Washington Square Park
Originally a marsh surrounding Minetta Brook, in the early years of New York this area was used as a graveyard for
slaves and yellow fever victims, a dueling ground and a place of execution. In 1826 it was designated the Washington
Military Parade Grounds, which soon was transformed into a public park.
Washington Square was at one point the center of New York society, later becoming the unofficial quadrangle of NYU. It's
long been a haven for folksingers (including Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan); in
1961, a police crackdown on folksinging led to riots.
This is the park where Jane Fonda wanted to be Barefoot in the Park; it's also where the skateboarders
beat up a passer-by in Kids. (The real-life skate kids are harmless.)
Washington Square Arch
Designed by Stanford White, the arch was put up in 1892 to replace
a temporary plaster arch erected in 1889 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Washington's
inauguration. In 1917, members of the bohemian Liberal Club, including artists Marcel Duchamp and
John Sloane, climbed on top of the arch to proclaim the Independent Republic of
Greenwich Village. Harold Lloyd drives a horse-drawn trolley through the arch in the silent movie Speedy.
In the late 1950s the city planned to extend 5th Avenue through the arch, cutting the
park in half. Neighborhood residents, including Eleanor Roosevelt, rallied to block
this horrible idea. In the early 21st Century, the park underwent a controversial renovation that, among other things,
centered the park's fountain so it can be seen through the arch from Fifth Avenue.