Brooklyn’s most iconic public monument is getting an $8.9 million upgrade. Grand Army Plaza, the entryway to Plaza Park, has been a New York City must-see tourist destination for more than 100 years.
The main feature of Grand Army Plaza is the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch, a triumphal arch inspired by ancient Roman architecture. Construction began in 1889 and was completed in 1892. It is dedicated to the Civil War’s “defenders of the Union.” The site is also significant in that this is where the first major battle of the Revolutionary War was fought, the Battle of Long Island.
The arch is crowned with a Goddess of Victory figure riding a chariot and attending angelic or goddess-like figures. Also adorning the arch are horse-bestriding depictions of President Abraham Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant.
The Grand Army Plaza arch has been deteriorating for years. Until the early 2000s, the public was allowed to climb to the top and enjoy an observation tower. This was closed because the integrity of the overall structure was deemed unsafe.
Sue Donoghue is president of the Prospect Park Alliance. She called Grand Plaza a “Brooklyn treasure.” She added that Prospect Park’s entranceways welcome communities from both the east and west sides of the park. She said she is thrilled that a well-funded project is finally going forward to restore this important NYC destination to “its original grandeur.”
The upgrade work will include replacing the arch’s roof and refurbishing the brick and stone structure of the walls. The arch’s interior elements will also get considerable refurbishing, including a historic iron staircase that leads up to the roof. Interior lighting will be improved with energy-efficient fixtures.
The arch will be scanned with radar and magnetic imaging techniques to look for fine cracks in the structure. Atkinson-Noland & Associates is conducting the imaging work and will suggest repairs based on the extent of what it finds.
Prospect Park receives a remarkable 10 million visitors per year and is considered Brooklyn’s flagship park. The park has been recognized as an international model for the care of urban parks and is considered “a premier green space” in the United States.