Save George Washington, get a statue – Casimir Pulaski

Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski was a Polish count who came to America to fight for freedom. He once saved George Washington’s life, but is best known for teaching American troops the discipline needed to fight the mighty British troops.

Pulaski was known throughout Europe for his bravery and came to the U.S. in 1777 to continue fighting for the cause of freedom. Ben Franklin recommended to George Washington that Pulaski serve in the cavalry. In Pulaski’s first battle at Brandywine, he saved Washington from capture.

Pulaski was made a brigadier general in the cavalry. However, American troops didn’t like fighting under a foreign leader who didn’t speak English so Pulaski resigned from the unit and went to Valley Forge where Washington created a new cavalry of deserters and POWs for Pulaski to lead. Sadly, Pulaski was killed in the Battle of Savannah in 1779.

Ironically, the Revolutionary War hero is shown at the eastern corner of Freedom Plaza in a Polish military uniform with a long cape and a hat adorned with fur and feathers. His feet are in the stirrups and he holds the horse’s reins with both hands. The sculpture rests on an oval base decorated with a band of foliage and Greek key design. Wreathes flank the inscriptions which appear on the long sides of the base.

Erected in 1910 at a cost of $50,000, the bronze equestrian statue is 15 feet high, 12 feet wide. The granite base is 12 feet high and 15 feet wide.

Posted in Monuments and Statues | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wordless Wednesday: It’s beach time

Sea shells

Posted in Washington life | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Sphere No. 6 is . . .

Sphere No. 6 is:

a) What was left of the Death Star after Luke Skywalker blew it up.
b) The remnants of Earth after a nuclear explosion.
c) A bronze sculpture by Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro.
d) I have no idea.

The correct answers are c and d. The piece is one of several by Pomodoro and I’m still not sure what it’s supposed to represent after reading several stories.

Continue reading

Posted in Monuments and Statues | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Chess Players: It’s not over until it’s over

I’m telling you, the player on the left could still win this match. Come on, take the castle already. This game has been going on for an eternity.

Well, at least since 1983.

The Chess Players is one of those fun artworks that make people stop if not take photos. Two life-sized men are playing chess, neither having a great advantage. However, the older gentleman on the right holds the queen in his hand and showing a slight smile while the other looks sad. A key piece has been won and the game’s outcome will soon follow. But you know, if the other guy moved his castle . . .

American artist Lloyd Lillie actually modeled the two figures after family members. This right one is his father, the left his son despite the ages seeming the same barring close inspection.

The bronze artwork lies in John Marshall Park on 4th and C Sts. N.W. aside the Canadian embassy and just a short stroll from the court houses. Supposedly, the park is the perfect place for lawyers to play chess on their lunch hour, though I’ve never stumbled upon a live version.

Posted in Monuments and Statues | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Must Places to Eat in Washington

Posted in Washington life | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The curious cube of Congressional Cemetery

Congressional cubeThe black cube in Congressional Cemetery curiously placed at an angle will make you stop.

The graves of Charles Fowler and Kenneth Dresser are marked with a cube just 50 yards on the right once entering the gate. Fowler was a writer, educator and advocate for the arts who died in 1995. Dresser was a creative designer who died three months later.

Dresser was best known for designing the Electric Light Parade at Disneyland, Electric Water Pageant at Epcot and Fantasy of Lights at Callaway Gardens, Ga. Fowler was an arts educator and director of Natural Cultural Resources and guest professors at several universities.

The two were members of the University of Maryland’s “Black and Gold Society” honoring those who donated $100,000 or more.

Posted in Memorials | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lunar Bird makes your imagination soar

Like many things in the Hirshhorn Museum’s Sculpture Garden, Lunar Bird is a bit of a mystery. The best guess is it’s an imaginary bird with a symbol of the moon for a head, small wings and thick legs.

A bronze sculpture by Joan Miro of Spain, it was originally made in 1945 but recast larger in 1967. It’s 89 3/8 inches by 88 1/2 inches by 58 1/4 inches.

Overall, it’s pretty cool and in a quieter section of the garden. Worth a moment’s rest while walking the mall.

