Grand Army Plaza Arch Restoration Begins
May 3, 2023
Prospect Park Alliance, the non-profit organization that operates Prospect Park in partnership with the City, has begun work on the restoration of the iconic Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch at Grand Army Plaza. The restoration is part of a larger project to restore Grand Army Plaza, the formal entrance to Prospect Park, and its surrounding berms, through $8.9 million in Mayoral funding.
“We are thrilled with the planned restoration of the historic arch at Grand Army Plaza, which has served as a Brooklyn icon and welcomed visitors to Prospect Park for more than 130 years,” said NYC Parks Commissioner, Sue Donoghue. “The first meaningful restoration work on the arch in decades, this project and will clean and repair the exterior, and add improved, energy-efficient lighting to better showcase the arch’s historic elements. The restored arch will serve as the perfect complement to the broader restoration of Grand Army Plaza.”
“The beloved Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch at Grand Army Plaza is a Brooklyn icon and an important gathering space for dialogue and protests that advance social justice. We are so grateful to the Mayor’s Office for providing the funding to make this project possible. Prospect Park Alliance is excited to restore this landmark in all its glory so it can serve as a welcoming beacon and essential civic space for our community for generations to come.” said Morgan Monaco, Prospect Park Alliance President.
Prospect Park creators Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed Grand Army Plaza as the grand formal entrance of Prospect Park in 1867. In 1889, the plaza became the site of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch, which was dedicated in 1892 to commemorate those who fought with the Union troops during the Civil War. The arch was designed by John H. Duncan with sculptures by Frederick MacMonnies, two preeminent figures of their times. On top of the arch is a quadriga of Columbia, representing the United States, surrounded by two winged Victories who trumpet her arrival. Smaller sculptures mounted on pedestals depict soldiers and sailors.
The Arch was landmarked in 1975, when the structure was in severe disrepair, and in 1976 Columbia literally fell from her chariot. The City undertook a restoration of the Arch in 1977-79, with subsequent work in 1989 and the mid-1990s. In 1999, the Arch’s bronze statuary groupings were restored by the NYC Parks Monuments Conservation Program.
This restoration is the first since the mid-1990s, and includes replacing the arch’s roof; cleaning and repointing the brick and stone structure; repairing interior elements, including historic iron staircases that lead up to the roof; and improving the exterior lighting to better showcase the historic elements of the arch and its statuary while making the lighting more environmentally friendly by utilizing energy efficient technology.
Restoration of Grand Army Plaza, and the landscaped berms that frame the plaza on its east, west and north sides, began in Fall 2022. This work includes removing invasive plants, shrubs and trees that are in poor condition and adding native trees and shrubs that provide interest and color throughout the seasons. The Alliance will also replace the existing chain link fence with low, decorative steel fencing, and restore the broken bluestone and granite paving around Bailey Fountain and the John F. Kennedy Memorial so that it is ADA accessible.
Work on the Plaza and Berms is slated for completion in Fall 2023. The Arch restoration is expected to take 12 months, and reopen to the public in Spring 2024. During the period where the arch and plaza are simultaneously being restored (through Fall 2023), access will be curtailed at the Arch, and the public is requested to utilize the crosswalks and pedestrian pathways at Plaza Streets East and West.