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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 compete for traffic with Grand Central Station on the East Side. The eight-acre site on which the railroad was to build its new station contained 500 buildings, all of which had to be torn down before construction could begin.

McKim, Mead and White designed Penn Station during the peak of the City Beautiful movement as a gateway to the metropolis of New York City. Begun in San Francisco, the 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 new Penn Station, built on the same site in 1968, is an underground structure that also houses offices and Madison Square Garden. With twenty-one tracks and 600,000 passengers traveling through it daily, Penn Station is the busiest station in North America. In the new millennium, New York may well see a third Penn Station. Significant federal funds were allocated by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan to create a new station within the landmarked Farley Post Office building at 34th Street, which was also designed by McKim, Mead and White to compliment the original train station.

This playground, contained within the Penn Station South Houses, opened in 1961 bearing the same name as the housing complex. Parks renamed it Penn South Playground in 1989. Council Member Tom Duane provided $330,000 in 1996 for a complete reconstruction of the playground that included new elementary school-age equipment on new safety surfacing, and new benches which sit beneath the shade of the London plane trees and ginkgo trees that line the park.

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