Why a Gramercy playground honors a sculptor

City parks and playgrounds named for a specific person usually memorialize a political bigwig or community leader, not an artist.

Which makes it a bit of a mystery as to why the playground on Second Avenue between 19th and 20th Streets is named for Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

It’s not that he doesn’t deserve the honor. Saint-Gaudens created many of late 19th century America’s most beautiful bronze sculptures.

He’s the genius behind the 1881 Admiral Farragut statue in Madison Square Park, as well as General Sherman on a horse led by winged Victory at Grand Army Plaza on Fifth Avenue, unveiled in 1903.

So why was his name given to a playground opened in 1966? It must have to do with his roots in the neighborhood.

When he was a boy, his French-born father, a cobbler, opened a shop on Fourth Avenue (now Park Avenue South) and 21st Street.

As a student, Saint-Gaudens attended Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design, on 23rd Street in the 1860s.

He then got himself a studio on 14th Street and Fourth Avenue—in the same building as up-and-coming architects Stanford White and Charles McKim.

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7 Responses to “Why a Gramercy playground honors a sculptor”

  1. Oldeastsidr Says:

    I grew up around the corner. Augustus Saint-Gaudens was a graduate of PS 40 (now known as Augustus Saint-Gaudens Elementary School) which borders the southern portion of the park. PS 40’s main entrance is on 20th street between 1st and 2nd avenues and extends through the block to 19th street. The northern part of the park was once a hospital (believe demolished in the 60s or 70s). More info and old photos at http://www.ps40pta.org/about_history.html .

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Oh, that makes sense then. Thanks!

  3. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    I remember where that hospital stands on 2nd Ave & 17th St. For years there was nothing but a hole with a base in the ground. Foundation was laid and left abandoned. I suppose they ran out of money until they started up again.

  4. Allie Says:

    He also did the statue of Peter Cooper that’s outside the Cooper Union! I think he started studying art there when he was 13.

  5. Fifth Avenue’s most heroic Civil War monument | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] sculpture of General William Tecumseh Sherman is one of the finest sculptures by the talented American sculptor and New York City resident Augustus St.Gaudens,” notes the Central Park Conservatory […]

  6. History in the Making: Another Rainy Monday Edition - The Bowery Boys Says:

    […] Did you ever wonder why a playground close Irving Place — at Second Avenue and 19th Street — was named after the prolific sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens? Wonder no more! [Ephemeral New York] […]

  7. A golden goddess topping Madison Square Garden | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] at night by electricity, her slender form, the work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, could be seen as far away as New […]

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