Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse was built with a bequest from Richard and Sarah Smith, and was dedicated to the memory of their adult son, Stanfield. Smith’s beautiful, 16,000 square foot Playhouse was designed solely as a play space for children by one of Philadelphia’s most prominent late 19th century architects, James H. Windrim. The Playground is situated on its original historic landscape – 6 1/2 acres of open fields, wooded terrain, and sloped hills – and is home to the century old Ann Newman Giant Wooden Slide, a treasured play experience for generations of Philadelphia’s children, as well as other unique pieces of play equipment.
The mission of Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse is to provide and promote opportunities for unstructured free play for children.
Smith’s 16,000 square foot Playhouse was built specifically for children’s use. The house and surrounding green space opened to the public in 1899 in an era when creating a space where children could play was a radical concept. In the years since, tens of millions of Philadelphia area children have treasured their time at Smith, yet play is still undervalued in our society. Whether they attend schools that have discontinued recess, or are over-scheduled in structured activities by well-meaning parents, children today have an urgent need to spend more time in play. Smith’s staff and board strive to make play more accessible to all Philadelphia area children in order to help them grow up happy, healthy, and resilient. Children who visit Smith stretch their imaginations, improve their physical health through active play, and learn to negotiate and solve problems with their peers in a natural, peaceful setting. Parents and other caregivers accompany children on visits and learn how to use play to enhance their children’s health and well-being.
Smith has a special commitment to building relationships with under-resourced families, particularly those in our immediate neighborhood. We believe that time spent at Smith can enhance the lives of children who may not have many opportunities to play and build the skills of parents and caregivers. From national research and personal experience, we know that this investment in children, families, and play can create lasting positive benefits.
Play is fun, but not just fun. Time spent in play is critical to children’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. Many of the social and intellectual skills one needs to succeed in life are initially developed through early childhood play.
Smith welcomes all children. Smith’s audience is racially, economically, and culturally diverse. Children playing together from a wide range of backgrounds enrich the experience for all; no one is excluded for lack of resources.
Smith is a unique asset locally and nationally. Smith’s long history and incomparable physical facilities in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park create a space to convene, educate, and inspire people of all ages.