A memorial in an Arlington crossroads

It’s not unusual for a monument to be moved. Happens more often than you’d expect. And it’s not unusual for a memorial to be updated with a second use. But here’s one that includes three wars and was relocated to the middle of a busy intersection.

Yes, sometimes you just have to park the car and walk to the median strip to see a monument after passing it many times. I saw this one on Wilson Blvd. in Arlington, Va. and finally stopped to see what the stone marker with cannons was all about.

According to the signs, it was originally dedicated in 1931 in tribute to 13 native sons who died in 1917-18 in World War I. One marker said it was erected by Arlington Post 139 and Auxiliary Unit 139 of the American Legion and the citizens of Arlington County. It also notes “The stone was removed from the original location adjacent to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery.” A third marker lists 35 killed in Korea and 52 that died in Vietnam.

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New look for our website

Thanks to Russian hackers (really), we were forced to close our business-side website Capital Photo History Tours.com. I’d insert a joke here, but frankly it wasn’t funny.

So everything is now on this website – our tours, photo tips and more. Same company — all in one. So come along this spring. Meanwhile, keep reading.

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Czech leader Masaryk stands tall on Embassy Row

Tomas Masaryk stands tall – like 12 feet tall. It’s a good lifelike figure despite Czechoslovakia’s first president really only half that size.

The bronze statue at the corners of Massachusetts Ave., Florida Ave. and Q St. N.W. remembers Masaryk, his country’s declaration of independence from Austria in hand.

Masaryk was a University of Vienna professor of philosophy when his home region was part of Austria. He joined the Austrian parliament in 1891 and was known as a champion of women and minority rights. During World War I, Masaryk led the Czechoslovakia independence movement. He came to Washington seeking assistance and U.S. president Woodrow Wilson endorsed Czechoslovakia’s freedom during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference.

Masaryk was the country’s first president from 1918-35 before dying two years later. The statue was dedicated in 2002.

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Wordless Wednesday: George Washington’s first vault


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DAR Memorial remembers its founding mothers?

I used to think the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) were a bunch of old bluebloods caught in the past.

And then my wife whacked me. No, Lisa just set me straight since she’s a member. Turns out it’s not easy to become a member. Lisa needed documented evidence her great great great (I guess he really was a great guy) grandfather fought with George Washington in the Battle of Trenton. (Not sure if he was in the same boat.)

The DAR on 17th and C Sts. N.W. has a mesmerizing memorial to its four founding (mothers?) amid a garden. The white marble memorial has four bronze medallions remembering Ellen Wardin Walworth, Mary Desha, Eugenia Washington and Mary Smith Lockwood. It was dedicated on April 17, 1929.

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Monumental Thoughts turns 6

Capitol fountainYear Six of my blog – where does the time go?

Another year walking the streets of Washington, telling stories and tall tales to folks from everywhere. Students from across the nation, doctors from Pakistan and India, families on vacation, new folks to the area.

It’s all good.

Personally, I thought I’d be happy when the presidential election was over and I no longer needed to skirt politics whenever passing the Trump Hotel. Instead, people still want to discuss it. Frankly, the whole thing is exhausting and I even more adamantly avoid it.

Jefferson MemorialThe past year was rather interesting. After five years as a guide, my main tour bus client closed in March and I became a free agent with many companies while increasing tours for my Capital Photo History Tours and doubling as a photographer for several tour groups. Overall, it was a good year that my aging knees appreciated as steady, but not overwhelming.

Year six saw 21,522 visitors visit the blog from 50 states and two U.S. territories and 117 countries. Washingtonians and tourists here were the leading visitors with 3,791 followed by Virginia 1,819 and Maryland 1,543. The U.S. sent 16,809 to the blog followed by Russia 2,051, Canada 331 and United Kingdom 245. Eighteen countries each sent one viewer.

