This square honors Private First Class Timothy Donnellan (1895-1918), an Irish immigrant who gave his life fighting in World War I.
Born in County Clare, Ireland on July 15, 1895, Donnellan arrived in the United States in 1916. He lived with his sister and her husband in the Bronx and worked on Morris Avenue. On June 5, 1917, Donnellan enlisted in the 69th New York Regiment, from which the Army formed the 165th U.S. Infantry of the famous Rainbow Division.
On June 1, 1918, Donnellan's sister received a telegram stating that Donnellan had been killed defending his post on May 30. On the same day, she received a letter from Donnellan written a few days before his death. He reported that he was in good health and eager to face the enemy. He also reported that his chaplain, Father Duffy, namesake of Duffy Square, was well. The same batch of mail contained letters from Donnellan's friends, attesting that he had fought like a hero and died at his post.
Donnellan Square sits in the midst of Harlem's Hamilton Heights/Sugar Hill historic district. Sugar Hill developed as the most prosperous section of Harlem, and was given its nickname because the residents were said to live "the sweet life." Its citizens have included entertainers such as Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Cab Calloway, as well as political leaders such as Thurgood Marshall and Roy Wilkins.
At the request of the Hamilton Heights-West Harlem Community Preservation Organization, funding was secured for the square’s reconstruction. Designed by Gail Wittwer and completed in 2002, the enlarged park lies between St. Nicholas Avenue and St. Nicholas Place, from 150th Street to just below 149th Street. Benches line the park, and because Donnellan Square falls in a historic district, its three new lampposts are replicas of an old-fashioned style.
One of the three expanded planting beds holds the community's Christmas tree, a Norway spruce surrounded by Carefree Delight rosebushes and upright yews. The smaller of the other two planting beds contain Scholar trees, Japanese tree lilacs, Inkberry bushes, summersweets, oakleaf hydrangeas, Carefree Delight roses, and butterfly bushes.