Brooklyn’s most iconic landmark, the Grand Army Plaza and Arch, will undergo a massive $8.9 million renovation that’ll literally put a spotlight on its beauty.
With work beginning late 2021 and set to finish in 2023, the plaza’s restoration hits multiple needs—to preserve and restore the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch, which was built in 1889, to create a more friendly and enjoyable experience for visitors to the plaza and to highlight the landmark’s beauty.
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The arch’s roof will be replaced and its brick and stone structure will be cleaned and repointed. The arch’s indoor iron staircase that leads to the roof will be repaired and exterior lighting will be replaced with high-efficiency futures that will better light up its historic elements and statues.
Visitors to the plaza, including those who gather to protest as they’ve done in the past, will notice new plantings of native trees and shrubs on the berms the frame it to the east, west and north, as well as a new, lower steel fencing that’ll replace the chain-link fence that is there now. Bluestone and granite pavers will also be replaced and restored around Bailey Fountain and the John F. Kennedy Memorial.
“The restoration of Grand Army Plaza and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch is a bright spot in what has been a dark and difficult year for our borough and city,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “This iconic location, which draws millions of local residents and visitors each year, has a rich history dating back to the park’s founding.”
“As more Brooklynites and New Yorkers flock to our world-class public parks, it’s more critical than ever that we preserve and improve upon this infrastructure,” he continued. “I have been proud over the course of my time as borough president to allocate millions of dollars in capital funding toward making Prospect Park more accessible and equitable to all residents, and I thank the Parks Department and the Prospect Park Alliance for spearheading this exciting new project.”
Sue Donoghue, the president of the Prospect Park Alliance says the architects in charge of the project, Renfro Design Group, will restore the location to its original grandeur and have been a part of restoring many other park destinations, including the Prospect Park’s Carousel and the LeFrak Center at Lakeside.
The Alliance has been working on restoring the northeast corner of the park, including the Flatbush Avenue perimeter of the park, through funding from Borough President Eric Adams and New York City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo; the construction of two new park entrances on Flatbush Avenue (the first new entrances to the park since the 1940s) through funding from NYC Parks through its Parks without Borders program; and northeast corner pathways, benches and lighting through $2 million in funding from the mayor.
The Grand Army Plaza has been in desperate need of restoration, according to the Alliance.
Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who also designed Central Park, the plaza was a way to commemorate those who fought with the Union troops in the Civil War and as the formal entrance of Prospect Park. The arch, designed by John H. Duncan, features a chariot of Columbia, (representing the U.S.) and two winged Victories who trumpet her arrival. Small sculptures of soldiers and sailors are mounted on pedestals around her.
It was constructed in 1867 and was lightly redesigned in the early 1900s when the subway was built underneath it. It wasn’t until the 1930s that it saw a major change when the Bailey Fountain was added, surrounding paving was changed and a chain-link fence was erected.
In 1975, the arch was landmarked but was in very bad condition—the next year, the statue of Columbia actually fell from her chariot. In response, the city restored the arch in 1977-79 and continued to freshen it up in 1989 and the mid-1990s, the Alliance says. The NYC Parks Monuments Conservation Program restored the arch’s bronze statues in 1999.
This latest effort is slated to begin construction in late 2021 or early 2022, and open to the public in 2023.
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