We previously brought you the hidden history of Washington Square Park, but now get a closer look at one of the park’s and city’s most famous monuments: the Washington Square Arch. Standing at the north side of the park, it was dedicated on May 4, 1895, to George Washington as the first president of the United States. The arch has stood in this spot for over 100 years presiding over the park’s colorful and ever evolving culture and history. Here are the top 10 secrets of the Washington Arch.
Original wood and plaster arch on 5th Ave at the north end of Washington Square Park. Image via Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
Before the marble arch was built in 1892, there was a temporary wooden arch erected in 1889 to celebrate the centennial of President George Washington’s inauguration (similar to another temporary arch at Madison Square Park). The arch, campaigned by William Rhinelander Stewart, was only supposed to be built temporarily for the celebration. Stewart, a wealthy resident of the area convinced other wealthy residents of the area to contribute funds to build this memorial, and brought in Stanford White, of the famous firm McKim Mead & White for the design.
On April 30, 1889, the wooden arch was decorated and lit up for the centennial. To build and decorate the whole thing cost $2,700, which is about $71,000 today.
The temporary arch became very popular and sparked a new campaign that brought in $150,000 (for a more permanent arch. And so in 1890, the marble arch in Washington Square Park that we are all familiar with today, still stands albeit a few feet south of where the original stood.