Generations of Tacony’s children have grown up playing in and around what is now known as the Vogt Recreation Center. Before it was developed into a playground sometime between 1949 and 1951, the land was vacant in the opinions of adults, but the children knew it as “the woods,” a favorite play-spot. A first-hand account written by Jeanne Downing tells stories of scavenger hunts and war games held there throughout her childhood in the 1930s and 40s.
By the end of the 1940s, maps indicate a playground had been built on the lot, located between Unruh and Knorr and bordering Cottage. Today, it’s known as Vogt Park following a decision made in September, 1953 to dedicate the park to Joseph F. Vogt. In 1965, the city began a $700,000 project for the redevelopment of the playground and the construction of a recreation center which would include play areas, a gymnasium, and an “olympic-sized” swimming pool. More recently, the recreation center served as an access center for remote learning, providing a space for children to attend online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the use of his name, there’s little information about who Joseph Vogt was, and what--if any--his connection might be to the park, playground, and recreation center named in his honor. Some claim he frequented the park, or was a great lover of sports, but little evidence of how he lived outside of his military and political career exists. What we do know is that he was born around 1897 in the Kensington neighborhood and served in the 54th Infantry Regiment during the first World War. He took night classes at Temple University and spent 18 years working for the American Water Softener Co., presumably marrying Dinah Jane Crooks sometime before he began his political career in 1937. The couple lived on Magee Street in Tacony and had a son, Joseph Vogt Jr..
When Richardson Dilworth, who later became Mayor of Philadelphia, took office as City Treasurer in 1950, Joseph Vogt was named Deputy City Treasurer. Just following this honor, however, he suffered a heart attack. He recovered, and between treatments for his heart condition, was named the sole Democratic nominee for City Treasurer in the 1953 election. Unfortunately, Vogt did not make it to election day. He passed away at his home on March 30th, 1953. In his honor, his colleagues at City Hall dedicated the park near his home as the Joseph F. Vogt Field.
Pictured: Vogt Recreation Center Dedication Ceremony, taken by William Owens in 1966. From Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center. https://digital.library.temple.edu/digital/collection/p15037coll3/id/17973/
Faith Allen at Vogt Virtual Learning Access Center, taken by Emily Rizzo in 2020. From WHYY article “Staff, students at Philly ‘access centers’ juggle academic needs with COVID concerns.” https://whyy.org/articles/staff-students-at-philly-access-centers-juggle-academic-needs-with-covid-concerns/
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Written by Amarynth Ruch