers and needs support.

"It's not just coming to clean up, we need consultants to help us when we're trying to reach donors and get funding. People can help us in those ways too," Smith said. 

A community working together to keep Smith vibrant for its 200,000 visitors a year - for years to come.

For more information on programming throughout the year, click here.

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