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Penn South Playground

Penn South Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This playground, located on 26th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, takes its name from Pennsylvania Station, commonly known as Penn Station.  The original Penn Station was an above-ground structure designed by the eminent New York architectural firm McKim, Mead and White, and was located between 7th and 8th Avenue from 31st to 33rd Street.  Built over a span of eight years, from 1902 to 1910, Pennsylvania Station would later become an important catalyst in the city’s preservation movement.

Penn Station was designed at the height of the City Beautiful movement as a gateway to the metropolis of New York City.  This movement married civic function with classical design, restoring the architectural splendor that industrialization had rejected.  Penn Station, which was modeled after the Baths built by Roman Emperor Caracalla, was one of the city’s most beautiful, ethereal monuments.  Exalted by architects and revered by the public, Penn Station “set the stamp of excellence on the city,” according to The New York Times.  Its unfortunate destruction in 1965, to create a new office tower and Madison Square Garden, spurred the formation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the passing of some of the most stringent landmark protection laws in the world.

The current Penn Station, built in 1968 on the same site, is an underground transportation hub with twenty-one tracks and 600,000 passengers traveling through it daily, making it North America’s busiest station.

This playground, contained within the Penn Station South Houses, opened in 1961 bearing the same name as the housing complex.  It was renamed Penn South Playground in 1989.  In 1996 the playground was reconstructed and elementary school-age equipment on new safety surfacing was installed. The basketball courts were resurfaced and new painted street games were added to the pavement. Benches were sited beneath the shade of the London plane and ginkgo trees that line the park.

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