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Classon Playground

DeKalb Playground

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

DeKalb Playground, located on Lafayette Avenue between St. James Place and Classon Avenue and also known as Classon Playground, takes its name from Revolutionary War hero General Baron Johann DeKalb (1721-1780), remembered as one of the most courageous and skilled of the many foreigners who embraced the cause of American liberty.

DeKalb, born in Huettendorf, Germany, received his training in the French military service and became a brigadier-general in 1747. He made his first trip to the colonies as a secret agent during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). After traveling in disguise throughout the colonies to determine the level of their antagonism toward the British, DeKalb returned to Paris convinced of the colonists’ dissatisfaction. In 1777, General Lafayette decided to go to America to assist the colonists in their fight and asked Baron DeKalb to accompany him.

On September 15, 1777, at the age of 56, DeKalb was appointed major-general and served on Washington’s staff at Valley Forge. He went on to fight in battles in New Jersey and Maryland before being ordered South in April 1780 to aid General Lincoln in Charleston, South Carolina. Although he was too late to help prevent defeat there, he quickly traveled to Camden, South Carolina, where his forces combined with General Gates’ forces to attack the British army. Gates’ men soon fell into disorder, leaving DeKalb’s ranks vulnerable. The British surrounded them on all sides and shot DeKalb’s horse out from under him. He fought horseless, rallying his men until his eleventh wound finally felled him. DeKalb died from his wounds in South Carolina on August 19, 1780. A monument erected to him there in 1825 reads, “His love of Liberty induced him to leave the old world to aid the citizens of the new in their struggle for independence.” A statue of DeKalb also stands in Annapolis, Maryland, and a major street in Brooklyn bears his name as well.

The City of New York acquired this land by condemnation in 1954. Jointly operated by Parks and Department of Education, the playground opened in 1960. Until Parks renamed it in 1986, DeKalb Playground was known as P.S. 270 Playground. In March 1999, Council Member Mary Pinkett funded a $726,000 renovation that installed new play equipment, safety surfacing, kindergarten swings and pavement. A Requirements Contract funded by Mayor Giuliani in 2000 provided brand-new play equipment and surfacing.

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