Washington Square in 1903 was pretty mellow pace. All the old georgian townhomes still overlooked the park, and none of the 60s apartment towers had been built behind them yet. But the square was just that – an open space. Traffic flowed under the arch and around the fountain connecting Fifth Avenue with Laguardia Place and Greenwich Village, and Washington Square Park had not been planted yet.
The famous arch–one of the more iconic structures in New York–had its origins in this temporary one, erected in 1889 and paid for by private subscription. Local residents took up a collection to commission Stanford White, then America’s most famous architect and a resident of lower Fifth Avenue, to build an arch of wood and papier-mache to commemorate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration as President. There it stood, some fifty feet north of the current arch, till its benefactors decided to pay for a permanent replacement.
Our Walk around Washington Square covers the history of the Square, the Arch, lower Fifth Ave, the infamous Triangle Fire, the birth of NYU, and the dozens of artists and bohemians that inhabited this unique New York neighborhood.