Friday, July 27, 2012

Iwalked New York City’s Washington Square Arch

Iwalked New York City’s Washington Square Arch - Washington Square’s most recognized monument, the Washington Square Arch was formally dedicated on the north side of the park in May 1895 (although technically the final blocks for the structure had been laid three years earlier in April 1892). The current arch is actually the third version that has resided within the park. The originally version was constructed in April 1889 in celebration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the inauguration of our nation’s first president, George Washington (which occurred on nearby Wall Street at Federal Hall).

Washington Square Arch
Washington Square Arch
This tribute, styled much like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, was intended only as a temporary structure and thus constructed in simple to tear down materials such as wood and plaster. The public response to the monument was so favorable, however, that its architect Stanford White decided to create a sturdier version constructed of limestone (which he did for the sum of $27,000). This second incarnation would only be unveiled for two days before White was finally asked to create a final manifestation which would be constructed of marble and still resides here today. The only significant change to the monument since then is the fact that traffic is no longer allowed to drive through the arch, as had been the case until 1971 when the park was redesigned.

Washington Square Arch also contains two magnificent statues of George Washington along the north side that were later additions. The earliest statue was added along the eastern half in 1916 and is titled, “Washington Accompanied by Fame and Valor.” This sixteen foot marble sculpture was created by Herman A. MacNeil who hailed from Queens and also created some noted sculptures along the Supreme Court Building in Washington D.C. Here we see Washington in his full military garb while he clutches a sword with both hands directly in front of himself. On the western half of the northern side of the arch is a work unveiled just two years later by Alexander Stirling Calder titled, “George Washington Accompanied by Wisdom and Justice.” Here, again, is a sixteen foot marble figure depicting Washington as he appeared during his years as our nation’s first president.

One other “hidden” element within the arch’s western leg is a spiral staircase that leads towards the summit. Unfortunately the public is not allowed within the interior as the roof has been deemed quite fragile and is said to even leak. For now you’ll have to trust us that the interior consists of a 102-step spiral stairwell.