What do you do in Washington D.C. when you have a day and you have already seen “the famous” National Monuments? Well here is my wild and crazy schedule. Some of it is walkable, some of it was done by cab and some of it was done on mass transit. That part is up to you, I am going to simply highlight the sites, and let you see if any of them interest you.
I will begin with this beautiful sculpture. I visit this whenever I am in Washington D.C. This is the Adams Memorial it is located in Section E of Rock Creek Cemetery.
The Smithsonian probably writes about it best:
Marion Hooper “Clover” Adams, wife of the writer Henry Adams, committed suicide in 1885 by drinking chemicals used to develop photographs. Adams, who steadfastly refused to discuss his wife’s death, commissioned Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create a memorial that would express the Buddhist idea of nirvana, a state of being beyond joy and sorrow. In Adams’s circle of artists and writers, the old Christian certainties seemed inadequate after the violence of the Civil War, the industrialization of America, and Darwin’s theories of evolution. Saint-Gaudens’s ambiguous figure reflects the search for new insights into the mysteries of life and death. The shrouded being is neither male nor female, neither triumphant nor downcast.
Rock Creek Cemetery is just one block from the President Lincoln’s Cottage on the grounds of the Soldiers Home if you find you have more time. I did not, and on busy days they highly suggest reservations, but I at least got a shot of the statue in front of his cabin. If you do go, give yourself lots of time, as there is quite a museum attached to the grounds as well.
Did you know that the original columns of the United States Capitol are standing in a field? Yup, here they are in the National Arboretum.
The original Corinthian Columns from our United States Capitol sit on a knoll in the Ellipse Meadow. The columns were part of the 1828 construction of the East Portico, quarried from Virginia sandstone and barged to Washington, they were part of the capitol before the dome was completed. When the dome was finally completed in 1864 it was significantly larger than the original design making the columns look too small to support it and out of scale. An addition to the east side of the Capitol was supposed to fix the problem, but that was not built until 1958.
Then it wasn’t until 1980 that Ethel Garret, benefactor of the Arboretum and world famous Landscape Designer Russell Page were able to garner enough monies and support to have them placed on the Ellipse Meadow.
The columns are set on a foundation of stones from the steps that were on the east side of the Capitol. Old identification marks from the quarry are still visible on some of the stones.
The National Arboretum address is:
3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, D.C., DC 20002
The columns are closest to the R Street Entrance if you are on foot.
If you are going in the winter check the trolly schedule it does not run all year.
This is the Cuban American Friendship Urn. The urn is not easy to find, but it is marked on the National Park Service Map “National Mall and Memorial Parks” You will find it marked at Parking A, Ohio Drive, on the Potomac.
The urn once stood atop a column of marble in Havana. It was originally made to commemorate the U.S. sailors and Marines who lost their lives aboard the USS Maine when it sank in Havana harbor in 1898.
The sinking of the Maine on February 15 precipitated the Spanish-American War and popularized the phrase Remember the Maine!
A hurricane in October 1926 knocked the marble column over, and in 1928 the urn was sent to the United States and presented to President Calvin Coolidge. After that, the urn stood outside the Cuban Embassy on 16th Street, N.W., in Washington. After relations between the United States and Cuba deteriorated it disappeared from public view. It was rumored to have been stolen during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, or it may have simply been removed for a construction project. A 2009 National Park Service publication states that it was discovered in a National Park Service warehouse in 1992 and moved to its present site. However, in 1996, “The Washington City Paper”, reported that the urn had recently been found by the park service abandoned in Rock Creek Park “lying on its side”. The urn was placed in East Potomac Park in 1998 following repair work that cost $11,000.
It has been called one of the “10 monuments you’ve probably never heard of” in the Washington, D.C., region, which is of course, why I had to go find it!
Walking through Washington you will simply trip over statue after statue, while waiting for transit around the corner from the Friendship Urn, tucked way in the back of the bend of the street was this wonderful statue of George Mason. I had not gone seeking this out, but what a great find.
George Mason was a member of the elite Virginians. He is considered one of the “Founding Fathers” but did not sign the U.S. Constitution because it did not contain explicit rights for individuals. He did however convince our forefathers to add them into amendments which became our Bill of Rights, these were based on the earlier Virginia Declaration of Rights, which Mason had drafted.
While the garden was the product of extensive historical research, and I am sure is stunning in the spring and summer, there was not one flower or piece of greenery on December 1st. The design by landscape architect Faye Harwell, FASLA, Oehme Van Sweden, is intended to reflect the site’s history as a Victorian garden as well as George Mason’s love of gardens.
The sculptor was Wendy M. Ross.
What would a trip like this be without a quick dash into Union Station. In 1908 architect Daniel H. Burnham, assisted by Pierce Anderson, was inspired by a number of different architectural styles, and yet the station does not feel eclectic, it feels gracious and grand. Classical elements included the Arch of Constantine (exterior, main façade) and the great vaulted spaces of the Baths of Diocletian (interior); prominent siting at the intersection of two of Pierre L’Enfant’s avenues, with an orientation that faced the United States Capitol just five blocks away; (behind me as I took this picture above) a massive scale, including a façade stretching more than 600 feet and a waiting room ceiling 96 feet above the floor; stone inscriptions and allegorical sculpture in the Beaux-Arts style; expensive materials such as marble, gold leaf, and white granite.
During World War I, troops were mobilized through Union Station, and many prominent women worked in the Station’s canteen, including Eleanor Roosevelt and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson. It was reported that Mrs. Wilson had kept her husband, the President, waiting for her outside the Station, until she had finished her duties at the canteen.
On September 29, 1988, Union Station reopened its doors with a gala celebration. A public/private partnership funded the $160 million restoration of the Station per legislation enacted by Congress in 1981 to preserve Union Station as a national treasure. It was the largest, most complex public/private restoration project ever attempted in the United States.
The fountain, which was co-created by Lorado Zadoc Taft (April 29, 1860 – October 30, 1936) and architect Daniel Burnham, was influenced by a fountain designed by Frederick MacMonnies that was displayed at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
I was going to just throw this guy in as a place holder but then I started to do my research and figured I would share a little bit about him. There are four of these fellows on the Dumbarton Bridge. The bridge is also, obviously, known as the Buffalo bridge, or the Q Street Bridge. These buffalo, the largest cast in a single piece of bronze, are by Alexander Phimister Proctor.
I thought this was unique when I saw it, but didn’t really know how unique until I started writing, as I said. The bridge is significant as showing the impact of the City Beautiful movement in Washington. The architects studied photographs of bridges around the world choosing as models a Roman aqueduct and a mountain bridge in Italy with intent to set a precedent for further city bridges. The color of the bridge’s stone was intended to evoke the warm tones of Spain and Italy.
1213 U Street NW
A great spot for a cold cold day. Chili dog, chili fries and all the entertainment you could ask for!
I hope that you have enjoyed a very quick, but unusual view of Washington DC.