Doughboy Park and Plaza
While there aren’t any major parks in Woodside, Doughboy Park is a small gem, both for its simplicity and history. This 1.71 acre park and plaza, bounded by Woodside Avenue, 52nd Street, and 39th Road, is notable for its statue of a doughboy and small garden honoring our fallen heroes.
In 1893, the space was used as a play area for the adjacent P.S. 11 school. In 1898, the park passed into the City’s ownership, when Newtown and other municipalities in Queens merged with New York City. But the land was determined to be too steep and overgrown for children to play on, and was assigned to NYC Parks in 1957. The land was accordingly developed into a sitting space for adults, which is today more suitable for a place that is home to such a dignified monument. Finally, in 1971, the park received its name by local law.
The park’s center attraction and namesake, the doughboy monument, has been there since 1923 in honor of “doughboys,” or the nickname for members of the U.S. Army or Marine Corps prominently used by the British during World War I (because the big round buttons on American uniforms resembled British cakes known as “doughboys.”) The sculpture was created by Burt W. Johnson from Flushing, and the resulting reverently solemn WWI soldier holding his helmet and gun continues to stand tall on a granite pedestal inscribed with “LEST WE FORGET 1917-1918.”
Even before the statue went up, soldiers from Woodside would gather here at the “mustering ground” before leaving to fight. Sadly, ten soldiers who left from the park never returned, In remembrance of these soldiers and others who died, the Woodside Community Council erected the statue. It was dedicated on Memorial Day in 1923, in a ceremony attended by many local residents, and in 1928, the American Federation of Arts selected the Woodside Doughboy as the best war memorial of its kind.
In 1990, the statue was renewed with cleaning, repatinating, and coated with wax, and the surrounding plaza was renovated in 2001 to include benches, so you can now sit down and appreciate the history and meaning of the doughboy statue. A stone panel has also been installed with the names of eleven major First World War campaigns and seven key battles in which American soldiers fought.
The park itself now has a small dog run (currently under construction), multiple benches, and a hilly lawn to sprawl or play on. Keeping up with tradition that started in the 1920s, locals continue to gather in the plaza on Memorial Day.