©Unless otherwise noted, all content and photos are © 2015 Monumental Thoughts.
Anton Hilberath is an enigma surrounded by children.
Hilberath’s the only German soldier from World War II buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The First Sergeant of the Wehrmacht was among 830 German prisoners of war that died in the U.S.
Anything else about Hilberath requires plenty of patience and a translator. After a few dozen hours on the internet and couple conversations with older friends with military backgrounds, I pieced together some thoughts.
Hilberath died April 21, 1946 while working on Maryland’s Eastern Shore’s farms. Wait, that was a year after the war’s end. What were German prisoners still doing here? Turns out nobody was in a hurry to repatriate POWs across the Atlantic.
How did Hilberath end up at Arlington? Under the Geneva Convention, prisoners were given military funerals at the nearest government cemetery. At the time that was Arlington.
After dying of an undisclosed illness, Hilberath along with deceased Italian soldiers Arcangelo Prudenza and Mario Batista were buried in Arlington. The marker doesn’t note Hilberath’s Nov. 19, 1898 birthdate, only his death, nationality and rank.
All three lie in Section 15C not far from the Tomb of the Unknowns and one section over from the Confederate memorial and graves. Hilberath lies amid children of U.S. soldiers with no marker to the immediate left of him.
Alfaro (1842 –1912) was the president from 1895 to 1901 and 1906 to 1911. He was known as Viejo Luchador (Old Warrior) for opposing conservatism for 30 years. Alfaro is best known for modernizing his country’s transportation and education system.
For everyone who was told they’re not good enough, those who spent years trying to make it, that sacrificed everything for their dream — Sky Landscape is for you.
Louise Nevelson struggled for many years after arriving from Kiev, Russia. Working with odd objects found on the streets of New York from toilet seats to wine crates, Nevelson didn’t hit it big until the 1950s. Now you can find her work in the National Gallery of Art and most major museums nationwide. Not bad for someone who once hung out with Willem de Koonig and Pablo Picasso.
Nevelson created Sky Landscape in 1983. The 30-foot steel sculpture atop a granite base rests at Vermont Ave. and L St. N.W. Certainly, it represents Nevelson’s eclectic style.
An old stump is all that’s left of one of the older trees ever around Washington.
The Lincoln Oak, named for president Abraham Lincoln meeting under its expansive branches with local military leaders during the Civil War, was destroyed by lightning in 1994.
The tree was believed to date back to around 1510. That’s 601 years ago! The oak was supposedly 173 years old when the nearby Old Spring House was built in 1683.
Ft. Lincoln Cemetery officials planted new white oak to replace the Lincoln Oak, but we’ll have to wait until 2610 to see if it’s worthy of its predecessor.
See you there. Well, my great, great, great, great grandson will be there.
It’s strange how everyone knows President Woodrow Wilson was instrumental in the League of Nations that the U.S. never joined, but few recall the key person starting the United Nations.
Cordell Hull merits only a three-foot bronze bust outside the Organization of American States along Constitution Ave. between 17th and 18th Sts. — and it’s only a copy.
Hull was born in a log cabin in 1871 where he became a lawyer and then a captain in the Spanish-American War. Hull spent 22 years as a Congressman before elected to the Senate in 1931. Two years later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Hull to Secretary of State because of the latter’s open trade policies.
Hull openly courted Latin American countries, hence his memorial’s placement, but perhaps the most famous act was delivering an edict to the Japanese just days before Pearl Harbor’s bombing to stop military aggression.
For his role in founding the UN, Hull received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945.
Beneath his bust on the base, it reads: Let each American nation vie with the other in the practice of the policy of the good neighbor. Peace must be our passion.
They were sons of liberty, the ones brave enough to put their name to paper and tell King George to go to Hell. America was free.
Today, we remember the founding fathers with 56 Signers Park where each of their signatures is shown in granite. John Adams, Thomas Stone, Ben Franklin and yes, John Hancock’s signature is the biggest. Each of the 56 blocks contain a signature, occupation and hometown.
Oddly, there was no remembrance to the men who risked their wealth, health and very necks by signing the Declaration of Independence until July 2, 1984 when the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration created the memorial.
“We sometimes forget the magnitude of their action,” said Virginia Sen. John Warner (Liz Taylor’s last husband) at the dedication, “the courage and moral strength needed to take that first great step.”
The 50-acre lake is just steps from the World War II Memorial on the National Mall. The best access point to the memorial is from 19th St. and Constitution Ave. The entire area was a swamp until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged it a century ago. For years, it was the site of the Main Navy and Munitions Building where even President Richard Nixon served. Nixon later ordered it destroyed and turned into a park.
