What was here before?
This was once the site of Public School 87, a four-story, non-fireproof building that dated to 1889. It was slated for demolition in 1952 to construct a new school to accommodate a growing neighborhood.
How did this site become a playground?
In 1952, the City of New York acquired additional property on the block bounded by Amsterdam Avenue, West 78th Street, Columbus, and West 77th Street for school and recreational purposes. The new William T. Sherman School opened in 1954. Plans were drawn up for a Jointly Operated Playground (JOP) to serve the school and local community. Beginning in 1938, the Board of Education agreed to provide land next to schools where NYC Parks could build and maintain playgrounds that could be used by the school during the day and the public on evenings and weekends. The design incorporated play equipment and facilities for roller-skating and basketball and maintained the old school garden.
In 2004, a large mural depicting a frontier scene was painted by Mitchell Schoor on the south wall of the playground. In 2013, the playground received a renovation of its recreational facilities two kickball fields, a soccer field, three basketball courts, a small track, and two hopscotch games. New benches and chess tables, including some that are ADA-compliant were also added, as well as a new accessible drinking fountain.
Who is this playground named for?
Like the adjacent school, this playground is named for Civil War Union General William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891) who was born in Lancaster, Ohio. Sherman graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1840. He served in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). After the Civil War (1861-1865) broke out, he was appointed brigadier-general of volunteers in 1861 and fought at Bull Run and Shiloh. Promoted to major general in 1862, he distinguished himself in the Vicksburg and Chattanooga campaigns of 1863. Sherman blazed a trail of destruction as his troops seized Atlanta, marched to the sea, and headed north through the Carolinas. He received the surrender of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston on April 26, 1865, seventeen days after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, Virginia.
General Sherman retired to New York and resided near what is now called Sherman Square on W. 70th Street and Broadway. The saying “War is hell” is attributed to Sherman. He died in New York in 1891.