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Your Park > Monuments > Washington Square Arch Restoration

Text: "Washington Square Arch Restoration"



Historic photographs of north and south sides of the Arch
Above: North side of the Arch, 1905
Below: South side of Arch, postcard c. 1910
(NewYork Bound Archives)

The Washington Square Arch is a defining feature of the Greenwich Village Landmark Historic District, the emblem of New York University, and the heart of an international tourist mecca. Designed by Stanford White and dedicated in 1895, the triumphal arch was an expression of the City Beautiful movement, which sought to create structures and public spaces in America whose beauty and stature would rival those of the European capitals.

This arch was preceded in 1889 by a temporary triumphal arch of wood and papier mache spanning Fifth Avenue, 100 feet north of the square. Designed also by Stanford White, it commemorated the centennial of George Washington's inauguration in New York City.The temporary arch was so well received that plans were immediately made to erect a permanent structure, built of Tuckahoe marble. Nearly $122,000 was raised through private subscription.

Photograph of the Arch during construction, c. 1891
The Arch during construction, c. 1891
(The History of the Washington Square Arch,
Ford & Garnett: 1896)

David H. King, Jr., who constructed the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, was hired as builder. Most of the ornamentation on the Arch, including the spandrel panels, was designed by Frederick William MacMonnies, and crafted by the Piccirilli studio, a shop of Italian master carvers. The two marble eagles were designed by Philip Martiny. Construction began on May 30, 1890, was completed by February 1895, and the Arch was dedicated on May 4th that year.

Photographs of statues of Washington as General and Washington as Statesman
Statues of Washington as General (left), and Washington as Statesman (right), photographs July, 1935.
(NewYork City Parks Photo Archive)

A later campaign funded the statues of Washington. The eastern statue depicts George Washington as Commander-in-Chief, accompanied by Fame and Valor. It was designed by Hermon Atkins MacNeil and installed in 1916. To the west, Washington as Statesman, accompanied by Wisdom and Justice, designed by Alexander Stirling Calder, was installed in 1918. Both were carved of Dover marble by the Piccirilli studio.

The Washington Square Arch has attained iconic status, appearing frequently in the work of artists and photographers, including Edward Hopper, Ernest Lawson, William Glackens, and Berenice Abbott. In 1917, as Greenwich Village was becoming a center of bohemian and intellectual life, a group of artists and actors led by Marcel Duchamp, John Sloan, and Gertrude Drick, illicitly camped atop the Arch and declared Greenwich Village an independent nation.