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.
A.Originally, in 1908, Congressman Irving P. Wanger of Norristown introduced a bill to Congress for federal funds for two arches at Valley Forge to honor 1-Washington and 2-Von Steuben. After much debate, the bill was amended to reduce the number to one arch to honor Washington. It was approved in Congress in 1910 and at that point they resolved that the secretary of war would oversee the project.
The designer of the architect was Paul Philippe Cret — a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Cret was 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 to name just a few].
The final design inspiration came from the Arch of Titus in Rome. It became controversial in some part for the fact that some people didn't want to see a triumphal arch in a rural setting. (Roman arches were always part of an urban setting). Some controversy also came up over its location, but it remained in its planned location.
The National Memorial Arch was dedicated June 19, 1917. The dedication ceremony was attended by a number of US Congressmen and hundreds of visitors. The formal address of dedication was given by then Pennsylvania governor, Martin Brumbaugh. The thought of patriotism at that time was VERY strong due to the fact the world was in chaos over WWI.
The Arch underwent an extensive renovation project the last couple of years — with funds donated by the Masons. It was rededicated with a special ceremony in 1997.
The arch is under the auspices of Valley Forge National Historical Park.
SAS, Courtesy The Valley Forge Historical Society