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Playground of the Americas

Playground of the Americas

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

The City of New York acquired this property in 1925, and transferred it to the Department of Transportation as part of a Sixth Avenue renovation. The Board of Estimate later placed the parcel under NYC Parks jurisdiction in May 1934. The playground remained unnamed until February 1998, when NYC Parks designated it Houston Plaza. In 2000, it was renamed Playground of the Americas.

From White Street to Central Park South, Sixth Avenue is known as Avenue of the Americas. It was named by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1945 to celebrate the unity of the Western Hemisphere. Because New York City played a critical role in fostering Pan-Americanism, lampposts along the avenue bear symbols of the different Western nations. The name was almost changed back to Sixth Avenue in 1984 to make it easier for tourists, but New Yorkers protested the change, and it officially remains Avenue of the Americas. 

Playground of the Americas is located on West Houston Street between MacDougal Street and Avenue of the Americas. Houston Street honors the American patriot William Houstoun (1755-1813). Against his royalist father’s will, Houstoun supported the colonists’ grievances, and later championed armed resistance. Following the colonial victory in 1783, he served as a Georgia delegate to the Continental Congress and helped settle the border dispute between Georgia and South Carolina. After his death, Houston’s father-in-law, Nicholas Bayard III, constructed a street that ran east-west through a tract of land he owned, and named it after his son-in-law. The current spelling of the street, Houston, is a corruption; the last correct spelling of the street’s name was recorded in 1811. Because of this, the street name is often erroneously associated with Sam Houston (1793-1863), the commander of the Texan forces during the Texas War for Independence.

The park features seal play sculptures, a water fountain, benches, and several London plane trees. A ground plaque dedicates the park as the “Playground of the Americas” in reference to Sixth Avenue’s full name. 

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