Washington Square Park. Urban Park in New York City, New York

Washington Square Park

Urban Park in New York City, New York

Washington Square Park Photo © Andy Cross

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Washington Square Park

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Raining - Washington Square
Raining - Washington Square Park. Photo by Jeffrey Bary
New York City is home to approximately 1,900 public parks and, together with Central Park, Washington Square Park is among the most famous. The park covers 9.75 acres and is one of many landmarks in Manhattan. Located in the neighborhood of Greenwich Village and in the middle of the university area, the park has a long tradition of non-conformity, is well-known for its historically rebellious and bohemian character and is a very popular hang-out place among locals, students, and tourists alike.

Washington Square Park consists of trees, a large fountain and the Washington Square Arch (Wikipedia Article), the park’s main landmark. Most of the buildings surrounding the park are now owned by New York University, but used to host workshops and homes of artists. The park is home to several other monuments and facilities as well.


Early in the 17th century the area was the location of a Native American village. The natives owned the tract of farmland that is now Washington Square Park until the Dutch drove them away. The Dutch then gave the land to freed slaves, intending to use them as a buffer against the natives. The site was owned by African Americans between 1643 and 1664 and was known as ‘The Land of the Blacks’.

washington square park fountain - Washington Square Park
washington square park fountain - Washington Square Park. Photo by Betty Tsang
In 1797 the New York Council purchased the farmland and established a public cemetery, which it remained until 1825. Nowadays, more than 20,000 people are still buried underneath Washington Square Park.

The site became a military parade ground in 1826 and in the 1830s, the surrounding streets developed into some of the most fashionable residential areas in New York City. There is still a protected row of houses in Greek Revival style that date back to that time on the park’s north side. In the mid-19th century the park was transformed into a park, pathways were built and fences added.

The Washington Arch was constructed in 1889 for the centennial of President Washington’s inauguration. At first it was a temporary structure, made of wood and plaster, but it proved so popular than a permanent marble structure was erected in 1892. The final Washington Arch was designed by the renowned architect, Stanford White (Wikipedia Article) and was modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

After several up and downs in the following century, Washington Square Park is now relaxed green urban park and one of the city’s most recognizable open spaces.

	Square Park - Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park - Washington Square Park. Photo by CarSpotter

Visiting Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park is busy all the time. The large fountain is the park’s centerpiece and the surrounding space is always occupied with students on breaks between classes, musicians playing their tunes, people relaxing and reading on the grass and dogs running around in the park’s two dog runs. The southwest corner of the park has tables where you can play a serious game of chess; this is a very popular thing to do. Besides dog-friendly areas and chessboards, other facilities include a few eateries, bathrooms; spray showers, picnic tables and benches; a scrabble playing area, lawns; and a children’s playground. Although a fairly large part is paved, there are also quite a lot of trees and beautiful flower beds.

The park is also home to several monuments and statues, such as the Giuseppe Garibaldi statue, the Washington Square Memorial Flagstaff and the bust of Alexander Lyman Holley.

The Washington Square Park Fountain is a circular fountain and one of the two main features of the park. The other main feature is the Washington Arch, standing 23 meter tall on the northern edge of the park. This impressive triumphal arch has two eagles, two spandrels and two pier sculptures of George Washington, one of him as general and the other one of him as President of the United States.

	Blossoms - Washington Square Park
Cherry Blossoms - Washington Square Park. Photo by Diana Robinson

How to Get There

Washington Square Park is located at the beginning of Fifth Avenue and is bordered by MacDougal Street, West 4th Street; University Place and Waverly Place. The Washington Arch is located at the T-section between Fifth Avenue and Waverly Place. Greenwich Village lies between West Village, East Village, Soho, and Union Square.

The easiest way to get to the area is by subway, as New York City’s subway system is among the very best in the world. The nearest station is W 4th St/Washington Square and can be reached on the A, B, C, D, E, F and V trains.

Similar and Nearby Landmarks

There are several other great public parks in the city. The most famous one is without question Central Park, but Union Square Park, Bryant Park, the High Line, the Brooklyn Bridge Park and Battery Park are definitely worth visiting as well.

Other New York City landmarks include the Flatiron Building, Wall Street; One World Trade Center, Times Square; the Statue of Liberty, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Rockefeller Center, and the Empire State Building among many others.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Jan 07, 2015

Pictures of Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park - Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park - Photo by Jaszek


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