Historic Valley Forge

The National Memorial Arch

Q.I would like to Know more about the Large Stone Archway in Valley Forge park Including: who was the Builder and the Architect? Why was it built and when was it started and finished.
Jo Iaquinto, Leesburg Va.

Photo courtesy of Avsnarayan

A.In 1908, Congressman Irving P. Wanger of Norristown introduced a bill to Congress for federal funds to construct two arches at Valley Forge to individually honor Washington and Von Steuben. Congress approved an amended bill in 1910, authorizing funding to construct a single arch to honor Washington, and decreeing that the Secretary of War would oversee the project. (Note that the Department of War became the Department of Defense in 1947.)

Paul Philippe Cret — a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, was selected as the designer of the arch. Cret was orignally from France and studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Some of his Philadelphia structures include the Rodin Museum, the Federal Reserve Bank building and the Ben Franklin Bridge.

The final design inspiration came from the Arch of Titus in Rome. Roman arches were always part of an urban setting, and some people voiced disapporval for the erection of a triumphal arch in a rural setting. Some controversy also arose over its location, but it remained in its planned location.

Pennsylvania governor, Martin Brumbaugh conducted the dedication ceremony on June 19, 1917 before several US Congressmen and hundreds of visitors. The U.S. was embroiled in the First World War at the time, and patriotism ran strong throughout the country.

The Arch underwent an extensive renovation project toward the close of the 20th Century with funds donated by the Masons. It was rededicated with a special ceremony in 1997.

The arch is maintained and administered by Valley Forge National Historical Park, one of 58 National Parks within the National Park Service.