NYC Resources311Office of the Mayor

Washington Square Park

The Daily Plant : Friday, May 14, 2004


On April 30, 2004, 215 years to the day after George Washington stood in front of New York City’s Federal Hall and took the Presidential oath of office, the City held a ceremony in Washington Square Park to re-dedicate the Washington Arch. In 1895, a related ceremony was held during which New Yorkers gathered to dedicate the newly constructed Washington Arch. Over time, the arch deteriorated and to protect its fragile condition, the City fenced it off for 14 years. A 12-month, $2.7 million capital project has returned the arch to its original state and has repaired both statues of George Washington.

Among those in attendance at the re-dedication were Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Congress Member Jerrold L. Nadler, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Council Member Alan J. Gerson, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, New York University President John Sexton, and Community Board 2 Chair Jim Smith. Also participating were several descendents of Stanford White, the arch’s architect, first-graders from P.S. 41, and members of the 319th AG Army Band from Fort Totten, Queens.

"The restoration of the Washington Arch represents the culmination of more than a decade of effort by City officials, New York University, and concerned citizens to reverse the effects of decades of neglect," said Mayor Bloomberg. "As it did over 100 years ago, the restored arch once again stands as an enduring symbol of peace and enlightenment. Today’s re-dedication affirms New York City’s commitment to the renewal of Washington Square Park to a beautiful and safe public space for all New Yorkers to enjoy."

"The Washington Arch was built to be a triumphal affirmation of the ideals of a young republic," said Commissioner Benepe. During the event, Benepe noted that the right hand of the sculpture, Washington-As-President, was replaced with a hand carved in Dover marble, the same marble as the original. "He’s now the bionic man," joked Benepe.

The arch, designed by architect Stanford White, 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 European capitals. It was preceded in 1889 by a temporary triumphal arch of wood and papier-mâché, also designed by Stanford White, which honored the centennial anniversary of Washington’s inauguration. The temporary arch was so well received that plans were immediately made to erect a permanent structure and funds were quickly raised by private subscription. The arch has appeared frequently in the work of artists and photographers, including Edward Hopper, Ernest Lawson, William Glackens, and Berenice Abbott.

Allocations for the $2.7 million restoration of the arch included $1.3 million from the Mayor, $1.2 million from the City Council, and $200,000 from the Borough President. Mayor Bloomberg announced an additional $1 million in Mayoral funds for the capital reconstruction of Washington Square Park. In a surprise declaration during the ceremony, NYU President John Sexton committed $1 million in funding towards the park’s capital improvements. NYU has also pledged $300,000 towards a $600,000 endowment fund created by the City for the continued maintenance of the arch. Money towards the endowment has come from a variety of donors, including $50,000 from private supporter David Netto and $50,000 from an anonymous donor. A $10,000 donation from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation allowed Parks & Recreation to convene a panel of international experts in the fields of historic preservation and monument conservation during the project’s design phase.

The restoration project included securing loose pieces, re-carving select sculptural and decorative features, and filling fissures in the marble with a mortar compound. Additionally, 45 of the 95 rosettes on the coffered soffit of the arch were repaired or replaced. The restoration’s final phase includes the installation of extensive architectural lighting. Conservation work was supervised by Parks & Recreation’s Design and Construction team. The contractor for the project was Mughal Waterproofing and Masonry, and the subcontractor for the delicate masonry work was Archa Technology, Ltd. The design consultant conservation team included Koutsomitis Architects, conservators Mark Rabinowitz and Robin Gerstad, and engineers from Robert Silman Associates. Lighting was designed by Domingo Gonzalez Associates. Also involved were MGJ Marino Gerazounis & Jeffe Associates, Inc., S.A.T. Inc., art historian David Dearinger, Big Apple Roofing, A to Z Piping and Heating Apple Restoration, Seven Star Electrical Contracting Corporation, and Bird Master.

Among those at Parks & Recreation who worked on the project were the Deputy and Assistant Commissioners for Capital Projects, Amy L. Freitag and Nancy Barthold, respectively, Manhattan Borough Commissioner William T. Castro, Bonnie Koeppel, Jonathan Kuhn, John Natoli, Oscar Urquiola, Michael Bolger, John Krawchuk, Parviz Mohassel, Robert Redmond, and Christian Paro.

Earlier this week, the New York Landmarks Conservancy bestowed a Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award to Parks & Recreation for the Washington Arch restoration. The ceremony was held at the Biltmore Theater in midtown.

Written by Eric Adolfsen


"Promises are like the full moon: if they are not
kept at once they diminish day by day."

German proverb


Directions to Washington Square Park

Was this information helpful?