Washington Square Arch Turns 125 Years Old Today

Official Dedication Ceremony Took Place on This Date in 1895

Original Blueprints for the Arch

The official dedication ceremony and unveiling of the Arch at Washington Square Park took place on May 4th, 1895. This makes the storied monument 125 years old today.

From one of WSP Blog’s early posts:

History of Washington Square Arch and Exitus Acta Probat

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 above 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.'”
Arch Washington Square Park Inscription
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.

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?
Washington Square Arch
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.

** Commenter 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.

The Arch in Pride Colors 2019

Top photo: NYC Municipal Archives

Bottom photo: Jason Sherwood Design/ Brian Tovar

All other photos: Cathryn

Related at Washington Square Park Blog:

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

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