©Unless otherwise noted, all content and photos are © 2016 Monumental Thoughts.
There’s lots to talk about Gen. Philip Sheridan’s statue. It’s one of the better equestrian statues in town and the horse has a story, too.
But there’s also a cat down the street keeping an eye on his old master. You won’t read this one on Wikipedia, but Sheridan’s widow managed to get her husband’s statue located down the street from her 22nd and Massachusetts Ave. And, high atop the corner home sits a cat on the ledge staring at his former master waiting for him to return. Uh, a ceramic cat. It’s pretty cool.
As for the horse, well it might be the grandest one ever. This 11-foot bronze statue by Gutzon Blorgum shows Sheridan and his horse Rienzi rallying Union troops during the Battle of Cedar Creek outside Winchester, Va. Sheridan is waving his retreating troops back into battle, his right arm clutching his cap while his left holds the reins tightly.
The pair had just ridden 20 miles as fast as they could to get to the battle and you see Rienzi’s front legs splayed out as if trying to suddenly stop. This proved to be one of the critical moments of the Civil War and “Sheridan’s Ride” by Thomas B. Read explains why there’s a statue.
The Polish-born general of the Revolutionary War is one of four foreign-born general in the park largely for winning the battle of Saratoga, N.Y.
The statue reflects Kosiuszko fighting for both his Polish homeland and adopted America. Wearing a Continental Army general’s uniform, he holds a map in his right hand of the fortifications of Saratoga. Underneath is simply his name and at the base is Saratoga.
Below Kosciuszko is an eagle whose spread wings protect a globe where the new nation lies underneath as well as a flag, shield and sword. On the right is a wounded Kosciuszko in a Polish uniform giving orders to a Polish peasant. On the left, he’s in an American uniform freeing a bound soldier, which symbolizes the American army. Kosciuszko has a flag in his left hand while a fallen musket and overturned drum are at the youth’s feet. In the rear is the dedication from the Polish people.
Kosciuszko later returned to Poland to fight the Russians. He donated his Ohio lands awarded by Congress to fund a school for African-American children in New Jersey.
The Spanish monarch is in front of the Organization of American States on 17th St. The bronze life-sized statue has her holding a pomegrate with a dove emerging and wearing the crown of Castille. It was dedicated in 1966 as a gift from the Institute of Hispanic Culture of Madrid.
Isabella sold her jewels to pay for the expedition, which certainly was repaid many times over by discovering America. The Catholic ruler also created the Spanish Inquisition.
But here’s one of two Balinese Demons who guard the front doors of the Indonesian Embassy, which was once the home of Evalyn Walsh McLean, a super rich heiress who owned the Hope Diamond Bali is part of Indonesia and known for its artisans. There are many statues like these in temples on Bali.
These demons are five feet tall and made from volcanic rock more than a century ago. They were purchased by the Indonesian ambassador, who spotted them in Rockerfeller Center.
There are plenty of memorials to foreigners that I really don’t understand, and this might be the most perplexing of all. I read two short biographies of the man and still not sure why a $1 million memorial across the British embassy on Massachusetts Ave. exists.
Kahlil Gibran was a renowned Lebanese-American poet and artist who died in 1931 at age 48. He first came to the U.S. at age 12 before later studying in Paris. He wrote in both Arabic and English and his A Tear and a Smile and Madman were early hits while The Prophet was a best seller in 1923. Several quotes from his books appear on the memorial.
The small park is a quiet reprieve from Embassy Row. For that, the 1991 memorial fountain dedicated by President George H. Bush accomplishes its purpose.
My first trip after graduating college was Boston. All those history classes made me want to see it. Thirty-four years later, my wife and I returned recently to see it again.
Oh, I’ve been to Boston many times for work as a newspaper reporter, but this was the first time I’ve ever stayed downtown to see the sights. I even took a photo tour as I often do in other cities to see how fellow guides do it. Learn a new joke or two.
Anyway, we had a terrific time. Followed Freedom Trail and saw Paul Revere’s house and nearby Old North Church while eating lunch in the neighborhood that is now heavily Italian restaurants. We walked Boston Commons twice with the trees bursting in colors. Saw comedian Bob Newhart (yes, still touring at age 87), the JFK Presidential Library (left) and visited the biggest Christmas craft fair I’ve seen by 10 fold. (Marriage is about give and take.)
So consider Boston for a weekend jaunt. They may talk differently, but Bostonians make a great clam chowder and Boston Cream Pie.
The election is over (thank goodness) and Washingtonians can go about their lives once more. For a while at least until Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
Inaugurations have been a big deal in Washington since John F. Kennedy (above) drew 500,000 in 1961.That number probably would have been larger, but it snowed seven inches the night before. Indeed, the National Guard cleared Pennsylvania Ave. for the parade using flame throwers. Imagine that happening today.
Of the 23 inaugural crowds I could find counts, the top 12 have come since Kennedy. And while Barack Obama’s massive 2009 crowd was 1.9 million by some counters while others dispute it was twice that, it’s still the largest inauguration ever. His second inauguration was unofficially 1 million, which would rank third behind Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 swearing-in.
