Washington Square Park is one of the best-known of New York City. It is located within the Manhattan neighborhood of Greenwich Village, and is a popular meeting place as well as center for cultural activities. The Washington Square Park is operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
Washington Square Park has a tradition of nonconformity. Most of the buildings surrounding the park belong to New York University – most were built by NYU while others have been converted by the university from their former uses into academic and residential buildings. The university rents the park for its graduation ceremonies, and uses the Arch as a symbol.
Located at the foot of Fifth Avenue, Washington Square Park is bordered by Washington Square North (Waverly Place east and west of the park), Washington Square East (University Place north of the park), Washington Square South (West 4th Street east and west of the park), and Washington Square West (MacDougal Street north and south of the park).
While the Park contains many flower beds and trees, relatively little of the park is actually used for plantings due to the paving. The two prominent features are Washington’s Arch and a large fountain. There are also children’s play areas, trees and gardens, paths for strolling, a chess playing area, park benches, picnic tables, commemorative statuary and two dog runs.
Washington’s Arch commemorates George Washington. It was constructed in 1888 to commemorate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration as president of the United States. The original structure was erected of plaster and wood over Fifth Avenue just north of the park. The present monument of marble was erected to replace it in 1892. It is modelled after the Arc de Triomphe of Paris. The inscription on the arch reads:
LET US RAISE A STANDARD TO WHICH THE WISE AND THE HONEST CAN REPAIR. THE EVENT IS IN THE HAND OF GOD. – WASHINGTON
Also at Washington Square Park are statues, one to Italian patriot and soldier Giuseppe Garibaldi, commander of the insurrectionist forces in Italy’s struggle for unification, and one to Alexander Lyman Holley, a talented engineer who helped kick-start the American steel industry after the invention of the Bessemer process for mass producing steel.
Washington Square Park is regarded as one of the lowest crime areas in New York City.