Darren Fava Philadelphia Parks & Recreation|February 2, 2021
Did you know Philadelphia Parks & Rec has 26 sites named in honor of African Americans?
In recognition of Black History Month, Parks & Rec invites you to learn more about these site’s namesakes. We’ve created a story map that illustrates the lives of these important people. Explore the map to learn about:
- A world-famous singer
- An accomplished architect
- Barrier-breaking politicians
- Religious, cultural, and civic leaders
- Fallen sports stars
- Neighborhood activists.
Here are two highlights from this illustrious group:
Marie Dendy spent her life working to improve her community. As a tireless advocate she helped to:
- Keep her neighborhood clean and safe.
- Organize tenants at Jefferson Manor to improve conditions and buy their homes.
- Create and expand recreational options for children.
Dendy was born and raised in Greenville, N.C. She moved to Philadelphia in the 1930s. Here, she raised five children. She also worked for 28 years at the Quartermaster Corp., making clothing for the military.
Dendy served as a block captain in her North Philly neighborhood. She organized cleanups, painting, and planting projects. In 1958, she was the first tenant to receive a lease at the Jefferson Manor apartments. This complex at 11th & Jefferson Streets was built as affordable housing.
For 20 years, Dendy and other tenants actively protested poor conditions at the Manor. They fought to buy their homes and formed a nonprofit tenant group to do so. In 1985, they succeeded in purchasing the complex. Dendy and the other tenants were finally able to buy their units.
Dendy became president of the advisory council at Schwartz Playground in 1958. The site at 10th and Oxford Streets opened in 1955 with limited play areas. Dendy organized residents to increase recreational options for area youth. She helped raise funds for Little League baseball. And she championed playground improvements.
These efforts paid off. In 1978, Schwartz Playground was rebuilt and expanded. The renovated site included a new recreation building, baseball fields, and basketball courts. A new children’s play area and swimming pool were also built.
Marie passed away in 1990. The community rallied to rename Schwartz Playground for Dendy. The name change was made official in 1993, a fitting honor for the site’s biggest champion.
Charles Henry Chew, Jr. was born in 1895 in Allentown, New Jersey, a rural community outside Trenton. He worked as a chauffeur and trained as an undertaker. During World War I, Chew was among the first men in the Trenton area to be inducted into the U.S. Army. He was quickly promoted to corporal. Later, he transferred to the medical corps due to his experience with first aid.
After the war, Chew attended embalming school and settled in Philadelphia. In 1927, he established a funeral home at 21st and Christian Streets. He became active in business and community affairs. These included:
- The Christian Street YMCA.
- Wesley AME Zion Church.
- NAACP (lifetime member).
- Co-founder of the Philadelphia Commissioners, a men’s social club.
Chew’s wife Virginia Ramsey Chew was one of the founding mothers of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Created in 1938, the organization provided social, cultural, and educational opportunities for youth. The successful couple shared a home on Lincoln Drive in Mt. Airy.
Their son, Charles H. Chew III, learned to be an embalmer at age 13 and became his father’s business partner. He was later joined in the business by two younger brothers. The family renamed the funeral home Charles H. Chew and Sons. The business remained at the center of the community until it closed in 2006.
Charles Jr. died in 1968. In 1972, the playground at 18th Street and Washington Avenue was named in his honor.
Philadelphia Parks & Rec presents: Black history story map.
Learn more about the African-Americans recognized by having a Philadelphia park, playground, or recreation center named in their honor.
This press release was produced by the City of Philadelphia.The views expressed here are the author’s own.
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