The Little Known History of When the Washington Square Park Fountain Became a Wading Pool

Washington Square Park as Pool 1935
July 1935

The little known history of when the Washington Square Park fountain was turned into a sanctioned wading pool during the Robert Moses era was looked into recently by Untapped Cities.

As part of an earlier research, we worked with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Archive to locate these photos from 1935 when the Washington Square Park fountain (in its earlier form and location) was converted into a wading pool. The renovation of the fountain took place in 1934, on the initiative of Robert Moses, who is otherwise reviled for his plan to put a highway through Greenwich Village.

The fountain was designed by Jacob Wrey Mould, who also was behind the fountain in City Hall Park, the recently renovated Belvedere Castle in Central Park, and much more. In 2009, the fountain was restored combining elements from all time periods of its existence and shifted ten feet over to align with the Washington Square Park arch.

To this day, it’s not technically illegal to jump into a New York City park fountain, but you aren’t allowed to use it to take a bath or for personal hygiene. The 32,000 gallons of water that flows through this fountain is filtered, like the roughly 50 other fountains in New York City parks.

– Via Untapped Cities, When Washington Square Park Fountain was Turned Into a Pool

And what’s this? As part of the Bloomberg Admin redesign of the park, the fountain was “shifted ten feet over?” That’s just wrong. I noticed that figure recently also on the Parks Department web site. So is that a willful rewriting of history or an error?

The original location of the fountain was in the exact center of the park on its east-west axis; the structure had been situated there since 1871, over 137 years. The fountain was moved during the park’s controversial redesign 23 feet east to “align” with the Arch.

Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:

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

Photo: NYC Parks Archive

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