Washington Square is a 9.75 acre park and is the center of Greenwich Village in New York City. It is just a few blocks from the Flying North International Headquarters. According to its history [thanks to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation], “Washington Square Park is named for George Washington [1732-1799], the commander of the Continental Army, who was inaugurated in New York City as the first President of the United States on April 30, 1789.
The land was once a marsh fed by Minetta Brook located near a Native American village. In 1797 the City’s Common Council acquired the land for use as a Potter’s Field and for public executions. Used first as the Washington Military Parade Ground in 1826, the site became a public park in 1827. Following this designation, prominent families, wanting to escape the disease and congestion of downtown Manhattan, moved into the area and built the distinguished Greek Revival mansions that still line the square’s north side. In 1838 the park hosted the first public demonstration of the telegraph by Samuel F.B. Morse [as in the Morse code].
The marble Washington Arch, designed by noted architect Stanford White, was built between 1890-1892 and replaced a wooden arch erected in 1889 to honor the centennial of the first president’s inauguration.”
The inscriptions read “Let Us Raise A Standard To Which The Wise And Honest Can Repair / The Event Is In The Hand Of God / -Washington” [south side] and “To Commemorate The One Hundredth Anniversary Of The Inauguration Of George Washington As First President Of The United States” [north side].
This week the Washington Square Arch has transformed into its muse, it’s forerunner, its inspiration and more muscular counterpart, the famous Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Commissioned in 1806 after the victory at Austerlitz by Emperor Napoleon and inaugurated in 1836, the Arc de Triomphe [located at the Place Charles de Gaulle, formerly the Place de l’Étoile] honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
More than a thousand people gathered in New York’s Washington Square Park this past weekend to mourn those recently killed in the attacks in Paris. Bill de Blasio, the Mayor of New York City, joined the French Counsul General in a show of support for Paris. As a part of the show of support, the French flag hangs from the arch and lights reflect the bleu, blanc, rouge of the French Tricolore.
The Washington Square Arch, this week dressed up as its more famous cousin, reminds us that the world is not such a big place after all, and that we are all connected more than we realize.