A Subtle Memorial

May 23 2023

Washington Square Park is full of monuments. From the massive marble Arch to the impressive Fountain dominating the landscape. So it might be easy to miss one of the Park’s more modest, but no less meaningful, memorials. 

Nestled among the flowering trees just south of the Arch is a flagpole. A historic flagpole. It is the final monument that was installed in Washington Square Park.

(L) The Flagpole in its original location, 1935. Courtesy of NYC Parks photo archive. (R) The Flagpole where it stands today, in the garden bed east of the Arch.

Dedicated in 1920 to the local heroes of World War I, it was donated to the park by the Washington Square Association. The flagpole shares an illustrious beginning with the more famous Arch. Nearly 30 years after Stanford White, of the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, designed the iconic Arch, the firm once again left its mark on the Park, contributing the design of the memorial pedestal. The flagpole was originally centered south of the Arch, but during the 1960s renovation the flagpole was moved east to its current home.

As we step into Memorial Day, it’s a good opportunity to remember all that our community has gone through and sacrificed over the generations. This flagpole is part of that legacy, first dedicated to those who died in WWI, it now also recognizes prisoners of war and those missing in action with its POW/MIA flag. The inscription, “In honor of all those from this district who gave their lives in the World War,” and accompanying names, remind us of these grave sacrifices. This piece of history still stands with us every day, a snapshot in time. A glimpse into the lives that were lived right where we stand today.