Dewey Arch – a Temporary Triumph in Madison Square

Dewey Arch at Madison Square on Fifth Avenue, viewed from the southwest, 1899.
Dewey Arch at Madison Square on Fifth Avenue, viewed from the southwest, 1899. Stanford White’s towered Madison Square Garden in the background. Source: N-YHS Digital Collections
The Dewey Arch was a triumphal arch that stood from 1899 to 1900 on the intersection of Broadway and 5th Avenue at 24th Street. The Arch was erected to celebrate Commodore George Dewey’s stunning naval victory over the Spanish at the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898. This particular military achievement was of great importance as it established the United States as a global military power. The hero of the day, Admiral George Dewey, was treated to Roman-style festivities complete with a parade and a triumphal arch. Appropriately, the architect Charles R. Lamb based his design on the triumphal Arch of Titus in Rome. The elaborately decorated Dewey Arch featured the works of 28 sculptors, including major masters of American sculpture such as Karl Bitter and Daniel Chester French. The female figure atop the structure is an allegory of Naval Victory, her ship drawn by a giant quadriga with four seahorses. The figures below are the sculptures of naval heroes.
Dewey Memorial Arch, Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, New York, 1899.
Dewey Memorial Arch, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street, New York, 1899. Source: N-YHS Digital Collections

The triumphal parade was scheduled for September 1899, not allowing enough time for the construction of a permanent arch. Instead, the decision was made to build a temporary version made of plaster and wood shavings to be later replaced by a permanent version. The parade was a success, but alas not the arch. Attempts to raise money for reconstruction of the arch in stone failed and the grandiose but deteriorating arch was destroyed in 1900.

Parade, Dewey Arch
Photo taken after the triumphal parade of September 20, 1899, celebrating the victory in the Spanish-American War. Photo from the Byron Collection, Museum of the City of New York.
Cyclists looking at the Dewey Arch, Madison Square, New York City, September 30, 1899.
Cyclists looking at the Dewey Arch, Madison Square, New York City, September 30, 1899. Source: N-YHS Digital Collections

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