Washington Square Park

George Washington Accompanied by Wisdom and Justice

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This elaborate marble statue depicts American Revolutionary War General and President George Washington (1732–1799). Standing in stately repose before human personifications of wisdom and justice, the 16-foot marble figure in high relief on integral plinth was sculpted by Alexander Stirling Calder (1870-1945).

Alexander Calder came from a family of sculptors and artisans. Educated both at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art (1886-90) and in Paris (1890), he was well-known for his public works. He also sculpted the Swann Memorial in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, monumental archways in Pasadena, California, and the Depew Memorial Fountain in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Designed by Stanford White (1853-1906), Washington Square Arch was dedicated on May 4, 1895. White’s initial, elaborate plans included a pier sculpture abutting the arch, but these designs were never completed. His spandrel panels depicting War, Peace, Fame and Posterity remained unadorned for more than twenty years. In 1916, Washington as Commander-in-Chief Accompanied by Fame and Valor was installed at the Arch. Washington as President, Accompanied by Wisdom and Justice, sculpted by Alexander Stirling Calder, was installed at the site two years later.

Though Washington Square Arch has been cleaned and maintained several times over the past few decades, the marble sculptures continue to show signs of erosion. On August 16, 2001, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani announced that he would allocate $1.5 million to the restoration of Washington Square Arch. The City Council, the Manhattan Borough President, and several private sponsors have also contributed funds to the project.

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