So… *is* the Washington Square Park Fountain aligned to the Arch?

by cathryn on August 10, 2009

irony or... poetic justice, perhaps?

irony or... poetic justice, perhaps?

There’s been a lot of under-the-radar discussion about whether the Washington Square Park Fountain is actually aligned with the Arch.  

This has been a topic of discord since it was first announced a few years back that the Bloomberg Administration intended to move the famous fountain - in its location since the 1870′s and in the exact center of the park in that spot23 feet east to line up with the Arch at Fifth Avenue.  The relocation of the Fountain also led to the destruction of seven of the eight trees that lined the Fountain Plaza because they were in the way (note:  two of the replacement trees are already dying or dead – more on that another day).

Having reviewed a lot of the history of the redesign and controversy around it, there was pretty much close to no one, other than designer George Vellonakis, who thought this was important.  It’s never been clear if it was solely the landscape designer’s whim or a directive from elsewhere.  

However, someone determined early on in Washington Square Park’s history (1870′s), when the fountain was first placed, that it should be located in the center of the Park on its east-west axis.  It’s not obvious symmetry but it makes sense.  It works.  To just obliterate this history – on top of the fact that park users liked where it was – seemed wrong when first announced and still does now.

And you have to wonder about the NYC Art Commission (now called the Design Commission - as of July ’08) which gave the approval on moving the Fountain.  What was their criteria?  … Then again they are ALL appointed by the Mayor.

I first published a post on whether the Fountain and Arch were misaligned in August of last year while the Park was still under construction after seeing the above photo.  The photographer, J.Bary, later wrote in saying he’d watched them meticulously figure out where the center was and that it’s the angle from which the photo was taken that makes it look unaligned.  

But when you’re on the Fountain Plaza, it does look a bit, um, off.

At the Phase I Grand Opening Ceremony May 28th of this year, I overheard someone from the NYC Parks Department say he was surprised that no one had said anything about the Fountain not being aligned with the Arch.  (I don’t know that he was confirming this, or just saying that they’d probably gotten some comments like that.)  I’ve heard other people mention this tho’ since then, and then, on August 5th of this year, WSP Blog reader named Steve wrote in as follows:

Is anyone ever going to admit that the fountain is now aligned to nothing — not the center of the park as it was before, not the arch and not 5th Avenue? What was the point of moving it?!?!?! It is NOT aligned to either the arch or the avenue.

The only stated reason George Vellonakis has given on the record for moving the Fountain is that it makes a better shot for tourists to take back home with them.  Putting that aside as not a very good reason… If the Fountain is now not in the center of the park (as it was for over 100 years) and if it’s not aligned with the Arch… what was the whole point?

****************************************************************************

Original August 7th, 2008 WSP Blog entry:  Wouldn’t it be ironic if – after everything – the Washington Square Park Fountain was off-center to the Arch?

Photo:  J. Bary

 

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Angela August 10, 2009 at 2:08 pm

I’m so glad you brought this up. I’ve been looking at the fountain since the park reopened and it didn’t seem aligned with anything–I thought maybe they decided to leave it as is and just chopped down all the trees. So what is it aligned with?

Reply

pat August 10, 2009 at 5:40 pm

One of the major reasons for this whole new design was to make the park more “user-friendly” for NYU’s graduation.

Reply

libhomo August 14, 2009 at 5:06 pm

This is symbolic of Bloomberg’s inept and destructive administration.

Reply

Stacy Walsh Rosenstock August 16, 2009 at 1:43 am

It’s interesting that photographer Ken Mac notes in his June 24 2009 post Old Washington Square Park that the fountain was been decreased in diameter when it was “aligned with the arch.”

Perhaps you have some before and after photos that can confirm whether or not this is true? And if it is, indeed, smaller, then is this really the same fountain or some kind of reinterpretation?

Reply

cat August 16, 2009 at 9:37 am

Hi…

Angela – if you find out if the Fountain is aligned with *anything* do let us know! I’m tempted to go out there with a measuring tape.

Pat and Libhomo make good points too.

Stacy, I’m really curious about that. They took the fountain apart and put it back together (supposedly with the same stone?) so it wouldn’t be hard to recreate it in a smaller version. I just don’t know …but could try to find some before & after photos (perhaps from above like this one) to compare.

Here’s the link for Ken’s post:

http://greenwichvillagenydailyphoto.blogspot.com/2009/06/old-washington-square-park.html

best,
Cathryn.
WSP Blog.

Reply

John F August 18, 2009 at 10:15 pm

I have been looking at the fountain and its alignment since the Park reopened, and, as you have already said, it simply isn’t alinged with anything. This past Sunday, I really spent some time looking at the fountain and its alignment. I basically convinced myself that, somehow, my eyes were lying to me, since those responsible for moving the fountain could not possibly have failed to accomplish the stated objective, by failing to align the fountain with the Arch or 5th Avenue, or something. But this blog and the comments already made, have helped me renew my faith in my own eyesite! I am not crazy, the fountain is not aligned with the Arch or anything else! Thank you, fellow bloggers!

Reply

Jeanie Perkins November 22, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Not only a waste of money, but what a shame to alter the history of the place! While they’re at it, maybe they should also fix the smile on the Mona Lisa and straighten up that pesky tower in Pisa, Italy. I’m sure that’s bothering some local official with a contractor for a brother-in-law.

Reply

cathryn November 25, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Hi Jeanie!
Thanks for coming by and commenting!

Much agreed and very good points !! The way it got pushed through too is (more than) a bit disheartening because, once Bloomberg is long gone, one day, the true facts will come to light.

Take care,
Cathryn.

p.s. Much belated acknowledgement of John F’s spot on comment as well!

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: