Mike Myers and Mario Batali Film Atop the Washington Square Arch

Updated June 15th, 9:59 a.m.How does one get access to the top of the Washington Square Arch? A few months back, a Wall Street Journal reporter gained access. But a tv show or commercial? Yesterday, I looked up to see people atop the Arch! Not realizing at the time those people being filmed were actor Mike Myers and chef Mario Batali (they later played ping pong together on the Plaza). The filming was apparently done for some Mario Batali venture. According to Pam Levy, Batali’s publicist, it is for “a private Internet webisode project.” She added: “I can’t tell you anything more than that at this point.”

Mike Myers and Mario Batali wave (tho' no one seems to notice!)

Men Guarding Entrance to the Arch

Mike Myers Looks Pensive (Imagine the view!)

The full picture

Picture at left captures the ping pong part of Myers’ and Batali’s venture to Washington Square. Not sure how it all works together.

I wrote to Batali’s publicist and the Parks Department for additional information (Parks Dept. has not responded as of Wed. a.m.).

Questions such as: What were the arrangements and terms under which Mario Batali filmed on the Plaza and was able to enter and film within/from the Arch? If financial, what was the amount agreed to?

Has Mario Batali given money towards Washington Square Park in the past and/or pledged money in the future towards maintaining, renovating, or some other aspect of the Park? (WSP Blog Note: Batali was in photos with City officials when Phase I opening ceremony occurred.)

And, of course, how does the Parks Department determine who is allowed access to the Arch?

As Batali was walking away from the ping pong table, he said to the people gathered around: “support and give money to the Washington Square Park Foundation.” An organization, to my knowledge, that does not exist.

Batali runs a host of restaurants in the neighborhood and his “GelOtto” vending cart recently appeared in the NorthWest corner of the Park.

Photos: Cathryn.

In the Media

Construction to Align Fountain with Arch 2008

Just when you thought everyone in the mainstream media had forgotten about the Bloomberg Administration’s decision to align the Washington Square Fountain with Fifth Avenue and the Arch as part of its redesign plan (the fountain had stood regally in its original location for 137 YEARS), I came across this piece from writer Michael Gross at Crain’s NY Business. (This was a couple of weeks ago but still worth noting.)

New York Becoming Wisconsin:

The mayor’s domestication of Manhattan has gone far enough. It’s there in the nanny-state bans on foods, sodas and ciggies; the redesign of nasty, grotty, thrill-a-minute Times Square into a holding pen for clueless tourists; the move of the Washington Square fountain 22 feet to the east so it aligns with the arch and Fifth Avenue; even the routing of quirky neighborhood retailers and their replacement by Duane Reades, bank branches and chain stores—a perhaps unintended but definitely unpleasant side-effect of the mayor’s economic miracle. I recently called Time Warner Center the Short Hills Mall and someone said, “Don’t insult Short Hills like that.” Much as I like the visual vibrancy of the new Times Square, shut your eyes and listen to the voices around you, and you could be in Green Bay.

Enough with domestication. New Yorkers don’t want to be domesticated. We don’t want safe. We sometimes like scary. We don’t even always want clean. We’re not afraid of what’s around the corner; we rush toward it.

More at Crain’s.

For some history, see previous WSP Blog Post: Actually, Mr. Vellonakis, the Washington Square Park Fountain IS already aligned

Wall Street Journal Goes Inside the Washington Square Arch!

The Door (Easy to Miss)

Well that’s the Washington Arch to you (and me). A reporter from the Wall Street Journal gains access to inside – and top of – the Arch.

Inside the Washington Arch:

“We don’t allow people up here,” the [NYC] historic preservationist explained. “The stairway is quite dangerous and the roof is quite fragile. If we allowed the public up here, the roof would fail quite quickly.”

That’s a pity because the view from the top of the arch is unparalleled, quite literally at a crossroads of the city’s history.

Looking north, you get a clear shot all the way up Fifth Avenue. The skyscrapers of Wall Street rise to the south, the construction of the Freedom Tower proceeding apace and now clearly visible. Just below you is the park itself, brittle and beautiful in the winter morning light, and the genteel Greek Revival townhouses of Washington Square North.

