Gold Star Park is a wonderful neighborhood pocket park, one of many dotting South Philly. In case you’ve never heard of it, you can find it on the north side of the 600 block of Wharton St. between Sheridan and Marshall Streets. Historically, this 25K sqft parcel was occupied by the John Hay School, which was only open for a relatively short time, from 1906 through 1939. It surely would have been around for many more decades, but for a devastating fire that ultimately resulted in its demolition. Soon after, a park appeared here, eventually taking its name after World War II in honor of the Gold Star Mothers Organization.

Gold Star Park

Thanks to an active friends group, Gold Star Park has improved quite a bit in the last decade, with the most notable change in the park being the removal of an old basketball court in the northwest corner and the addition of a large grass lawn. Combine that with community events, a playground, and a ton of dog owners, and you’ve got an incredibly vibrant public space. The park is far from vibrant today, however, because it’s currently closed due to both COVID-19 and a long planned renovation effort.

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Some great old trees
View from the north
Gold Star
Renovation plan

The upgrades to the park will include a larger playground with multiple structures, a picnic area, improved lighting, new seating, a paved area for concerts and other events, and a lawn area for seating for said events. As has been the case for many similar park improvement projects around town, the friends group worked on initial planning with the Community Design Collaborative, identifying the changes that most neighbors and park users wanted to see. Work started just a couple months ago, but is currently paused for obvious reasons. The original timeline called for the project to be done in September, but we have a feeling things will drag through the fall, since the stoppage will surely continue for at least a couple more weeks.

We feel we’d be remiss if we didn’t bring up the tragic recent history in the park, where an altercation in early 2019 between two dog owners resulted in one of them being killed. This kind of thing leaves a mark on a public space and on a community, and we can only hope that the renovation of the park will not only help people in the area heal, but will also drive home the important safety issue of keeping dogs leashed in public places.