of Merit - Restoration
It's not easy to restore one of the nation's most recognizable
landmarks, built by one of its most celebrated architects,
and do it in full view of thousands of notoriously opinionated
New Yorkers. But it's such high-pressure conditions that produce
The awards jury praised the restoration of the Washington
Arch in Washington Square Park for handling this pressure
and bringing back the luster of one of New York's architectural
jewels. The yearlong, $2.7 million project has returned the
arch body to its original state and repaired both statues
of George Washington.
Designed by Stanford White and modeled on the Arc de Triomphe
in Paris, the arch was built to commemorate the centenary
of George Washington's inauguration. It has stood at the foot
of Fifth Avenue welcoming visitors to the park and Greenwich
Village for more than 100 years.
But the 20th Century was not kind to the arch. Mother Nature,
vandals, and pigeons have little respect for architectural
icons, and by the early 1990s, the city had to cordon off
public access to the arch as a safety precaution.
The challenge for the restoration team was to seamlessly
integrate modern materials and techniques with the original
materials of the arch. The team cleaned the surfaces using
microabrasive techniques, while applying an antigraffiti coating
to the base. It also filled in fissures in the marble with
a mortar compound that matched the look of the aged structure.
The team had to repair or replace almost half of the delicate
marble rosettes adorning the underside of the arch with cast
stone rosettes mortared and pinned into place. It also had
a chore at the frieze level, including repairs to a marble
dutchman. A stone carver first modeled it in clay and carved
it on the ground. He then fit it into place, completing fine
tooling and staining to match surrounding stone.
There was also an upgrade deemed essential for a landmark
in the 24-hour metropolis. The teams installed monumental
lighting so that nocturnal New Yorkers can enjoy the restored
arch. "The lighting works tremendously, and the restoration
overall worked very well," said a judge.
In addition to the exterior work, the team had to pin and
replaster a dilapidated, Guastivino-designed spiral staircase.
The crews had to carefully remove efflorescence from brick
walls in the attic space. To prevent future damage by pigeons,
they installed bird netting on the frieze undetectable from
Most important, the arch's namesake got not one but two
complete makeovers. There are two statues of him on the arch.
On the eastern column there is Washington as commander-in-chief
and on the western column is the rendering of him as president.
The flawless reconstruction of the badly damaged faces on
both statues would make a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon proud.
The team also replaced the right hand of the president statue
with one carved in Dover marble to match the original.