The dignified entrance to both Prospect Park and Eastern Parkway, Grand Army Plaza remains a central landmark in Brooklyn more than 100 years since its creation.
One of the park’s first completed features, the plaza today is known for its weekly hosting of the borough’s largest farmers market. But forgotten are some of the pivotal historical moments in its creation, as well as some of the details of its architecture.
1. The Plaza proper refers to the concentric rings that form a traffic circle around the central Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch, a triumphal monument that was dedicated to the Union Army in 1892.
2. The four Doric Columns around the circle’s perimeter were added in the mid 1890s. The fountain in the small green space directly behind the arch is not the original. A rusted 1870s fountain was replaced in August 1897. The fountain that sits there today, the Bailey Fountain, was completed in 1932.
3. The columns, arch and new fountain came after work on the Plaza was stalled for years following the economic panic of 1873. In 1888, the Parks Commission called the Plaza “devoid of all life and a stony waste” in its annual report, after which architecture firm McKim, Mead and White began transforming the space into what it is today.
4. The Arch was landmarked in 1975, with the Commission taking care to note that the park entrance is “an excellent example of the influence of the ‘City Beautiful’ movement.”
5. The Victory figure — a part of the crowning arch sculpture designed by Frederick MacMonnies — fell from its chariot in 1976, helping to prompt a restoration effort completed in 1980.