Washington Arch.

You walk by it, run by it, watch it fleetingly pass by as your cab hangs a right on Ninth or a left on Eigth. But what the hell is it and why is it there? Here’s the quick, the bad and the spray painted on the Washington Arch at the north end of Washington Square Park and the south end of Fifth Avenue.washington arch, washington square arch, washington square park, fifth avenue, stanford whiteWashington Arch was conceived back in 1889 by one Mr. William Rhinelander Stewart. We’re going to go ahead and speculate that he was getting his friends wasted and nostalgic looking for something to stage elaborate celebrations around to commemorate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration. He scrounged from them about 2,700 bucks (the price of a nicely outfitted MacBook today) to have Stanford White design and build a wood and plaster version of the great arches that adorned European cities over Fifth Avenue just north of Washington Square Park. A lark, friends, that clearly got the city planner’s noggins running. Three years later, they commissioned White to design a more permanent structure in the park that ended up being constructed of Tuckahoe marble. The anchor for today’s Fifth Avenue was born.washington arch, washington square park, new york city, nycMeasuring 73’6″ x 56’10″ with a span of 30′, the arch has seen it’s fair share of societal celebrations, political demonstrations and, as of today, outright terrorism! In 1995, after decades of neglect, the arch was restored to it’s present glory where it stands tall watching over the newly redesigned park that continues to host multitudes of artists, musicians, students, pigeon people, pot smokers and little kids running their nannies ragged.

One thought on “Washington Arch.

  1. When I was a student at NYU (1976-1978) I used to love spending time in Washington Square Park studying and reading, etc. I used to take the subway in from up-town and get off at Astor Place. I would come up and out of the station and then walk west along 8th street to Fifth Ave. I would then turn south (left) when I got to Fifth Ave. and I would just stand there for a moment or two amazed at how the Arch perfectly framed the World Trade Center Towers within it’s open span. I tear up when I make that walk these days. When it airs, take in the opening scenes to the movie “When Harry Met Sally” (when they drive from Chicago to New York) and you will see what I mean. Thank you Rob Riener for leaving that sequence in your movie. Sincerely, Peter Huber (a big fan) NYU Class of ’78.

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