On this day, April 30th, in 1789, George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States of America. After leading the Continental Army to victory over Britain in the War for Independence, Washington was a popular leader and logical choice.
His first inauguration took place right here in New York City, at the Federal Hall on Wall Street (demolished in 1812 – no preservation movement back then!) New York City served as the new nation’s capital. Today a commemorative statue stands in front of 26 Wall Street, the Federal Hall National Memorial, originally built as the United States Custom House in 1842.
But in Greenwich Village, Washington’s first inauguration is remembered with the white marble Washington Square Arch.
According to the New York City Parks Department, the “marble Washington Arch, designed by noted architect Stanford White, was built between 1890-1892 and replaced a wooden arch erected in 1889 to honor the centennial of the first president’s inauguration. Statues of Washington were later installed on Arch’s north side – Washington as Commander-in-Chief, Accompanied by Fame and Valor (1916) by Hermon MacNeil, and Washington as President, Accompanied by Wisdom and Justice (1918) by Alexander Stirling Calder. “
Many people consider Washington Square to be the heart of the Village. And GVSHP’s Children’s Education program, Greenwich Village Past & Present, includes a field trip for elementary school students of the Washington Square area. The arch is always a big hit with the children, and they enjoy their art project – making a photo frame in the shape of the arch!