Mr. Krawchuk [Parks Department] said that in 1917 a group of “Bohemians” led by the artists Marcel Duchamp and John Sloan and the poet Gertrude Drick broke into the arch and climbed to the roof. “They had a picnic and a party and drank tea late into the night,” he said, though one suspects stronger beverages might also have been involved. “Gertrude Drick read a proclamation declaring the free and independent state of Greenwich Village. Sloan did an etching of them all huddled here in the early morning hours.”

I’ve always secretly wanted to go to the top of the Arch. One Christmas Eve, a few years back, the door was left ajar and I stepped in the entryway and peeked up the stairs. I was tempted. I could almost see as much as the pictures that accompany the article show (Parks Department must have put restrictions as such). The view from the top does sound quite impressive; as for now, I can only imagine.

Photo: Daniella Zalcman

Inside the Arch

Great shot!

Photo by Park Slope Lens

History of the Washington Square Arch & “Exitus Acta Probat”

* Recycled entry for George Washington’s Birthday *

On each side of the famous Washington Square Arch stands George Washington in two distinct poses at its pedestal: Washington At War on the East side and Washington At Peace on the West. The Arch was designed by noted period architect Stanford White (1853-1906).

Originally built in wood for the Centennial of Washington’s inauguration in 1889, it stood half a block away. It was then commissioned in marble and completed in its current location in the early 1890’s.

Of the Washington At War statue, Emily Kies Folpe, in her book, “It Happened on Washington Square,” wrote that the sculptor, Herman A. Mac Neil, wanted the statue “to appear alert and intent, as if watching the maneuvers of his army.” Looking on are the figures of Fame and Valor.

Pictured above is Washington At Peace (A. Stirling Calder) with figures of Wisdom and Justice behind him. Wisdom stands there as “the modern Athena” – Greek goddess of wisdom. Folpe writes, “Justice, draped and crowned, holding a balanced set of scales with one hand and an open book in the other. The pages of the book are inscribed with the words Exitus acta probat.’ ”

Exitus acta probat is taken from the George Washington Family Coat of Arms. It is Latin and I’ve come across various ways of interpreting it, all similar but slight variations. The basic translation is: the outcome justifies the deed.

It’s the pairing of that statement with the figure of Justice that puzzles me. I like to think at Washington Square Park that ultimately there will be some kind of ‘Justice’ in the outcome of the redesign of the Park. Is there some missing deed?

Of course, Stanford White’s “outcome” was a little bit jarring. He was shot on the roof of the Madison Square Garden building, the second incarnation of the building (no longer there) which he also designed, by the husband of an ex-lover.

** Recently, a commenter named Hugh wrote in clarifying with the following information:

The outcome justifying the deed that Washington was referring to was the Revolutionary war. No one wanted war then, not only was it near suicide for all who opposed the English, but also, war causes a lot of death which is also something that he didn’t want, however, if the end result was freedom and liberty, then a horrible deed such as war is in fact justified. It shows that Washington believed that unless the outcome is justified, then the deed should not be done.

Piece originally published April 3, 2008; this is an edited version.

The Washington Square Arch: Some Additional History

Washington Sq Arch late 1800's/early 1900's

The Arch at Washington Square Park was originally built in wood half a block away from its current location for the Centennial of George Washington’s Presidential inauguration in 1889. It was then commissioned in marble and completed in its current location at Fifth Avenue in the early 1890’s. The community came together to raise funds to build the permanent Washington Square Arch which was designed by noted architect Stanford White. The sculptures which adorn the ‘legs’ of the Arch — Washington At War and Washington at Peace, described in this previous blog entry — were not completed until 1916 and 1918.

The picture above must have been taken at some point between 1892 and 1916 – before the pedestal sculptures were completed as they are missing in the photo. Also note the decorative fence in foreground.

Stanford White died in 1906 (he was murdered atop the 2nd version of Madison Square Garden, since demolished, a building he also designed) and did not see the two Washington sculptures completed and adorning the Arch.

