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Dean Playground

Dean Playground

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

Located between 6th Avenue and Carlton Avenue, Dean Playground takes its name from neighboring Dean Street, which honors Silas Deane (1737-1789), a Revolutionary War statesman. Deane was born in Groton, Connecticut in 1737 and educated at Yale College (now Yale University). He settled in Wethersfield, Connecticut, where he worked as a merchant and a lawyer. Elected in 1772 to the Connecticut colonial assembly, Deane soon became involved in the American revolutionary cause. In 1774, he became a delegate to the Continental Congress.  Two years later, Congress sent him, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), and Arthur Lee (1740-1792) to France to secure the support of the French. 

In France, Deane proved himself to be a skilled diplomat. Almost single-handedly, he recruited numerous foreign volunteers for the American war effort. Prominent examples include the French statesman and military commander Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), the Irish soldier-of-fortune Thomas Conway (1735-c. 1800), the Polish-born cavalry commander Casimir Pulaski (1748-1779), and the famed trainer of Washington’s troops at Valley Forge, Prussian military commander Baron Wilhelm von Steuben (1730-1794). He also helped secure military supplies that proved to be invaluable to the American victory at the 1777 Battle of Saratoga. Following the victory, Deane was one of the main architects behind the Franco-American Treaty of 1778. That same year, however, Arthur Lee accused Deane of illegally profiting from French arms sales to America. On the basis of these charges, the Continental Congress recalled Deane to the United States and launched an investigation into his dealings with the French. 

While in France in 1781 to secure evidence for his defense, Deane privately expressed doubts about the American war effort in letters to friends. These letters were discovered and published in American newspapers. Reviled as a traitor and unable to clear himself, Deane immigrated to Great Britain. In 1784, he published a defense of his views, entitled An Address to the Free and Independent Citizens of the United States of North America. Finally allowed to return to the United States five years later, Deane died en route under unexplained circumstances. In 1842, characterizing Lee’s charges as “a gross injustice,” Congress officially exonerated Deane from all possible wrongdoing and awarded $37,000 in reward to his heirs.

NYC Parks acquired this property in 1948 and the playground opened that same year. Although the playground was not officially named, residents referred to it as Dean Street Playground for years. In 1970, the playground was renovated with a new comfort station, slides and swings, seesaws, a sandbox, a flagpole, and an asphalt ballfield. In 1987, NYC Parks officially renamed the site Dean Playground. In October 2009, the old asphalt multipurpose play area was replaced with a new synthetic field and in 2014 the playground’s basketball court was renovated, updating this important neighborhood amenity.

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