Looking Good, Washington Square Arch! Monument Undergoes Annual Cleaning and Inspection

Looking Good, Washington Square Arch! Monument Undergoes Annual Cleaning and Inspection

arch washington square park summer new york city

Last week, the 125 year old Arch at Washington Square Park underwent its annual cleaning and checkup. There was that time a “chunk” fell off the top of the Arch in the middle of the night (no one was hurt) a few years ago but otherwise it has held up well. (Click for some in-depth photos from the monument’s inspection after that incident here.)

AMNY today looked into what it takes to preserve NYC park monuments, including the storied Arch:

The Washington Square Arch, a towering marble structure that reaches more than 70 feet high, was due for an annual cleaning and inspection when [John] Saunders [of the NYC Parks Department’s Citywide Monuments Conservation Program] and a crew visited it last week.

They power washed away surface dirt and applied a biocide to prevent any more grass from growing.

“Moss is bad for the stone,” he said. “It ages the stone.”

Using a rubber mallet, they checked for any loose pieces of marble.

College students and interns Elena Mars and Odette Blaisdell, who are studying conservation, were thrilled to help clean the iconic structure.

Mars said at one point they walked through a staircase within the arch to reach certain parts of the structure.

“You are inside history — this is a part nobody gets to see,” said Mars, a student at New Mexico State University.

The two learned to handle blow torches and power washers while perched in a cherry picker.

“It’s a very strange and very cool experience,” said Blaisdell, a Rhode Island School of Design student from Morningside Heights. “You’re sitting there washing George Washington’s face, feeling close to a figure in history even though it’s just stone.”

Saunders said they found a nest atop the Arch once – “[a pigeon] managed to get in through a little hole [in the netting] and build a nest” – I hope they did not destroy the eggs… that detail is left out. It would be a great story to have pigeons born on the Arch (just once).

2012 Inspection

washington square park arch new york city

Photos: Cathryn

Related at Washington Square Park Blog:

Wall Street Journal Goes Inside the Washington Square Arch March 8, 2011

Washington (Square) Arch Wraps Up Annual Inspection | And About that “Chunk” That Fell Off the Arch Last Year… August 1, 2013