Henry M. Jackson Playground
Henry M. Jackson Playground
This playground’s clever name was coined by Commissioner Stern in 1997. It combines the street names that surround it: Henry, Madison and Jackson Streets, all of which were named for important political leaders. The playground’s name also specifically honors Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson (1912-1983) who served as a U.S. Senator from Washington (1953-1983) and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1941 to 1953. Jackson took a strong stance against Communism, but at the same time criticized Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s campaign in the 1950s to “out” Communist sympathizers. In retrospect, most regard McCarthy’s campaign as a 1950s “witch hunt.” Jackson supported organized labor and civil rights, and in 1972 and 1976 unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination.
Henry Street was named for Henry Rutgers (1745-1830), a philanthropist, legislator, and Revolutionary War patriot. A descendent of Dutch immigrants, Rutgers was born in New York City. He graduated from Kings College (Columbia University) in 1766, and quickly became active in New York politics. Though he served as both a colonel in the American Revolution and as a state assemblyman, Rutgers is best known for his generosity to schools, churches, and children of the poor. New Jersey’s Rutgers University, formerly Rutgers College, was named after this philanthropist in 1825.
Madison Street honors James Madison (1751-1836), the fourth President of the United States, and one of the founding fathers of this country. Born in Montpelier, Virginia, Madison was educated at the College of New Jersey (Princeton University) and pursued the study of law on his own. He became active in politics and was very influential during the Constitutional Convention in 1787, where he sponsored the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights and became known as the “Father of the Constitution.” Madison served as Secretary of State under President Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), and then became President himself for two terms starting in 1809. Under Madison’s leadership, the United States fought and won the War of 1812.
Jackson Street was named for Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), a revered military hero and the seventh President of the United States. Born in South Carolina, Jackson’s formal education was interrupted by the British invasion in 1780 during the Revolutionary War. At 13, he joined the American Revolution. After the U.S. War of Independence, Jackson studied law in an office in Salisbury, North Carolina, and was admitted to the bar in 1787. He moved to a frontier settlement in Tennessee, and soon became a respected lawyer and politician. In 1796 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and was elected to the U.S. Senate the following year. He fought successfully as a military commander in the War of 1812, and became a national hero. In 1824, Jackson became the first President of the United States not born into a wealthy family. Reelected for a second term, Jackson’s political rise marked a shift in the balance of political power in the country.
This playground is located in the historic Lower East Side neighborhood, directly across from the Henry Street Settlement House. Under the direction of Lillian Wald and Mary Brewster in the late 19th Century, the settlement house became a center for medical care, as well as civic, social, and philanthropic work. Today, the building also houses a youth center, and it remains an important part of the neighborhood.
The City bought the site for the adjacent school, P.S. 134, in 1956. On October 14, 1958, the City opened the playground for school children, and in 1978, it became accessible to the public. In 1998, $24,956 was spent to renovate and refurbish the handball and basketball courts. Today, the park houses a colorful and lively play area for the community, and its name honors four individuals for their dedicated and patriotic service to the founding of this nation.