What is the Significance of the Roman Numerals on the Washington Square Arch?

Western side of monument

Walking from the Eastern end of Washington Square Park towards the Arch in 2012, I noticed, for the first time, that there are Roman numerals at the top on the side of the monument.

I researched how to decipher the Roman numerals (which was sort of fun). Then, after writing a post about it, I realized there are also numbers on the western side which, of course, makes sense since – symmetry. I had never read anything about the Roman numerals on the Arch. I am happy to update this previous post to encompass east and west and what those numbers signify.

The Arch was created to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration. The date written out in Roman Numerals on the eastern side of the Arch is not 1889 – to mark the centennial and when the first Arch was built – nor the date when the current Arch was finished – 1890-1892 – but is 1789 – the actual year of Washington’s inauguration. The date written in Roman Numerals on the Western side marks the centennial – 1889.

The Arch was first constructed in wood to commemorate the centennial. It originally resided half a block away from its current location; the version we appreciate today was constructed in marble and made permanent in the early 1890s.

Roman numerals are interesting – there is more of a pause as you determine the date and it provides a weight to the time involved and the history. We want speed now, of course.

More west
Roman Numerals on Eastern side of Arch


It’s amazing reflecting on how old – and magnificent – the Arch is.

* Previously at WSP Blog:

History of the Washington Square Arch and “Exitus Acta Probat”

The Arch’s Roman Numerals

Photos: Cathryn

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