Washington Square Arch Rocks at 123 Years!

Washington Memorial Arch Original Plans
Washington Memorial Arch Original Plans

The official dedication ceremony and unveiling of the Arch took place on May 4th, 1895. This makes the Arch now 123 years old! Gothamist marked the 117th Anniversary with photos from the history of the Arch taken from the Municipal Archives.

From one of this blog’s early posts:

History of Washington Square Arch and Exitus Acta Probat (edited from original version):

Two sculptures of George Washington stand on each side of the famous Washington Square Arch. Washington is seen in two distinct poses at the monument’s pedestal: on the east, Washington At War and at west, Washington At Peace. The Arch was designed by noted period architect Stanford White (1853-1906).

The Arch was first constructed in wood for the Centennial of the first U.S. President’s inauguration in 1889 and stood half a block away on Fifth Avenue. Received most favorably, the community raised funds for it to be commissioned in marble via White. It was completed in its current location in the early 1890’s.

Of the Washington At War statue, Emily Kies Folpe in “It Happened on Washington Square” wrote that the sculptor, Herman A. Mac Neil, wanted the statue “to appear alert and intent, as if watching the maneuvers of his army.” Looking on are the figures of Fame and Valor.

Pictured is Washington At Peace (A. Stirling Calder) with figures of Wisdom and Justice behind him. Wisdom stands there as “the modern Athena” – Greek goddess of wisdom.

Exitus Acta Probat – the Washington Family Coat of Arms

Folpe writes, “Justice, draped and crowned, holding a balanced set of scales with one hand and an open book in the other. The pages of the book are inscribed with the words Exitus acta probat.’ ”

Exitus acta probat is taken from the George Washington Family Coat of Arms. I’ve come across various ways of interpreting it, all similar but slight variations.

The basic translation is: the outcome justifies the deed.

It’s the pairing of that statement with the figure of Justice that puzzles me. I like to think at Washington Square Park that ultimately there will be some kind of ‘Justice’ in the outcome of the redesign of the Park. Is there some missing deed?

Of course, Stanford White’s “outcome” was a little bit jarring. He was shot on the roof of the Madison Square Garden building, a building he designed (the second incarnation of MSG, no longer there), by the husband of an ex-lover.

** A commenter named Hugh wrote in clarifying with the following information:

The outcome justifying the deed that Washington was referring to was the Revolutionary war. No one wanted war then, not only was it near suicide for all who opposed the English, but also, war causes a lot of death which is also something that he didn’t want, however, if the end result was freedom and liberty, then a horrible deed such as war is in fact justified. It shows that Washington believed that unless the outcome is justified, then the deed should not be done.

The official name of the Arch is Washington Arch. There are 102 steps inside to the top.

Top photo: NYC Municipal Archives

Related at Washington Square Park Blog:

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

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