by Chris Hale
12 May 2006

   Washington Square Park, named after George Washington, is located in the heart of Greenwich Village and is known for its two famous landmarks the Washington Arch and the central fountain. The history of Washington Square Park began as farmland until 1797 when it was turned into a cemetery until 1825. Washington Square was built in 1826 for the military to train defense troops on and was known as the Washington Military Parade Ground. The surrounding area quickly became posh residential homes for the upper class. On the north side of the park, the original row of Greek Revival style homes are still standing. In 1827, it became Washington Square Park.
    The park attracts an assortment of people including tourists, residents, street musicians, artists, vendors, and college students. The park is surrounded by historic red brick buildings primarily belonging to New York University for academic and residential purposes. Among other attractions to be found within the landmark park includes two dog runs, built-in chess and scrabble playing areas, commemorative statues, picnic tables, children’s play areas, paths, trees, benches and gardens. There’s plenty of events held at the park including several outdoor art fairs, a Halloween parade, dachshund events every May, street musicians, various speakers, and an annual music festival with free concerts.  
    The Washington Arch was designed in 1885 by architect Stanford White to commemorate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration. Interestingly, Fifth avenue traffic was allowed to pass thru the famous arch until 1964 when it was renovated at a cost of nearly $3 million dollars. The Washington Arch features two statues of George Washington, “Washington as Commander-in-Chief” and “Washington as President”. Originally made of plaster and wood, the memorial arch was so popular, Stanford White redesigned the arch in marble in 1892. The Washington Arch stands 77 feet tall and was modeled after the Arc de Triomphe located in Paris.
    The central fountain was installed in 1870 and remained a centered focal midpoint in the design of the park. The fountain is located near the Washington Arch and is a popular gathering location for leisure activities. The fountain is surrounded by plenty of stone steps for the publics use.
    Washington Square Park has been seen and mentioned in several movies, musical, and literary works. Among some include the 1994 film Searching for Bobby Fischer, the 1995 movie Kids, the film Deep Impact, and the literary work Henry James’ Washington Square. 
    Washington Square Park is located at West 4th St and Waverly Place. The Washington Arch is located at 5th Avenue and Waverly Place. Their telephone is (212) 982-9532. The park is open daily from sunrise to 1:00 am.