History of Forest Hills Park

Forest Hills Park and Playground exist today because of the efforts of neighborhood parents and grandparents going all the way back to the 1930s. According to Ann Kessler’s history of Forest Hills Playground (Forest Hills Connection, July 2014), the city set aside the land at 32nd and Chesapeake Streets in 1942. That was largely thanks to the efforts of Leslie Boudinot Flenner Wright, a neighborhood activist and mother of four who had lobbied for a dedicated playspace. Her work was not done. It was another 14 years before the District appropriated funding for the construction of the playground and park.

The park has been through several changes and renovations since then.

  • In 1968, there were new basketball standards, a jungle gym, fencing along the alley, and the planting of two cherry trees donated by the Forest Hills Citizens Association.
  • In 1975, the playground had a small grouping of metal playground equipment consisting of seven swings, one sandbox, three climbing structures; three or four picnic tables and benches; a baseball diamond; and basketball court.
  • Another renovation added tennis courts, a tot lot and a seating area for seniors. It was dedicated on July 4th, 1982 by then-Mayor Marion Barry. The donated sculpture, Le Rideau de Fer (the Iron Curtain) by Vincent Bathbedat, was installed.
  • Neighborhood parents still thought the playground equipment was inadequate, so in 1990,they raised money for new equipment and then worked to install it themselves (Forest Hills Connection, July 2014).
  • In 1999, the city condemned and removed the playground equipment, saying it was unsafe. Again, parents organized. They formed Friends of Forest Hills Playground in 2000 to work with the city on a new playground.

In 2012, the city decided it was time for another renovation (Forest Hills Connection, October 2013). With design guidance from Friends of Forest Hills Playground and the community, construction began in summer 2014. Mayor Vincent Gray dedicated the new park in October 2014.