Posts Tagged ‘Second Avenue playgrounds’

Why a Gramercy playground honors a sculptor

May 23, 2011

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.