Jane Magnolia & CB Day - 3-19-16 -1328Google remained my top friend with 8,530 viewers followed by Yahoo’s 1,297, Bing’s 1,212, Facebook’s 940 and Twitter’s 603.

The top story for the sixth straight year after the main page was why rocks are atop grave markers at Arlington National Cemetery with 3,914. How many people are buried at Arlington was third at 1,313. Half of the top 10 most read stories were on Arlington and none of the top 10 were written in 2016. Makes me wonder sometimes and is why I recycle stories from past years that were seen much less then into the current rotation.

Allies in WarOverall, 130,989 visitors have seen Monumental Thought since beginning in 2010. Not exactly record-setting numbers, but it is a blog mostly about statues after all.

What will 2017 bring? Maybe a new tour expanding the Kennedy homes of Georgetown to famous residents of the area. The Lincoln assassination remains popular. I may not do the Georgetown canal tour because a key section is underdoing construction this year. Bummer because it’s a fun tour.

Either way, the journey continues.





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Cavalry Baptist survives throughout the years

I once took a church group around Penn Quarter from Cavalry Baptist that wanted to know more about their neighborhood. I wanted to learn more about Cavalry Baptist. I’ve seen the brown brick venue peek out along 8th and H Sts. N.W., but never been in it.

Turns out Cavalry Baptist has quite a history. It was designed by Adolph Cluss, a communist from Germany who knew Karl Marx. Cluss built six churches around Washington as well as the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building and Eastern Market (where your job isn’t your credit when buying produce — cash only, please.)

The church was completed in 1866 and, true to Washington tradition, cost twice the original budget. Fortunately, Amos Kendall, who was a member of president Andrew Jackson’s “Kitchen Cabinet,” stepped in and paid $90,000 of the $134,000.

The following year, the church mostly burned down when fire trucks couldn’t get through heavy snow. Bummer. All that work and money gone.

Fortunately, there was insurance and Cavalry re-opened on 1869. Things went well for nearly a half century until July 30, 1913 when a tornado – yes, a tornado – went through downtown Washington and destroyed the steeple. In 1947, lightning hit the clock during a wedding that took nearly 60 years to fix.

I toured the inside of the building and found it to be both modern and expansive. It goes on forever. And, I’ve never met a nicer group of people.

Sunday service is 11 a.m. Cavalry has Spanish and Burmese congregations, too.

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Police and fire boxes gain new life

I’ll admit not knowing the following story until becoming a tour guide. Like a lot of statues, I’d walk by these call boxes never knowing they were once the lifeline of police and firemen.

It’s not often I find superb websites and YouTube videos on subjects covered here. Most subjects here are only 250 to 400 words so if you’d like a detailed history check out Call Box Project and the video below.

This photo is next to Ford’s Theatre at 10th and F. Sts. N.W. Like all former call boxes that became obsolete in the 1970s when police and firemen gained radios, this one was turned into local artwork. Naturally, this one is Abraham Lincoln given he died steps away.

At one time there were more than 1,500 call boxes around town. Many were destroyed during the 1968 riots. But, you’ll still see one here and there. A few don’t have artwork, but there’s often something cool to see.

Just one more reason to walk a little slower around town. There’s artwork amongst us.



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Merry Christmas

White House

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City sidewalks dressed in holiday style


wreath1The ciwreath4ty is certainly decked for the holidays, but walking along F and 14th Sts. showed several wreaths within a short walking distance.

This has long been a commercial area with plenty of shopping so wreaths aren’t unexpected. But, given the number of government buildings nearby the wreaths tend to stand out more than expected.

The National Christmas tree is just a couple blocks away so there’s lively competition around the White House. It’s worth a short stroll while heading to the many wonderful restaurants and hotels. Historical wreaths are shown here.



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Could Ivanka Trump become First Lady?

White HouseCould Ivanka Trump become the First Lady rather than First Daughter? It’s not without historical precedent.

The Hill reports that Ivanka will have the East Wing office normally reserved for the First Lady.  Maybe that’s because President-elect Donald Trump’s wife Melania plans to spend more of her time in New York with the couple’s son Baron.

Still, First Ladies do have duties as White House hostess among others and should Melania be absent Ivanka could perform them. It’s unlikely Trump would officially name his daughter as First Lady, but there have been instances where daughters did so because their mothers were too sick or had died. Melania Trump is the step mother of Ivanka Trump, who reportedly has been house hunting in Georgetown with her husband Jared Kushner.

Seven First Ladies were not married to the president. They include three daughters, two daughters-in-law and two nieces.

Andrew Jackson used two relatives over two terms after his wife died suddenly before the former could take office. His niece Emily Jackson served as First Lady during the first term and daughter-in-law Sara Taylor served the second.

Thomas Jefferson, a widower, named daughter “Patsy” as his First Lady. He also asked Dolley Madison, wife of future president James Madison, to host events.

John Tyler had daughter Priscilla Tyler serve because his wife Letitia was too ill to attend functions before dying while Tyler was midway through his term. Tyler later married Julia Gardiner while in office.

Martin Van Buren, a widower, used daughter-in-law Angelica Van Buren. James Buchanan named niece Harriett Lane. Zachary Taylor named his niece Betty Bliss.

Benjamin Harrison’s daughter Mary Scott Harrison McKee briefly served as White House hostess following her mother’s death, but wasn’t named a First Lady. James Garfield asked his sister Mary McElroy to host some events before his assassination.

Only Sarah Taylor, 31, was older than 28. Emily Jackson and Angelica Van Buren were both 21 as was Grover Cleveland’s wife Frances.

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Wordless Wednesday: The look of fall

Look of fall

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Simon Bolivar – ‘The George Washington of South America’























I often wonder why other countries send statues of their heroes to our city. I mean, what do Washingtonians or even Americans care about the king of this country or the wise man of that nation? Wouldn’t it be better to erect statues where passersby know who they were, much less appreciate them?

But Simon Bolivar deserves notice anywhere. He might be the baddest man among Washington’s monuments.

Bolivar liberated not one country, but six in Latin America. Kicked the Spanish out of what’s now Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Columbia, Panama and Ecuador. Imagine – the liberator of six countries.

Felix W. de Weldon, who also created the Iwo Jima Memorial, built one of the bigger memorials in town at 18th St. and Virginia Ave. N.W. The 27-foot equestrian statue is so heavy it was shipped from New York in five pieces because bridges and trucks couldn’t handle the 40-ton load.

The bronze statue sits atop a black marble base. Bolivar is wearing a gold medallion given to him by the Marquis de Lafayette. There are six nearby fountains representing the six countries he liberated.

Ironically, Bolivar’s vast fortune was spent during the wars. He died in 1830 of tuberculosis.

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El Maiz is not corny

Sometimes sculptures are like a detective story.

Thanks to the fine folks at the Museum of Modern Art of Latin America located on the 18th St. side of the Organization of American States, and a Yahoo translator, I finally figured out this sculpture is El Maiz by Edgar Negret of Columbia.

The towering yellow steel structure was donated by Negret in 1996 because maiz (corn) is a crucial symbol of the Latino culture.

OK, it’s a short detective story. One of those chapter books. At least we know what it is.

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Wordless Wednesday: I like candy


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The cat, horse and the general

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.

Continue reading

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The Polish general in Lafayette Square

General Thaddeus Kosciuszko was an American hero in so many ways.

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.

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Wordless Wednesday: Breaux winery

Breaux winery

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The woman behind the man – Queen Isabella

We always know Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 14 hundred and 92. But, we rarely talk about the woman who funded the trip to the new world – Queen Isabella.

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.

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Demons on Embassy Row

As regular readers know, I’m an average photographer. And sometimes it’s hard to get a good shot, especially when the gates are locked at an Embassy Row showstopper. Hence this photo.

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.

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