George Washington Monument - Union Square


This Washington Monument was dedicated in 1856 and it was originally located at the southeast corner of Union Square. The park was redesigned in 1929-1930, when the monument was moved to its current location and placed centrally in the south plaza.

It is the oldest surviving monument in the New York City parks, but not the first. In 1770, a gilded statue of King George III was erected by the British and was pulled down, in 1776, by the Americans, following a reading of the Declaration of Independence.

The first equestrian statue of Washington in New York City was erected in 1803, by Joseph Delacroix in his Vauxhall Garden.

Enrico Causici, an Italian sculptor in New York, sculpted an equestrian statue of Washington in his studio at Elm Street by 1823, with the help of his assistant Luigi Persico. This equestrian statue was exhibited to the public in 1824. In June, 1826, Causici was granted permission by the Common Council to exhibit his statue in the City Hall Park, which was represented by Alexander J. Davis in his watercolor of 1826. This statue was removed from the park by the early 1830s.

The equestrian statue dedicated to George Washington (1732-1799), the first president of the United States, was modeled by Henry Kirke Brown (1814-1886), who depicted Washington during the Evacuation Day, November 25, 1783, when he reclaimed the City of New York from the British. The granite base was designed by architect Richard Upjohn. The dimensions of the monument are: Overall H: 26'4"; Statue H: 13'6"; Pedestal H: 12'2" W: 7'9" L: 15'; Pedestal plinth H: 10" W: 9'9" L: 17'.

On April 18, 1843, the New York State Legislature incorporated the Washington Monument Association for the purpose of erecting a monument to the memory of George Washington. On April 26, 1833, the legislature passed an act "in commemoration of the services and in honor of the memory of George Washington". A large number of ward delegates, together with the mayor, recorder, and presidents of the two boards of the common council, were made directors of a corporation entitled "The New-York Washington Monument Association". This body would collect funds to erect, in some part of the City of New-York, a monument in memory of George Washington.

The Washington National Monument Society was formed in the same year of 1833 to erect a memorial to George Washington on the National Mall. They also raised money through public donations. Its cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1848.

In New York, a competition was held to select the best project for the Washington Monument and a few were proposed, like the Gothic Monument by Calvin Pollard, a huge neoclassical monument at City Hall Park and a colossal Statue of Washington.

By August 14, 1843 (according to the Evening Post), the design in the Gothic style for the Washington Monument was completed in the form of a pentagon with spacious rooms below for a historical library, gallery for paintings, etc. The crochet of the pinnacle was 420 feet high, which was believed to to the highest structure in the United States (the total height of the Trinity Church, dedicated in 1846, is 284 feet. It was the tallest structure in New York City until 1890, when it was surpassed by the World Building). It was to be erected in or fronting on Union Square. On September 5, 1843, the Washington Monument Association was formally organized at the mayor’s office.

On June 17, 1844, the Evening Post published the following statement: «The Trustees of the "Washington Monument Association," for the accomplishment of the object confided to their care, have adopted a plan, prepared by Mr. Calvin Pollard, of this city, architect, and have placed in the hands of respectable individuals, subscription lists, from which they hope to obtain funds sufficient to commence the edifice and ensure its completion.» On September 30, the same year, a petition to the Common Council from the Washington Monument Association stated "that they were now ready to commence the erection of the Monument to Washington, and asking the privilege to place the same in Union Square, was concurred in, it having passed the other Board" (New York Herald, October 01, 1844).

In 1847, a site for the monument, given by the City, was appropriated at Hamilton Square. On July 4, the Washington Monument Association took formal possession of the site. This square existed for about 60 years and its boundaries changed a few times. In 1852 it was bounded by East 66th and 68th streets and Fourth and Third avenues. It was an elevated land with a superb view of the East River. On June 30, 1847, the foundation of the Washington Monument was in progress in Hamilton Square (Evening Post). On October 19, the cornerstone of the monument was laid with great ceremony, after a great procession. The New York Herald of October 20, devoted almost its entire front page describing the ceremony. Calvin Pollard was credited as the architect of the Washington Monument, which was very different from the versions published in 1843 and 1844 (see images below). Unfortunately, this Gothic monument was not erected.

On January 10, 1848, from N. Y. Com. Adv. from Stokes (Iconography of Manhattan Island, ... 1915):

 "We have received from the Washington Monument Association a handsome lithograph of Mr. Pollard's design for the proposed monument to Washington, which was adopted, we understand, with the prudent reservation that it should be 'subject to an alteration, or the substitution of any more approved design, prior to the commencement of the structure.' We are not apprized whether the laying of the corner stone — or rather the celebration thereof — is to be considered as the 'commencement of the structure,' but we suppose the matter is still open.

"We confess that the present design seems to us quite as suitable for a monument for any one else as for Washington. Something more characteristic is wanted. A pyramid, for instance, surmounted by a columnar altar, upbearing a colossal bust of Washington, would have the elements of simplicity and grandeur..."

In January 1855, Warren Latting, the same of the Latting Observatory, built for the Exhibition of 1853/1854, made a petition to the Board of Aldermen to erect the Washington Monument on Madison Square. In November 1855, the Committee on Lands and Places of the Board of Aldermen considered a proposition to erect a Washington Monument at the Battery.

On May 9, 1856 (N.Y. Daily Times), workmen were preparing to erect the Washington Monument, which was to decorate the open space formed by the junction of Fourth Avenue and 14th Street at Union Square.

The bronze equestrian statue of Washington was eventually inaugurated on the morning of July 4, 1856 at southeast corner of Union Square. At that time the monument stood in a fenced enclosure in the middle of the street, at the junction of Broadway, Fourth Avenue and East 14th Street.





Union Square 19th Century


Union Square


The Washington Monument at Union Square, north toward Fourth Avenue, about 1858 (New York Public Library).


First US President


Washington Monument


The Washington Monument in its present location placed centrally in the south plaza (NYC Department of Parks & Recreation).


Copyright © Geographic Guide - Antique images of NYC. Historical Monuments.


Union Square Park


The Calvin Pollard's Gothic Washington Monument that would be erected at Hamilton Square as published in the New York Herald of October 20, 1847. The cornerstone was laid on October 20 with grand celebration. Below, the ground plan of the monument


Colossal Statue Washington


Equestrian statue


Original title: "Equestrian Statue of Washington. Union Square, N.Y. 1856". Lithograph by G. Hayward for D.T. Valentine's Manual, for 1857.


Calvin Pollard

Page includes other versions of Calvin Pollard's Washington Monument.


Liberty Poles New York


Washington Union Square


New York 18th century


Washington Square Arch


George Washington New York City


Gothic Monument


Vintage images



George Washington Monument


Mount Rushmore


Long Room




Union Square


George Washington Monument - Union Square


Old City New York