Scott: best general of whom you’ve probably never heard

The legend says all statues face the White House. It’s not true, though this one does.

Gen. Winfield Scott’s statue lies in the three-sided circle of Massachusetts and Rhode Island Aves. and 16th St. N.W. just blocks from the White House that he failed to win in 1852. Indeed, Scott nearly ran in 1860 but decided he was getting too old. Instead, Scott lived until 1866, one year after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

Scott was a bonafide military hero; veteran of three wars against Mexicans, Cherokee Indians and British. Scott served a half century and wrote the military’s first drill regulations.

The pedestal is 15 feet high, which James Goode’s bible of local monuments “Washington Sculpture” says was the largest single block of granite then quarried. Scott dons his field uniform of lieutenant general while looking ahead while his horse rests.

Goode says the horse was supposed to be a mare until family objections that generals always rode stallions. Sculptor Henry Kirke Brown modeled the horse after Scott’s favorite mare. Let’s just say certain additions were made to satisfy everyone. Wouldn’t be the first or last deal made in Washington.

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First U.S. president rests high on the hill

John Hanson

Leaving the Gaylord National Hotel in Oxon Hill, I point to a lonely tree above the rising MGM Grand casino and parallel to the beltway and say, “That’s where the first president of the United States is buried.”

Wait, isn’t Mount Vernon the other way and across the Potomac River?

Yes, but George Washington wasn’t the first president. At least, not exactly.

John Hanson was the first president under the Articles of Confederation (which predates the Constitution from which Washington served) to be elected by delegates of the 13 original states. While third to hold the office, Hanson was the first elected, serve the full one-year term, chosen after the British surrendered at Yorktown to end the Revolutionary War and recognized internationally as head of state. (Washington remained commander in chief of the troops. Today, the president is both.)

Maybe it’s a tricky bar bet question, but you still win.

The son of a planter, Hanson was born in nearby Port Tobacco, Md. on April 14, 1715. He died on Nov. 15, 1783 at the nearby mansion of Thomas Addison. The house was destroyed in 1895, but the graveyard atop the hill has Hanson and a dozen Addison family members interned. It’s a private cemetery, surrounded by fences and locked gates and not open to the public. I photographed this grave marker from the fence. I’m not sure it’s Hanson’s, but you’d think a former president would have the only one in the graveyard.

It’s a nice location overlooking the Potomac River. More than two centuries ago it was probably a fine venue rather before becoming an island in a sea of traffic nowadays.

It would seem more befitting for Hanson to be relocated to Arlington National Cemetery than under a lonely tree above parking lots. Maybe one day someone will honor him so.

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Fort Lincoln Cemetery: Defending Washington during Civil War

Cannons in Fort Lincoln Cemetery?



Two cannons rest amid earthworks in Fort Lincoln Cemetery just past the city’s eastern border, remnants of the Civil War defense. Ironically, they’re only a couple hundred yards from the Battle of Bladensburg in 1814 where the British overwhelmed local forces and marched into Washington largely unmolested to burn the White House.

Anyway, the fortifications were created in 1861 at the start of the Civil War and commanded by Major Gen. Joseph Hooker. The site was named Fort Lincoln after President Abraham Lincoln, who was known to meet with Union troops just a few feet away by the spring house that’s still there.

The two cannons were not among the site’s original four. However, they are original bronze medium 12-pounder boat howitzers designed by John Dahlgren, considered the father of American naval ordinance. These cannons were forged in 1863 during the Civil War and placed at Fort Lincoln in 1921 by the Dept. of Defense.

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Cross of Sacrifice at Arlington National Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice

It’s often called the “Canadian Cross” but technically the large cross behind the Tomb of the Unknowns and near the memorials to astronauts is called the “Cross of Sacrifice.”

The bronze sword atop the 24-foot gray granite cross was dedicated on Armistice Day 1927 in remembrance of Americans who fought in World War I as part of Canadian forces. The cross represents religious faith and the sword is for being in a military cemetery.

Many Americans joined Canadian forces to fight in World War I before the U.S. entered the war. The cross is also in Canadian military cemeteries of at least 40 graves.

Designed by Canadian Sir Reginald Boomfield, it has an inscription by the Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King. Similar inscriptions were added after World War II and the Korean War.

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Take a long look at America and War and Peace

America and War and Peace

Some artwork only requires a moment’s attention to grasp its focus. America and War and Peace will take awhile.

Located by the John F. Kennedy Center entrance, the bronze series of panels 16 feet long was a gift from Germany in 1969. Sculpted by Jurgen Weber, America shows a series of history beginning on the left with starving Europeans vying for sacks of grain from American ships. There are five politicians arguing, New York skyscrapers, Statue of Liberty and even a rocket headed for the moon. The War and Peace section shows a series of violence, families and celebrations with even Louis Amrstrong playing the trumpet.