Of course, crowd counts are relative to the nation’s and city’s size. Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural in 1861 was 30,000. Considering the city’s population was 20,000, that’s pretty impressive.
Ronald Reagan’s 500,000 in 1981 was the largest Republican inaugural. His second doesn’t have a number because frigid conditions forced the ceremony indoors and cancellation of the parade. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1945 ceremony was inside the White House because of his failing health.
Here are crowd counts based on newspaper reports.
Finally, it’s voting day. Thank God or God help us, but either way this presidential election ends.
As a journalist, I never publicly discuss my vote, but I’ve never missed an election since turning 18. My parents were very big on voting and I’ve not even missed a primary. I often tell people I don’t care if you vote against my candidate, just go vote. It’s what makes America great.
So go vote. And tomorrow, we’ll go back to work and on with our lives regardless of who wins.
Sometimes you have to look up to see the great attraction.
On the steps of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, you’re rushing up the steps to see the third president. Coming down, you notice the Tidal Basin, White House straight ahead, the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the left and Bureau of Engraving and Printing on the right before heading to the bus.
Stop, look atop the Jefferson and you’ll see the original five guys and we’re not talking burgers and fries.
Across the 10 by 65 foot pediment (left to right) are Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Jefferson, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston, who were also known as the Committee of Five.
OK, do I really have to tell you who Franklin and Adams were? Let’s pretend and just say both were Founding Fathers, the latter the second president. On Jefferson’s right are those a little more obscure. Sherman was best known for the “Great Compromise” that formed the system of how many senators and congressmen there are. Livingston was a high-ranking New York politician.
The Federal Triangle Flower is 10 feet tall and 13 feet wide. Created in 1997 as part of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Center, the courtyard art was sculpted by Stephen Robin. The limestone flower atop a sandstone base reflects the large amount of aluminum used in the buildings.
Essentially, the two flowers were meant to jazz up an area that was a parking lot for 50 years until the Reagan Building opened in 1997. The Reagan Building is the area’s second largest building behind the Pentagon.
One is tucked away from the front view, but you shouldn’t miss this one. Just to the right corner of the 17th St. property, behind the trees, is a statue of the Prophet Daniel.
Yes, that Daniel. The one who lived among the lions.
The eight-foot concrete statue was a gift from the Brazilian government in 1962. It’s a replica of a 1805 soapstone statue by sculptor Antonio Francisco Lisboa.
Daniel is a fascinating Biblical figure. As a youth born of Jewish nobles, Daniel served in the Babylon court of Nebuchadnezzar. Yes, that Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel could interpret visions. The ruler asked about his dream and Daniel told him for sinning against God the king would lose his mind and wander among the animals. Sure enough, it happened.
Years later, Nebuchadnezzar’s son and successor Belshazzar summoned Daniel to decipher some words that appeared after the ruler drank from goblets
Nationals Park has Josh Gibson, Frank Howard and Walter Johnson as gigantic, odd-looking statues beyond the left field bleachers that don’t look like the real people. There are monuments to the late Redskins owner George Preston Marshall and Senators owner Clarke Griffith in front of RFK Stadium.
Otherwise, none of my fellow sports writers can remember a sports statue around town. Surely one should be erected of Abe Pollin, whose Verizon Center spurred the revitalization of Chinatown amid his Wizards and Capitals. Sammy Baugh should have one whenever the Redskins return to Washington. Sugar Ray Leonard might merit one, also.
For now, you’ll have to settle for Full Count in the courtyard of the Federal Reserve Bank at 19th and Virginia Ave. N.W. Sculptor John Dreyfuss spent eight years working on the bronze creation of a hitter, catcher and umpire at the plate awaiting a pitcher who is the correct 60 feet, 6 inches away.
On his website, Dreyfuss says, “In defining this moment in the game, I have been inspired by the paintings of Thomas Eakins’s Civil War baseball players, Andy Warhol’s icons of Tom Seaver, and countless 19th-century folk works. But it is in the study of the great masters, such as Pre-Columbian sculptures of ball players, Pablo Picasso’s bullfighters, and Degas’ jockeys that one understands the games we play define who we are as a people.
“Within the arena of sport and contest, some of the most difficult social issues of our day can be played out. African Americans and women increasingly gained the right to express themselves in non- traditional ways, forming leagues of their own when traditional leagues were exclusionary or depleted of men sent overseas during the Second World War. Today, baseball is still the lens through which Americans see themselves and debate controversial issues. The game continues to challenge athletes to consider their responsibilities as figures in the public realm. In many respects, baseball is a perfect crucible for our national self-definition.”
I ask this of every group I take out and maybe 10 percent has someone who can answer it.
OK, we all should know that George Washington is the Washington part. If not, read everything in my blog immediately because you need help.
But the second part comes from the D.C. District of . . .
Nothing yet? OK, Columbia is the feminine version of . . .
Dude, you’re killing me. Columbus. Christopher Columbus.
So next time you need a free beer, bet someone at the bar if they know this and you’ll probably drink on the house.