Chelsea Earnest Memorial Playground
The Nautilus Club, an influential women’s civic group, was deeply involved in efforts at the mid-20th century to establish proper playgrounds for children, who were otherwise left to play in the streets or on beaches that were much less tidy than they are today. The Nickerson Street Playground or West End Playground, as this was originally called, came about in 1949 when the owner of an idle property at 1 Bradford Street agreed to sell it for that purpose. The Nautilus Club put up the down payment and also sponsored events, like dessert whist-bridge parties, to raise money to equip the play area.
This being Provincetown, even a mom-and-apple-pie issue like a new playground was at least briefly embroiled in controversy. Soon after it opened, there were complaints about the macadam surface; one, because it could result in painful injuries to anyone who fell there and two, because it drew basketball players, who would push aside the youngsters for whom the grounds were intended.
In 1981, Avis Johnson moved into the home of her great-grandmother, Sadie Patrick, at 8 Mechanic Street, two blocks away from the West End Playground, in which Johnson had played as a girl. She now had a 1-year-old daughter of her own, Chelsea Earnest. “The playground served her well during the remaining 12 years of her life,” Johnson recalled, in a comment posted below. “A short time after Chelsea’s tragic death in the summer of ’93, Florence Bent, a beloved kindergarten teacher and friend, petitioned the town to rename the playground in memory of Chelsea. No one in town opposed the idea.
“And so, to me, it will forever be ‘Chelsea’s Playground.'” And so, as you can see by the sign, will it be for everyone who passes by or stops to play.