“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.” ~ George Washington
I have to admit the first time I saw one of the arches it wasn’t the one that I come to view on an almost daily bases as I make my way through Washington Square Park.
It was the Arc De Triomphe (de l’Etoile – of the star) in France at the western end of the Champs-Élysées in all its monumental glory that first took my breath away. It is a symbol of revolution and all that the French culture embodies.*
In comparison, years later, I finally set my eyes on the one in my home city, The Washington Square Arch. Designed as a tribute to the president and founding father George Washington, it was built in 1892 as tribute on the centennial of his presidential inauguration. While its predecessor, the Arc De Triomphe, which is much more elaborate in sculptures and etchings, was built ninety years prior. Architect Stanford White chose a more simplistic route for the American counterpart. Both were modeled after the Arch of Titus built in the first century.
Not only are they a focal piece of not just incredible artistry and craftsmanship, but an emblem for glory and revolution that was fought and won. They are considered gate ways, the Arc De Triomphe standing in the middle of Place Charles de Gaulle, and the Washington Arch opening up onto fifth avenue. Representation of freedom and preservation of a unique history that unites American and French people. The arches and even that of the Arch of Titus, exemplify the zest, creativity, and boldness of their cultures.
That is much of what Washing Square Park is. The park itself has always been a hub for the creative to express themselves in plays, music, and art. It is a place for protesters to gather for change and politicians to give speeches that shape their careers. It is a place where New Yorkers and tourists alike come to embrace a city that prides itself on self expression and acceptance.
Paris and New York are not just united by similar arches and architecture. No. They are united because they have that same joie de vivre and that is represented in every line etched in these arches. Both cities have been through so much and yet through it all they are stoic. They persevere. They stay true to themselves. And that is a representation of life itself to keep going.
Have you been to Washington Square Park or seen the Arc De Triomphe? What did you think? As always I love to hear from you!
* So funny story, when I was in France I took over eleven hundred pictures…. apparently that number did not include the Arc De Triomphe… oops!