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Washington Square Park

5th Ave. & Washington Sq. N.
New York, NY 10011

* Google Maps street view

History - written by Chris Buchner (used with permission)
The park wasn't always what it is today. In the 1700s, it was used as a cemetery for victims of Yellow Fever while the northern end was a German cemetery. After the epidemic, it became a parade ground and was used for public hangings. By the 1800s, however, the area that would become Greenwich Village became a desirable residential area for high-class people looking to escape the congestion caused in downtown New York by an influx of immigrants. This resulted in the construction the park in 1826, as well as the red-bricked buildings north of the park from 1829-1833. These buildings collectively have become known as The Row; deemed landmarks by the city and now serving as administrative offices for nearby New York University.

To celebrate the centennial of George Washington's inauguration as president, Stanford White was commissioned to build a wooden arch for the park. The arch was so successful and loved that a marble one was commissioned. In 1895, the final version of the 77-foot Washington Arch was erected. The sculptures of Washington as a general and president were added in 1916 and 1918 to the arch.

In the 60s, the park became a popular beatnik hangout, frequented by the likes of Bob Dylan, Alan Ginsberg and Jack Keruoac. However, vagrants and derelicts soon took over the park by the mid-60s, making it an unfavorable place for other citizens.

In 1964, plans to renovate and revitalize the park caused a major dispute between the residents and the Park Commissioner. Noted residents like Eleanor Roosevelt and Jane Jacobs were integral parts of the dispute. They said the park needed only minor reservations, and that all efforts should be made to preserve the natural charm it has established over the years. Most importantly, the park should be a self-contained entity, closing off the automobile traffic, which at that time was allowed to drive through the Arch.

After a lot of compromise, everyone was happy with the park's new look. The park gained a new sense of popularity until the mid-1980s when the economic decline of the city led to an increase in drug dealing within its confines. It wasn't until the Guilliani administration that the park was finally cleaned up by the police and maintained by an active local community.

Fun Facts

Movie Shots

Real World Photos


The Freshman (1990)
Upon arriving in new York City, Clark Kellogg (Matthew Broderick) has his belongings stolen by Victor Ray (Bruno Kirby). When Clark sees Victor again, he gives chase through Washington Square Park.

BUY - Indiv. DVD, 4-Film with Wholly Moses/Vice Versa/A Fine Mess.



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