Many New York City public parks and playgrounds are named in honor of prominent figures in New York City and American history.
Steuben Playground, in Brooklyn, inadvertently honors an LGBT individual.
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Many New York City public parks and playgrounds are named in honor of prominent figures in New York City and American history. The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project compiled a list of 13 public parks and playgrounds named after gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals, several of which intentionally honor an LGBT individual. This list includes Steuben Playground, in Brooklyn.
This playground was officially named in 1987 after a hero of the American Revolution, Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus von Steuben, thus inadvertently honoring a gay man of the 18th century. In 1777, as a brigade major in the Prussian military, von Steuben (1730-1794) was threatened with prosecution for his homosexual “familiarities” with young men. In Paris, he met Benjamin Franklin, who, though aware of these charges, contacted George Washington, who was desperate for an officer to assist in instilling discipline and training in the rag-tag Continental Army. Von Steuben served crucial roles in the war as inspector general, major general, and Washington’s chief of staff. After the war, von Steuben became an American citizen and first moved to Manhattan, and was later awarded a pension and properties in New York State and New Jersey.
Land for the Steuben Playground was acquired through condemnation by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation as part of the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Connecting Highway (now Brooklyn-Queens Expressway). This park was unofficially called Steuben Playground for years prior to its official naming.
“Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, Gay Revolutionary War Hero,” Homo History, May 24, 2014.
“LGBT History Month: Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben: Gen. Washington’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Case,” Philadelphia Gay News, Oct. 25, 2012.
“Steuben Playground,” NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, on.nyc.gov/3u6faaE.