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Philadelphia Oddities

Giant Slide

Giant Slide
The Giant Slide

Almost anyone raised in Philadelphia will know exactly what you're talking about when you mention Smith Playground and its famous "giant slide." Age makes no difference. It's a universal childhood memory for those raised in Philadelphia. Smith Playground opened in 1899 and the giant slide was built soon after the place opened. The playground is another legacy of Richard Smith — the same Smith whose money built the Civil War memorial and whispering bench. Smith wanted a safe, fun place for small children. He specified an age limit of 10, which has since been raised to 12.

The place is a wonderful anachronism, filled with old fashion playground equipment that hasn't been made in decades. The most popular amusement by far is the old wooden sliding board. Its 12-foot width allows several kids to go down at one time, creating all sorts of possibilities for collisions and entanglement. The slide is 60 feet long and covered by a roof. Often there are a couple hundred kids in line waiting to slide.

The wood decking was replaced once in the distant past. Sometimes the slide is waxed, but it's mostly countless little sliding fannies that keeps the giant slide smooth and polished.

Smith Playground is located in Fairmount Park near 33rd and Oxford.

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