NYC unveils $9M plan to restore Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn

November 23, 2020

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch lighting design test in 2019; Photo courtesy of Jordan Rathkopf/ Prospect Park Alliance

Plans to renovate Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza were unveiled this week, the first major restoration of Prospect Park’s historic entrance in decades. The $8.9 million revamp focuses on the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch, including replacing the arch’s roof, cleaning and restoring the brick and stone structure, repairing the interior staircases, and adding modern lighting to the exterior. Surrounding plaza and landscape berms that frame the plaza will also be restored and new native trees and shrubs will be planted.

Grand Army Plaza circa 1905; Courtesy of Prospect Park Alliance Archives

“Grand Army Plaza is an iconic Brooklyn destination, welcoming New Yorkers and visitors from across the world to the beautiful Prospect Park,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press release. “The restoration of the Arch and surrounding landscape will ensure the Plaza is magnificent for generations to come.”

Designed in 1867 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux as a formal entrance to Prospect Park, Grand Army Plaza became the site of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch in 1892. The Arch, designed by John H. Duncan, commemorates Union soldiers who died during the Civil War.

In 1898, Brooklyn-based sculptor Frederick MacMonnies designed and installed a bronze sculpture of the goddess Columbia on a chariot and a relief sculpture of soldiers and sailors. There are also sculptures of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant on horses.

The Arch was designated as a landmark in 1973, with Grand Army Plaza landmarked in 1975. A year after the landmarking, Columbia fell off her chariot from the crown of the Arch, which prompted a restoration in 1980 and again in the late 1990s. According to the Prospect Park Alliance, which along with the city’s Parks Department is leading the restoration project, the Arch has since deteriorated further and has suffered water damage.

Lighting design for the Arch, courtesy of Renfro Design Group

The Prospect Park Alliance worked with Atkinson-Noland & Associates to conduct “radar and magnetic investigations” of the Arch’s conditions and Karcher Company to test the cleaning and conservation processes, according to a press release. And the Renfro Design Group developed an environmentally-friendly lighting design scheme for the exterior and interior of the structure.

Rendering of the improved plaza surrounding the Arch; Courtesy of Prospect Park Alliance

The Alliance plans to remove invasive vines and shrubs from the surrounding plaza and plant new trees and shrubs “that provide interest and color throughout the seasons.” Decorative steel fencing will replace the existing chain link fence and broken bluestone and granite paving around the Bailey Foundation and the John F. Kennedy Memorial will be restored.

“Grand Army Plaza has long been a central hub in Brooklyn, but in these past few months, it has become even more beloved so as New Yorkers flocked to the park for socially-distant recreation and socializing, and gathered for demonstrations for racial justice,” City Council Member Brad Lander said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch and the Plaza restored to their full splendor and am grateful to City Hall and the Prospect Park Alliance for prioritizing this beautiful Brooklyn landmark.”

Construction is expected to begin construction in late 2021 or early 2022 and completed by 2023. The project is part of the Alliance’s broader effort to improve Prospect Park, including the recently reopened Endale Arch, new Flatbush Avenue entrances, and the restoration of the Vale Woodlands.


Photos courtesy of the Prospect Park Alliance, unless otherwise noted

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