The Bodies of Washington Square Park
In 1889, to mark the centennial of George Washington’s presidency, the city of New York constructed a wood and plaster arch at the North End of Washington Square Park, at the foot of 5th Avenue. It was so popular, that Standford White was commissioned to create a permanent marble arch, modeled after Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, in 1892. During construction, human remains, a coffin and a gravestone from 1803 were found 10 feet below ground level, as Washington Square Park was a graveyard from the 1700s until 1825. In fact there are the remains of over 20,000 people buried there today!
In 1980, artist Francis Hines wrapped the monument in 8,000 yards of polyester net. Much like Christo and Jean-Claude, Hines uses rope and fabrics (in addition to metal and mechanical devices) to wrap large objects, the tension created represents the “human struggle to free itself from restricting forces.” The wrapping of the arch was secured with cable and hand-fabricated steel fixtures, and remained for 6 days.
Washington Square Park, although encompassed by NYU, is still a public park, and attracts hippies and street musicians.
What: Washington Square Park Arch
Where: 5th Ave and Waverly Place, West 4th and MacDougal St
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