Posted in Attractions | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Things To Know When Visiting Washington, D.C.

Posted in Washington life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Wordless Wednesday: Summertime in Georgetown

IMG_3572

Posted in Uncategorized, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Fourth of July

Fireworks

Posted in Washington life | Tagged , | Leave a comment

5 Must See Places to Visit in Washington

Posted in Washington life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Wordless Wednesday: Night at the ballpark

Nationals

Posted in Washington life | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Mountain and Clouds will blow your mind

My first thought when entering the lobby of the Senate Hart Office Building – was it this big piece of junk?

A few minutes later when viewing it from the seventh of nine floors, my second thought – Oh, I get it now.

My final thought – Mountains and Clouds is a pretty cool sculpture. Too bad it’s hidden in a government office building that the public rarely sees and few will appreciate from ground level.

It was the final piece created by Alexander Calder, one of the leading 20th-century American sculptors known for creating suspending moving parts called “mobiles.” This piece has four clouds hanging from the roof and five triangular mountains underneath. It’s painted black to contrast with the surrounding white marble.

Ironically, Calder’s final day was spent meeting with the Architect of the Capitol over the sculpture. He even used a pair of pliers to adjust the model. Calder then returned to his New York City home where he died that night. Mountain and Clouds was later dedicated in 1987.

Ironically, I didn’t realize my photo was from the rear until cleaning it up in Photoshop. I was photographing from up high and the lighting hid the rear. But, if I can appreciate it from the back, it sure must be a nice piece.

Posted in Monuments and Statues | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who’s the boss? Why ‘Boss’ Shepherd, of course

George Washington may be the father of our country and namesake for the our town, but Alexander Robey Shepherd, better known as “Boss Shepherd,” is considered “The Father of Modern Washington.”

Shepherd actually stopped an 1870s movement to relocate the capital to St. Louis after national politicians were upset over Washington’s poor infrastructure. Washington’s governor from 1873-74, Shepherd modernized the city’s infrastructure and even planted 60,000 trees to make it more attractive. However, these costly moves nearly put the city into bankruptcy and forced Shepherd from office amid corruption scandals. Shepherd’s plan to keep Washington as the capital city worked, though.

Boss Shepherd was such a controversial person that Mayor Marion Barry removed this statue when taking office in 1979 and exiled it to the city’s impound lot. I guess Mayor Barry figured there was only one boss in town and he was it. However, in 2005, Shepherd’s statue was returned to its original 1909 spot on the right side of the John Wilson Building entrance on Pennsylvania Ave. near 15th St.

The bronze statue is 18 feet tall, including the 18-square foot pedestal made of Vermont granite. It could use a good cleaning, turning green like many statues. It was created by Washington sculptor Ulric Stonewall Jackson Dunbar, who was better known for his statue of baseball pitcher Walter Johnson and death masks.

Posted in Monuments and Statues | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wordless Wednesday: Arlington National Cemetery

ANC graves2

Posted in Arlington National Cemetery, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Verizon Center

What was the biggest thing to ever happen where Verizon Center now lies?

The site was once home to The National Era, a weekly abolitionist newspaper that published a 43-week series by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It was supposed to just be a few stories, but readers loved it so much it ran for nearly a year. Two years later, Stowe turned those tales into “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

The Era was a mixture of anecdotes, poems, letters, stories and transcripts. Slavery was a major part of the newspaper, though. The Era ran from Jan. 7, 1847 – March 22, 1860 and later published by Frederick Douglass from 1870-74.

There has been recent talk of erecting a statue to Verizon founder Abe Pollin. An interesting idea, but in a city of monuments there’s certainly one for Stowe, too.

Maybe on the same street corner housing Verizon Center.

Posted in Washington life | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding generations long ago on Vietnam Wall

Vietnam Wall namesWhenever I find a name for someone on the Vietnam Wall, I asked who this person is to them.

Often, it’s a relative. Someone they probably didn’t know like their mom’s uncle. Recently, the woman said it was her boyfriend in 1969. She couldn’t believe it took this long to come see his name on the wall . . . summon the courage to confront pain that still seemed raw. Another time it was a woman’s husband whose body was recently recovered and buried at Arlington National Cemetery that morning.

