Charles Bunstein Stover

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Charles Bunstein Stover
Charles Bunstein Stover 1913.png
Parks Commissioner for New York City
Personal details
Born(1861-07-14)July 14, 1861
Riegelsville, Pennsylvania
DiedApril 25, 1929(1929-04-25) (aged 67)
University Settlement House
New York City
EducationLafayette College

Charles Bunstein Stover (July 14, 1861 – April 25, 1929) was a social activist and the Parks Commissioner for New York City from 1910 to 1913.


Stover was born in Riegelsville, Pennsylvania, on July 14, 1861. He attended Lafayette College and graduated in 1881. He studied to become a Presbyterian minister at the Union Theological Seminary and graduated in 1884. He also took classes at the University of Berlin, before moving to Manhattan's Lower East Side.[1]

In 1886, Stover founded the Neighborhood Guild on Forsyth Street, the first settlement house in the United States.[1] In 1898, he and Lillian Wald, director of the nearby Henry Street Settlement, founded the Outdoor Recreation League (ORL), whose mission was to provide play spaces and organize games for the children of the densely populated Lower East Side. The ORL opened nine privately sponsored playgrounds and advocated that the City itself build and operate playgrounds. In 1902 the City assumed the operation of the ORL playgrounds, and in 1903 opened what is presumed to be the first municipally built playground in the nation, Seward Park in Manhattan's Lower East Side; the ORL had opened an outdoor gymnasium there in May 1899, on city-owned land.[2]

In January 1910, Stover was named parks commissioner for Manhattan by New York City's newly-elected mayor, William Jay Gaynor. Stover's tenure was controversial; in July 1911 The New York Times reported that he was being asked to hand in his resignation.[3] He did not resign and was not fired; in August 1911 he announced major plans were underway for Central Park and Riverside Drive Park.[4] In April 1913 Stover said "I do not believe in the policy that the parks are merely places people to walk through and look at the trees and gaze at the landscape from a distance, nor do I believe that any one should be permitted to destroy anything, but I take the position that certain parks of the asphalt and the lawns should be open most liberally to the young people for amusement, proper athletics, and recreation, under proper circumstances."[5]

Disappearance and reappearance[edit]

In October 1913, Stover told his staff and coworkers that he was going out for lunch then he disappeared.[1] In mid-November he was erroneously thought to have died in Delaware when a body resembling him was found.[6] A week later, he was seen in Washington, D.C., by a former city official.[7] In late November, a nationwide search began, which included sending a short film clip to 10,000 moving-picture places across the United States.[8] Shortly thereafter, Stover mailed his letter of resignation from Cincinnati, and Ardolph Loges Kline, the Mayor of New York City, replaced Stover with Louis F. La Roche, Stover's deputy.[9] On January 28, 1914, Stover returned to the University Settlement House.[10]

Later life and death[edit]

Stover spent the rest of his life developing a summer camp at Beacon, New York, operated by the University Settlement House. He died at the University Settlement House on April 24, 1929, at the age of 67, leaving an estate valued at only $500.[11]


The granite Stover Memorial Bench overlooking Central Park's Shakespeare Garden, to commemorate Stover, was approved in 1935 by Robert Moses[12] and installed in 1936.[1][13] It is a whispering gallery.[14] Under Stover's name is inscribed Founder of Outdoor Playgrounds.[15]

Charles B. Stover Memorial Bench

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Charles Stover". New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
  2. ^ "NEW OUTDOOR GYMNASIUM.; Built by the Recreation League, It Will Be Opened Memorial Day". The New York Times. May 14, 1899. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  3. ^ "TO PUT STOVER OUT AS HEAD OF PARKS; Commissioner Higgins of the Bronx Has Been Picked to Succeed Him". The New York Times. July 30, 1911. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  4. ^ "STOVER WOULD TURN SPEEDWAY OVER TO AUTOMOBILES; Park Commissioner Also Plans Widening Riverside Drive and Covering Over the Railroad Tracks and Has Already Started the Work". The New York Times. August 27, 1911. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  5. ^ "STOVER DENIES GAMES HURT PARKS; Commissioner Says He Won't Erect a Stadium for Athletic Contests in Central Park". The New York Times. April 17, 1913. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  6. ^ "Park Commissioner's Friends Alarmed by a Report from Wilmington. But Those Who Know Mr. Stover Best Find Flaws in Description. Last Heard from in Philadelphia" (PDF). The New York Times. November 15, 1913. Retrieved 2009-07-28. Friends of Park Commissioner Charles B. Stover were much alarmed last night when dispatches from Wilmington, Del., said that in a body found in the Christiana River, near the shipyard of the American Car and Foundry Company there, Coroner John T. Spring of Wilmington reported that he recognized striking resemblance to Mr. Stover, whose whereabouts have not been known for some time.
  7. ^ "MAY ASK FOR POLICE SEARCH FOR STOVER; Friend Says Gaynor's Death Preyed on Missing Park Commissioner's Mind". The New York Times. November 23, 1913. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  8. ^ "MOVING PICTURES TO FIND STOVER; Missing Park Commissioner's Portrait to be Shown in 10,000 Film Houses". The New York Times. November 25, 1913. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  9. ^ "STOVER RESIGNATION RECEIVED BY KLINE; Missing Man Wrote on Monday from Cincinnati, but Has Disappeared Again". The New York Times. November 29, 1913. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  10. ^ "STOVER HAS COME BACK.; Ex-Park Commissioner Says He Had a Fine Vacation". The New York Times. January 29, 1914. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  11. ^ "CHARLES B. STOVER LEFT ESTATE OF ONLY $500; Former Park Commissioner and Welfare Worker Bequeathed His Effects to an Uncle". The New York Times. August 22, 1929. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  12. ^ "STOVER MEMORIAL PLAN.; Moses Approves of Stone Bench for Central Park". The New York Times. November 13, 1935. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  13. ^ "TO HONOR C.B. STOVER; La Guardia to Speak at Dedication of Memorial in Park". The New York Times. November 2, 1936. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  14. ^ "Charles Stover Bench". Official Website of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  15. ^ Rosenaug, Ariella (August 25, 2017). "A Whisper in an Age of Shouting". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 September 2017.

External links[edit]