A leafy retreat with tree-shaded benches steps from Independence Hall
In stark contrast to today’s beautiful park setting and the lovely homes and buildings that surround it, Washington Square, during its early years, was a rather drab and melancholy place.
Not long after William Penn set aside this land at the city’s western edge for a public park, it was claimed as a burial ground for victims of the 1793 yellow fever epidemic, for African-Americans and for 2,600 soldiers who died during the Revolution.
But by 1815, the installation of a public walk and tree-planting program initiated what would become the scenic modern-day square — renamed Washington Square in 1825 — with over 60 species of trees.
Washington Square later became the site of the country’s oldest publishing house and many well-respected members of the publishing industry, including The Farm Journal — the oldest farm publication in the U.S. — and the W.B. Saunders Publishing Company, are still located here.
Originally headquartered at the corner of Seventh and Locust Streets, W.B. Saunders later moved to Washington Square’s Curtis Center, home to Curtis Publishing, where The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, and Jack and Jill originated.
The Curtis Center, a beautiful building designed by Edgar Seeler in 1910, also contains an enormous (15 feet high x 49 feet wide) glass-mosaic recreation of Maxfield Parrish’s The Dream Garden.
The park shelters the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in memory of soldiers who fought in the American Revolution, and a tree that sprouted from a seed that went to the moon — and back.