P.S. 155 Playground

P.S. 155 Playground

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

Located on Second Avenue between 117th and 118th Streets, this playground shares its name with the adjacent school. The school is also known as the William Paca School, named for William Paca (1740-1799), the Italian-American colonial statesman from Maryland. Paca was born in Abingdon, Maryland, to a wealthy planter of Italian descent, John Paca (b. 1725). An intelligent young man, William graduated from Philadelphia College in 1759, at age nineteen. He returned to Maryland, reading law in an Annapolis law firm for two years, and then in 1761, he traveled to London to complete his studies. Upon his return to Annapolis in 1764, Paca was admitted to the Bar. That same year, he married Mary Chew (1727-1777), the daughter of the distinguished jurist Samuel Chew (1693-1744).

Paca settled in Annapolis, opening up a legal practice and joining the Sons of Liberty. Elected to the Maryland colonial assembly in 1771, he served for three years, actively opposing British attempts to tax the colonists without their consent. In 1774, Paca was elected to the Continental Congress. In 1777, apparently following the death of his first wife, he married Anne Harrison (d. 1780). Two years later, Paca relinquished his congressional seat to become the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland, a post he held until 1780. In 1782, he was elected Governor of Maryland. Serving until 1786, Paca was re-elected twice without opposition. Six years later, following the adoption of the Constitution, George Washington (1732-1799) appointed Paca the federal judge of the District Court of the United States for Maryland. Paca held this post until his death, ten years later.

Throughout his life, Paca was renowned for both his erudite legal mind and his untiring support of individual liberties. He was among the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and he was an unstinting advocate for a Bill of Rights. Paca believed that in order for all people to benefit from declarations of fundamental rights, those rights needed to be explicitly defined. As Governor of Maryland, Paca proposed and signed into law several acts respecting the freedom of religion in Maryland. Today, his influence can be seen in our Bill of Rights, especially in the First Amendment (freedom of speech and of the press, and the separation of church and state) and the Tenth Amendment (the restriction of congressional power).

In 1960, Parks and the Board of Education agreed to operate the playground jointly, ensuring that members of the community and students of P.S. 155 would enjoy the facility, then under construction. Two years later, the playground opened.

In 1992, P.S. 155 Playground underwent a $320,074 renovation, sponsored by Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields and Council Member Adam Clayton Powell. The rehabilitation project replaced the sandpit, sprinkler, roller-skating rink, baseball field, and shuffleboard area with an open courtyard, new play equipment with safety surfacing, basketball courts, and concrete game tables. Six years later, volunteers from the school and the surrounding community under the direction of Rachel Lenoir, an art teacher, painted a mural on the wall of the school that faces the playground. The artwork, depicting people of many ethnic and cultural backgrounds working together, represents William Paca’s egalitarian ideas.

Park Information

Directions to P.S. 155 Playground

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