Whew – it’s a lot to take in, especially since most people are eager to go inside the Kennedy Center for a show.

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Daniel Webster offers the highest of relief panels

Daniel Webster

Normally, the high relief art complements the statue, but the two beneath the statue of Daniel Webster are the coolest ones I’ve seen around town.

They are nearly lifelike, showing none of their 110 years. The scene in the front is of Webster, a congressman from New Hampshire and senator from Massachusetts from 1823-41 and 1845-50, responding to South Carolina Sen. Robert Young Hayne before their brethren over the legality of the South’s succession from the Union. Nearly 100 people are shown in the scene that looks like you’re peering into the actual event.

The rear panel is Webster speaking at the dedication of the Bunker Hill Memorial in 1843. Webster is shown reaching out to the crowd amid a flag background. The panel includes a popular quotation from Webster at the dedication where he said, “Our country, our whole country and nothing like our country.” Not Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” but it works.

Daniel Webster

Don’t overlook the 12-foot bronze statue of Webster, whose hawish stare makes him someone you wouldn’t want to spar. Atop an 18-foot pedestal, Webster is holding a reference book. Oh, maybe Webster’s Dictionary?

The conservative Whig was considered one of the great orators even in the time of Abraham Lincoln. He was a fierce protector of federal rights versus state’s rights in the time of the Civil War. The two-time Secretary of State settled the border dispute between Maine and Canada. Webster was voted one of the top five senators in 1957.

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Down by the old, old, old spring house

The old spring house


It is a house of mystery. Well, at least a spring house of mystery.

In nearly the middle of Ft. Lincoln Cemetery is a spring house believed to be one of the older structural relics of the American colonization era. Some say the 11-foot square structure with 18-inch fieldstone walls was constructed in 1683 by residents. However, the National Register of Historic Places report also conjectures it was built by George Conn soon after buying the land in 1765.

With a gable roof of hand-split cedar shakes, the spring house has a wooden door that leads to one step down for an 18-inch trough. There are also two five-foot latticed openings for air to circulate. The structure was painted white in 1939.

The spring itself is a few feet from the house under what was once the Lincoln Oak that lived for 425 years until destroyed by lightning in 1994. Abraham Lincoln was said to drink from the spring house while discussing war strategy with Army leaders. My mother, who is not as old as Lincoln, said there was a dipper to use for drinking back in the 1940s.

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Capitol pediment: The Progress of Civilization

Capitol pediment

The Senate portico’s eastern front (facing the sunrise) is about America and its conquests. Frankly, the Capitol pediment pretty easy symbolism to decipher.

According to James M. Goode’s fine book “Washington Sculpture,” the woman in the middle is America standing on a rock. The sun rising at her feet as the enlightenment of progress. The woodsman is clearing a forest while an Indian seems to show despair that the whites are taking over his lands. On the left, a Revolutionary soldier with his hand on sword shows readiness. The merchant sitting on goods while touching a globe shows commerce and trade. The two boys are teacher show the future while the mechanic and his tools represent trade.

The marble pediment is 60 feet long and 12 feet high. It was sculpted by Thomas Crawford in 1863.

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Wordless Wednesday: Moongate Garden at Smithsonian Castle

Moongate Garden

Moongate Garden

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Wordless Wednesday: Get your seafood

Fish market

Fish market

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Why are coins left on veterans’ graves?

Why are coins left on grave stones at Arlington National Cemetery? Particularly, the graves of Robert F. Kennedy and his brother Teddy plus World War II hero Audey Murphy.

I thought it was something senseless the school kids did. Maybe something to do with paying the ferryman to carry the deceased across the river to the afterlife.

Recently, a veteran told me it had something to do with those who served with the deceased. Several websites like the Quad City Times confirmed what I’ve heard from vets.

Coins left on graves

Coins left on graves

A penny means the person visiting was a friend or acquaintance.

A nickel means they went through basic training together.

A dime means they served in another platoon of the same company or in the same battle.

A quarter means they served in the same outfit or were with the person when they died.

The practice reportedly dates back to the Roman empire in seventh century B.C., but carried over to the U.S. after the Vietnam War as a down payment on a future game of cards or beer together. Many longtime guides say they’ve only seen the coins in recent years.

The money is eventually collected and added to the cemetery’s general fund.

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Buffalo boys won’t you come out tonight

I have long heard about the bridge with buffalos and never realized how closely I walked by them. The bridge is just one block south of Sheridan Circle on Massachusetts Ave. N.W.

The Dumbarton Bridge has four buffalos overlooking Rock Creek Park. The span is supposed to resemble a Roman aqueduct and has a 12 percent horizontal curve, which is pretty unusual.