Judson Memorial Church, another building White designed, can be seen through the Arch – as White intended.

More on the history of the Washington Square Arch, “Exitus Acta Probat” (the Washington Family Coat of Arms) and architect Stanford White here.

Thank you to Matt Kovary for sending this photo in.

Counting Down the Days? (Or Not) … Some Last Minute Work at the Arch.

I’d love to be doing a countdown til Washington Square Park’s Fountain Plaza reopens but, since the NYC Parks Department won’t reveal anything concrete, I am not able to. I really do believe they are going to start taking the fences down without informing anyone of when that will happen — despite widespread curiosity. (It just seems the way the redesign of this Park has been handled from Day One – with minimal communication to the community and park users.) And then the Grand Re-Opening Ceremony with elected officials will take place shortly afterwards. Last I heard was Monday but my feeling is that could change. Then perhaps a separate ceremony for the “community.”

They’re still doing some things around the fenced-off Park. Yesterday, the Arch was the site of some work. Apparently there are nets up at the ledge near the top. Who knew…? (I assume to catch bird droppings although I never see any birds up there. I hope it’s not to catch birds that dare go near the precious Arch.) The nets were covering up access to changing the Arch’s lights and they needed to be reconfigured. So “BirdMaster” was brought in to the rescue.

Washington Square Park in the Snow

The Magical Park (2006)

The Magical Park (2006)

.To see video of Washington Square Park in all its “Winter Wonderland” glory, click here.

Washington Square Park Christmas Tree Lighting and Caroling Wednesday, December 10th, 6 p.m.

The holiday tree at Washington Square Park is up under the Arch. The Arch has been freed of its fencing. You can actually walk under it (although not very far … before you hit the fenced-off Fountain area).

And the tree will be lit… Plus caroling on:

Wednesday, December 10th at 6 p.m.

Under Arch @ Fifth Avenue

Washington Square Park

(Rain or ‘shine.’)

Also, there will be Christmas caroling by the tree on

Christmas Eve, Wednesday, December 24th, 5 p.m.

Photo: Tony Hoffman (Arch, 2005)

Talk on Stanford White, designer of Washington Square Arch, Tues. Dec. 9th, Manhattan

Stanford White-designed Washington Sq Arch

Stanford White-designed Washington Sq Arch

Stanford White was the noted designer of the Washington Square Park Arch. A renowned architect, part of the illustrious firm McMead, Kim & White, he originally designed the first version of the Arch which was built in wood, half a block away from its current location, for the Centennial of George Washington’s inauguration in 1889.

The Arch was then commissioned in marble and completed in its current location (Fifth Avenue and Washington Square North) in the early 1890’s. The public itself raised the money for the Arch and it was considered a big success.

I learned a lot about the Arch preparing for my Walking TourWashington Square Park: Past, Present and Future: A Guide to New York City’s Redesign of a Perfect Public Space.” One of my favorite points of note is that there are thirteen wreath-encircled stars near the top of the Arch – one for each original state – alternating with “W” for Washington. Also the two sculptures on each side of the Arch (“Washington At War” and “Washington at Peace“) are of interest. To read more about them and the Washington Family coat of Arms (“exitus acta probat“), see this previous entry.

Stanford White died tragically at the age of 53.

The Armory is conducting a discussion on Stanford White tomorrow evening, Tuesday, December 9th. Here is their description:

Stanford White, Architect

By the time of his death at fifty-three, Stanford White had transformed himself into the most celebrated architects in America. He was also one of its most prolific designers, a tastemaker of such stature that Harper’s Weekly declared he should be appointed Commissioner of Public Beauty. White’s passion for beauty was accompanied by an evolving taste. Early designs, such as his collaboration on the Armory’s Veterans’ Room, embraced the generous and inventive attributes of the Aesthetic Movement, while the work of his maturity reveals the same powerful imagination applied to a more traditional classical idiom.

Samuel White Lecturer

Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Reception 6:00pm
Program 6:30pm–8:00pm

643 Park Avenue, New York, NY – Phone: (212) 616-3930

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Washington Square Park Task Force Meeting Report back coming later this afternoon!