Forward, arch! Grand Army Plaza’s historic structure will welcome visitors following repairs

grand army plaza
The Soldiers and Sailors Arch at Grand Army Plaza.
File photo by Stefano Giovannini

It’s an arch revival!

Kings County sightseers can once again behold Prospect Park from above as soon as workers finish restoring the observation deck atop the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch as part of a nearly $9-million renovation of Grand Army Plaza, according to keepers of Brooklyn’s Backyard.

“On special occasions the observation deck will be opened to the public once the arch is restored,” said Deborah Kirschner, a spokeswoman for meadow steward the Prospect Park Alliance, which maintains the lawn in conjunction with the city.

Mayor DeBlasio on Friday announced the city will dedicate $8.9 million to the Alliance-led rehabilitation, which will include replacing the 125-year-old Civil War memorial’s rooftop observation deck and iron staircases leading to it from within the ancient monument.

The project also calls for repairing the arch’s stonework, revamping the lights that illuminate it, repaving parts of the plaza surrounding Bailey Fountain and John F. Kennedy Memorial, and some landscaping.

The restoration will be the first major work on the arch — which turns 126-years-old on Oct. 21 — since 1980. Its last comprehensive renovation came seven years after officials designated the structure a landmark in 1973, and roughly four years after the statue of Columbia — a goddess-like figure forefathers used to symbolize the United States — fell from its sculpted chariot atop the arch in 1976.

Less than a decade ago, locals could enter the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch to visit the Puppet Museum housed within, but that institution moved to a new home at Brooklyn College in 2010 due to leaks inside the structure, whose observation deck permanently closed to the public years before that, according to reports that Alliance officials could not immediately be reached to confirm.

Kirschner couldn’t give a timeline for the Grand Army Plaza project, but said the Alliance will host a community meeting about it in the fall before kicking off the design process and announcing a schedule for the repairs.

And the plaza isn’t the only place getting a face-lift in the area — Brooklyn Council members also allotted $1 million in taxpayer funds to the ongoing makeover of Prospect Park’s overgrown Rose Garden, outside of which, Alliance leaders plan to install one of two new Flatbush Avenue entrances going in as part of another $5.6-million upgrade.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.