The 7-foot buffalos guard each corner of the bridge that was built in 1914. They were designed by A. Phimister Proctor, who also created the tigers on the 16th St. bridge. During the unveiling party, guests ate buffalo burgers. Gotta love that. Today, it’s a quiet corner and a great one to admire the buffalo.

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The Geronimo marker, well sorta

Geronimo surrenders

Sometimes a really strange marker hits you when passing by. Wait, was that Geronimo surrendering in Arlington National cemetery?

Well, yes it is, but the marker celebrates the person buried there who captured the Apache leader — George Crook.

Located at the final turn of the dirt path to Arlington House (straight ahead just when turning left) is the back side of Crook’s memorial. The large granite marker has a bas relief on the back showing the 1883 surrender of Geronimo (center) along with Crook (right) and other soldiers and braves.

Crook (1830-90) became a brigadier general during the Civil War. He was taken prisoner in 1865 before exchanged for Confederate prisoners and finished the war with the Army of the Potomac.

Crook then served out west fighting Apache, Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. He later caught Geronimo in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico. Ironically, Crook became known as an advocate for indians that he felt were mistreated by government officials. He served 38 years in the army before dying at age 59.

The steps leading from Arlington House to the Tomb of the Unknowns is also named the Crook Walk after him.

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Hahnemann: Hero of Homeopathy

No way you know what this monument is unless you’re a pharmacist.

Wandering in Scott Circle where Massachusetts Ave. and 16th St. N.W. meet is one of the widest monuments away from the mall. Four bas relief panels each four feet tall by 10 feet wide. In the middle is a robed statue beneath a mosaic amid a granite background.

Dr. Samuel Hahnemann created the science of homeopathy as a German physician. This actually made Hahnemann quite unpopular among druggists, who forced him to flee to Paris in 1821, but inspired the American Institute of Homeopathy to erect the memorial in 1900. It was later refurbished in 2000.

The four panels depict Hahnemann’s life as a student, chemist, teacher and physician. The life-sized bronze statue between panels depicts Hahnemann pondering deep thoughts. It was sculpted by Charles Henry-Niehaus.

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DuPont Circle in the summertime

DuPont Circle

DuPont Circle

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How to find your state at the World War II Memorial

The first thing tourists look for at the World War II Memorial isn’t the magnificent fountain, the stars that each represent 100 dead U.S. soldiers, bas relief art by the entrance or names of the battles.

No, they want to take a photo by their state columns.

Fair enough. But then they try to figure out where it is, thinking it’s by region. Sorry, doesn’t quite work that way, but there is a method of the madness.

Military ceremonies always have the lead officer’s next in command to the right and their No. 2 to the left. With your back to the wall of stars, the first state in the country is Delaware on the right, the second state is Pennsylvania to the left. It then alternates – No. 3 on right, No. 4 on left and so on.

Most people don’t know what number their state was when entering the union, but they have a general idea so early states are on the stars side, later states and territories by 17th St. There are 48 states and eight territories at the time of World War II represented. Hawaii and Alaska have since become states, but the number is still the same.

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Wandering along Embassy Row: Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Mustafa Kemal AtaturkMy first walk along Embassy Row found a new statue since my last stroll. is in front of the Republic of Turkey embassy’s official residence. “The Father of Turks” was a World War I military officer who later served as Turkey’s first president in 1920-21.

Washington donated space for the statue in 2013. The capital of Turkey, Ankara,, and Washington became sister cities in October 2011. The statue was dedicated on the 90th anniversary of the founding of Turkey. Its sculptor was Jeffery L. Hall.

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Welcome to the Phillips Collection

Phillips Collection

Phillips Collection

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Motherland hugs the American Red Cross

American Red Cross


In appreciation of U.S. aid to Armenian earthquake victims, sculptor Friedrich Sogoyan created an oversized mother hugging her child based upon a woman who survived several days in the rubble with her child.

The Dec. 7, 1988 earthquake killed more than 30,000 and injured more than 200,000.

A native Armenian who was a famous sculptor of Russian monuments, Sogoyan created the bronze statue and donated it to the American Red Cross building on 17th St. N.W. in 1990. It’s to the right of the main entrance.

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Air Force Memorial rises above Washington

Air Force Memorial


It lies between Arlington National Cemetery, Navy Annex and the Pentagon, but the Air Force Memorial can be seen many places around town. Indeed, you can also see much of Washington from the memorial.

Built in 2006 to remember the 53,000 that died serving in the Air Force and its 1909-1947 predecessors serving under the U.S. Army, the memorial has three spires rising 201, 231 and 270 feet respectively. They are the contrails of the Thunderbirds during bomb blast maneuver. Stainless steel covers the 600 ton concrete spires created by Zenos Frudakis. Below the spires is the Air Force star that is its symbol since World War II. Nearby is a U.S. Air Force Honor Guard.

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