With boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and new condos for sale, SoHo is a veritable playground for fashion-forward, fun-loving adults. But tucked away on Thompson street is a literal playground whose name—Vesuvio—conjures both the ancient city of Pompeii and an erstwhile bakery owned by a man with an incredible passion for his neighborhood.
Just a few blocks from the XOCO 325 condos, on the corner of Spring and Thompson, Vesuvio Playground provides swings, slides, and a sandbox for the kids, and courts for bocce, basketball, and handball for their keepers. Vesuvio’s history began decades ago, when it was originally called the Thompson Street Playground. In the 1920s, the New York City Parks Department started buying land for the playground in the then-Italian-immigrant community. At the same time, a young boy named Anthony Dapolito was bumping along the uneven streets on a bicycle delivering bread from the bakery he’d eventually own: the Vesuvio—perhaps due to the oven’s hot coal—named after the infamous volcano, Vesuvius.
Dapolito never left his childhood neighborhood and, in addition to owning the iconic bakery, became an advocate for the community. In the 1990s, local residents wanted to honor Anthony Dapolito for his work, but a Parks Department policy prevented the naming of public parks after a living person. They compromised by renaming the Thompson Street Playground after Dapolito’s beloved bakery.
While Vesuvio Bakery has since closed, its lime green façade remains intact, thanks to Birdbath Bakery, which has operated in the space since 2009. Pick up a chocolate chip cookie there or a Cronut at the nearby Dominique Ansel Bakery, and then stroll down to the playground for a day of fun. For a savory snack, pick up a “Palermo” slice from Ben’s Famous Pizzeria to nosh while watching your kids swinging, sliding, and jungle-gymming. And the playground even gives your child a good reason to don a new bathing suit from Les Petits Chapelais—it has fountains and a mini-pool to splash in.
Whether you’re a kid or a parent—who just might be a fan of New York City history as well—Vesuvio Playground gives the entire family a chance to experience SoHo at its best.