Today, it’s a fine oasis in the middle of the mall that many people walk by unnoticed. Surely Hancock would have commanded their attention in his day. And that’s why you should stop by.
We’re going with an easy one here. I don’t care if you’ve never seen a pediment in your life (and you may have not) you’re going to know what this one means.
High above the western entrance into the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall is an eagle with 1776 on one side and 1783 on the other.
Care to take a guess what this means?
It’s the symbol of America and the dates of the Revolutionary War. It’s above the organization of women descendants (like my wife) related to those soldiers. The 90-foot pediment was finished in 1930.
Told you it was an easy A.
It’s not often you see who’s lying underground, but former U.S. Secretary of War William Worth Belknap’s image adorns a large bronze medallion on his marker at Arlington National Cemetery that’s worth a look.
Located near the Pan Am 103 memorial (red round marker to the left) and behind the Lee-Custis house’s amphitheater, the large granite marker remembers a former Georgetown law graduate who was the son of Gen. William Goldsmidt Belknap, who served during the Mexican war. The medallion was created by Carl Rohl-Smith.
Belknap (1829-90) rose from Colonel 15th Iowa Vol, Infantry in the Civil War to Brigadier & Brevet Major General U.S. while serving under Gen. William Sherman during the famed march across Georgia. President U.S. Grant appointed Belknap Secretary of War from 1869-1876.
Belknap’s downfall was marrying two sisters (one at a time naturally) who spent money like water. One allegedly sold a prominent position (cough, Rod Blagojevich, cough) that later led to impeachment proceedings against Belknap. He was acquitted by the Senate. Belknap returned to his law practice until his death.
A plaque at the bottom of the marker reads: “Erected by his comrades of the Crocker Iowa Brigade 11th, 13th, 15th and 16th Iowa infantry, Army of the Tennessee. Companions of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States and other friends.”
What could be more fitting for a cemetery than a clock that never ends?
This 1938 floral clock in the entrance area of Ft. Lincoln Cemetery just across the District’s border in Brentwood, Md. was created by famed timekeeper Seth Thomas.
The face is 32 feet in diameter with 28 feet for flowers. The numbers are 21 inches high and one foot wide. The minute hand weighs between 300 to 350 pounds and 18 feet, 4 inches long. The hour hand is 200 to 250 pounds and 14 feet, nine inches long. The hands are caste aluminum.
Plants adorn the clock in warmer months. There are 5,000 red and 2,900 green Alteranthereas, 400 Santonlinas and 500 Sedum Tomentosiums.
Amid the famous buildings of Capitol Hill sits a small brick house with two centuries of history.
The Sewall-Belmont House on the corner of Second St. and Constitution Ave. NE has been associated with our political leaders since the city’s early years. In 1929, the National Woman’s Party bought the house for feminist education that’s still ongoing.
The national headquarters, the society continues seeking equal rights for women. The house has a museum filled with exhibits and education programs. It also has tours. Check the website.
Fourteen soldiers and sailors from the War of 1812 are buried together in Section 1 not far from the Custis-Lee House. Go past the Pan American 103 red stone memorial and nearly enter the woods before the granite marker is on the left. The photo makes it look like the marker is crooked, but I think it was more of my being tired at the end of walking nearly five hours around the grounds.
The 14 soldiers were discovered in 1905 by workers at the Washington Navy Yard. The monument was erected in 1976 by the National Society of the United States Daughters of the War of 1812.
I took a group to the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns on Monday. Just another day until crossing over from the Kennedy graves to find a howitzer blocking our path between the Crook stairs. I’ve only seen that on Memorial Day and the soldiers seemed ready to fire, which they did 10 times by my count.
Approaching the Tomb the I saw a large Canadian flag, then both U.S. and Canadian colors teams. After the guard change, a U.S. Navy band marched in from one direction, sailors from the steps beneath and the colors teams from a third. Turns out it was Vice Adm. Mark Norman, commander of the Royal Canadian Navy who was visiting. Norman layed a wreath and both national anthems were played.
It took about 40 minutes, a long time to stand on the marble, but the group all said it was worth the time.
It looks like odd tools in my collection, and it is.
Tool De Force is a 12 1/2-foot sculpture at the National Building Museum representing some of the tools used in the industry. It was donated to NBM by John Hechinger, Sr., who many longtime Washingtonians remember for his Hechinger hardware stores that paved the way for big box successors Home Depot and Lowe’s.
Hechinger collected art for his enormous headquarters. This one is by sculptor David Stromeyer, who liked to add color to his pieces.