Occupying a central location in Brooklyn, the Grand Army Plaza contains few of the most remarkable attractions for those who are visiting New York.
The blueprint of the Grand Army Plaza was created by Frederick Law Olmsted whose most popular work is Central Park. He partnered with Calvert Vaux who also worked with him in landscaping the Central Park. The Grand Army Plaza spans an area of 4.5 hectares or 11 acres and was made to be the primary entryway to another popular Brooklyn destination which is Prospect Park.
The Grand Army Plaza takes an oval shape and is made of intersecting rings which give rise to eight circular thoroughfares while Flatbush Avenue consists the inside loop.
The proponents of the plaza was expecting that it would serve as a barrier to insulate Prospect Park and shield it from the noise of the Brooklyn streets to that visitors could relish the tranquility and calm environs of the park. However, it was not able to fulfill its role due to the almost always busy traffic around the plaza which also made it dangerous for pedestrians to go to the plaza.
Nevertheless, the Grand Army Plaza still became a popular tourist hotspot and an important part of Brooklyn?s dynamic urbanscape. The main attraction found here is The Soldiers? and Sailors? Monument which is what many residents dubbed as the Arc de Triomphe of Brooklyn. This arc is different from the one which is found in Riverside Park in Manhattan. The one found in the Grand Army Plaza was created by John H. Duncan after his design emerged as the winner out of 36 proposals. Duncan?s popularity will rise as he eventually created Grant?s Tomb. The construction of the arc took three years and was completed in 1892. The arc monument has a height of 27 meters and pays tribute to the Union Army soldiers who fought in the Civil War.
Within the arch are magnificent equestrian relief statues of former US presidents Grant and Lincoln. These were designed by William Rudolf O?Donovan who made the ?human? component and Thomas Eakins who created the horse busts. Approximately midway up the arc, two statues can be seen which depicts ?The Spirit of the Navy? and ?The Spirit of the Army? which are the masterpieces Frederick MacMonnies. MacMonnies also designed the Quadriga which rests atop the arch and shows ?Columbia? who is oftentimes used as a metaphorical symbol of the United States. In MacMonnies? work, Columbia is seated on a chariot pulled by two horses while Victory characters with wings surround her.
Found at the north of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument is Bailey Fountain which was added to the Grand Army Plaza in 1932. It was created by Edgerton Swarthout and Eugene Francis Savage. It takes its name after philanthropist Frank Bailey, a Brooklyn financier who funded the project. The fountain features a man and a woman depicting wisdom and happiness plus a boy. The three characters are holding a cornucopia. They are mounted on atop the prow of a boat bounded by Neptune and a triton. The fountain is a ubiquitous background of wedding photos.
For the bookworms, Brooklyn?s Central Library can be found at the southeast corner of the Grand Army Plaza. It is the biggest of all Brooklyn?s public libraries. It is an impressive structure with a huge entrance embellished with golden reliefs which look like Egyptian hieroglyphs.