One day, a 18-year-old woman with dreams of becoming a vascular surgeon and asking about local universities and hospitals, mentioned she had a relative on the Wall. I have “The Wall” app on my phone and found it.

“Who is this to you?” I asked.

“It was my great grandfather,” she said.

The man died in 1966. Could it really be her great grandfather? The men on the Wall are mostly those who would be my older brothers or one generation back. I have a neighbor who’s on the Wall. The young woman is almost a decade younger than my daughters. Maybe it was her grandfather. But no, she insisted it was her great grandfather and one of the volunteers told me just did another great grandfather relation.

We had the young lady rub her ancestor’s name to take home. As the letters appeared, it seemed to become even more real to her. That’s the beauty of the Wall.

Every day, there’s a new story on the Wall.

Posted in Memorials | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Alice Roosevelt found in Peacock Alley

alice roosevelt

Posted in Attractions | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Last Conversation Piece says a lot

I must admit this series of rotund statues makes me laugh. Like it’s a Weight Watchers meeting and a dispute breaks out as one says, “Who you calling fat?”

That’s the great part of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden whose many modern art pieces can be whatever you want them to be. While I have no idea what most of these things are, I enjoy the outdoor bronze statues.

The Last Conversation Piece was created by Spanish artist Juan Munoz in 1994-95 and quickly purchased by the Hirshhorn. It’s five bronze statues on the Independence Ave. side of the building. Three of them are together as if in a huddle for a little 2-2 touch football.

Munoz was an interesting cat who disdained his family’s wealth to become a New York waiter until breaking through as an artist in the 1980s. He was known for his theme of isolation. Like I said, I don’t understand most of the Hirshhorn but I know what I like. Munoz died in 2001 of a heart attack at age 48 so we can’t get his version.

Posted in Monuments and Statues | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

We cannot tell a lie – GW’s birthplace is cool

GW Monument birthplaceMonumental Thoughts has a guest contributor – Megan Johnson. (Hey, we’re all for free labor.)

A sprawling stretch of land along Popes Creek, Va., isn’t all that different today from when George Washington entered the world 284 years ago – and that’s just the way the National Park Service likes it.

At the George Washington Birthplace National Monument, visitors are treated to talks with knowledgeable park rangers about this place the first president called home until the age of 3. On a plantation originally settled by John Washington, George’s great-grandfather, one of America’s forefathers was born along the waterfront in 1732.

GW birthplaceThough the original family home burned to the ground in a Christmas Day fire in 1779, an oyster shell outline marks where it once stood. Nearby is a memorial house representing similar styles of the era, added to the property in 1931. Park rangers offer tours throughout the day.

Today, the grounds consist of an obelisk one-tenth the size of the Washington Monument that honors him in Washington; an herb and flower garden with a gargantuan birdhouse; a burial ground with 32 members of the Washington family; and a colonial living farm with horses, cattle, poultry and more. The expansive property boasts many hiking trails with scenic views, and the visitor center has displays of 18th-century objects and paraphernalia. Watch a 14-minute video of Washington’s early life here before exploring on your own.

Bird watchers can be treated to plenty of action from wildlife soaring along the shores of Popes Creek where it meets the Potomac River. Relaxing on a wide, modern deck at the visitor center can be a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Photographers will rejoice in opportunities to capture the trees and animals on the property, especially as the seasons change. The beach near the visitor center is also accessible for wading and picnicking.

AnimalsThough the birthplace monument may not have enough to entertain young or active children, it’s very worth walking beneath the trees to imagine what Washington’s boyhood was like nearly 300 years ago. Tranquil, calm and quiet, the Birthplace Monument has many benches along the waterfront and tucked into the forest just beckoning visitors to pause and reflect.

One visit and you’ll understand why.

The George Washington National Birthplace Monument is located at 1732 Popes Creek Road, Colonial Beach, Virginia. The visitor center and grounds are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Restrooms and a gift shop are located in the visitor center, which has plenty of free parking. There is no fee to enter, but donations are accepted. For more information, visit their website or call 804-224-1732, ext. 227.

Posted in Memorials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment