Wordless Wednesday: Mount Vernon

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Spencer Fullerton Baird remains with Smithsonian

Walking through the Smithsonian Castle gardens, I spotted a statue of Spencer Fullerton Baird that towered overhead. Who was this man?

Baird (1832-1887) was the Smithsonian’s second secretary and a pioneer in American natural history. He worked at the Smithsonian from 1850-1887 while spending the final nine years as its secretary. During his tenure, the Smithsonian’s natural history specimens increased from 6,000 to two million.

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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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Wordless Wednesday: Life on the Mall

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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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Wordless Wednesday: Capitol pool

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Taking green energy in stride

Sidewalks – they’re not the friendliest of places around Washington.

I once fell face down on the sidewalk when kicking a raised section near OPM. I wasn’t badly hurt, but that people actually walked around me without helping angered me even more.

The brick sidewalks in Georgetown neighborhoods can be awful on good days. Missing bricks, broken sections and tree roots crumbling them are constant. The same could be said for Capitol Hill neighborhoods, too.

But there’s one cool section in DuPont Circle that’s literally street smart if sadly penny foolish. The city spent $300,000 for a series of high-tech pavers that create energy to power nearby park lights simply based on the typical 10,000 people who walk over it. They’re on the south end of the circle above Connecticut Ave. between Sun Trust Bank and the Krispy Kreme store.

They’re interesting. The pavers move a little in creating the energy, though not enough to make someone fall. I usually walk on them to do my part for a greener world. But $300,000 seems excessive for such a small return.

Until it’s more cost efficient, this idea should take a walk.

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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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Swords to Plowshares at Lincoln Memorial

This mobile bell tower rose near the dropoff zone by the Lincoln Memorial during Memorial Day weekend. It’s patterned after the Memorial Bell Tower by N.C. State University where the bronze door has a panel stating, “And They Shall Beat The Swords Into Plowshares” that comes from the book of Isaiah in the Bible.

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Happy Memorial Day

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Scenes from the Vietnam Wall

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Refurbished Grant statues are magnificent


It’s not often I give two thumbs up, a standing ovation or a big cheer, but finally seeing the restored Grant statue with his artillery and cavalry by the U.S. Capitol west side rekindled my faith in excellent work.

It looks brand new. The black bronze figures can be touched in places and are simply overwhelming. OK, I’m a geek on statues, but this one is mind blowing now that it’s cleaned and restored.

For two years, T. Scott Kreilick and his Oreland, Pa. firm cleaned the nasty green oxidation that covers all bronze statues with a combination of limestone and water. They lacquered and waxed the figures to perfection. And, more than 150 missing or broken pieces were repaired or recreated.  The three statues were originally finished between 1912 to 1921.

Now, the marble base is being repaired with the north side fenced between Grant and the cavalry.

The Grant statue is considered one of the more important outdoor sculptures in Washington. On weekend (and only weekends), you can park free in the nearby semi-circle used by Senate workers during the week. Stroll by, see the statue as it overlooks the nearby pool and the National Mall. It’s well worth the visit.



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Wordless Wednesday: Walking the canal

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There is no average week

It’s the busy time of tour season when endless buses of school children clog the monuments while adult visitors wonder what’s all the chaos?

When people ask me what tour guiding is like, the past week is my perfect example. Fifth graders from Kansas, ninth graders from North Carolina, a private tour for a local group, diplomats from Europe and a seniors group.

Where did we go? Scaled the Lincoln Memorial and the major memorials four times, Arlington National Cemetery thrice. Entered the U.S. Capitol and National Cathedral. Saw Georgetown and Embassy Row.

The weather included a three nice days between a day-long rain in 51 degrees and another that felt like 95 degrees.

Welcome to Washington.

Things will calm slightly in a few weeks when the school kids are replaced by families. Tour requests will trickle from the current flood of requests. And guides tired from three months of serious money making will get a slight reprieve.

Yes, it’s my favorite time of year, especially before the excessive humidity finds us.

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Jesus at Arlington National Cemetery

JesusJesus on the cross always makes you stop and think.

You would think that some depiction of Jesus would be commonplace at Arlington National Cemetery. But the only one I’ve seen is next to the Crook stairs heading up to Arlington House. Maybe there are others around the cemetery, but I’ve walked nearly the entire place and not seen another.

The large headstone with Jesus nailed to the cross, shirtless and eyes closed with “NOT MY WILL BVT THINE BE DONE” is above the grave of Rear Admiral William Hemsley Emory, his wife and children.

A son of an Army Brigadier general of the same name, Emory graduated the U.S. Naval Academy in 1862 after being appointed to it by President Abraham Lincoln. Emory held commands throughout the world before retiring in 1908 after 56 years of service. He died in 1919. Perhaps his most famous mission was saving the Greeley arctic expedition. He was also a naval attache at the Court of St. James’s.

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Is FDR the new E.T.?

Check out the photo. Everybody seems to be touching the finger of the main statue of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.

Do they think he’s E.T.?

Seriously, the finger is shiny like it’s brand new. No green, no tarnish. Weird.

The FDR Memorial is the overlooked gem on the mall. Kinda stuck on the side and not as easily seen as the nearby Thomas Jefferson Memorial. But, the addition of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in 2011 spilled over traffic to FDR. At least, the street traffic.


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Shutterbugs – this sculpture’s for you

It seems only fitting that a sculpture of the first photographer rests outside the National Portrait Gallery on 7th St. N.W. just steps from the Verizon Center.

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (November 18, 1787 – July 10, 1851) was a French artist known for the daguerreotype process of photography. He teamed with Joseph Niepce in 1827 because Niepce was a printer who Daguerre thought could speed up the process. Unfortunately, Niepce died in 1833 so it took Daguerre another six years to perfect the process. The French government then bought the invention and declared it a gift to the world.

The sculpture was first dedicated on August 15, 1890 at the Arts and Industries Building. It was moved outside from 1897 to 1969 before moved to storage. It was relocated to its present location in 1989.

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Arlington National Cemetery’s old amphitheatre and rostrum

Before the Memorial Amphitheatre by the Tomb of the Unknowns opened in 1921, this small amphitheatre behind the gardens of Arlington House served as the main gathering place.

Built in 1868, the circular colonnade was once filled with vines. The roof still has them while roses are planted in front. In the middle is a white marble dias called the rostrum with “E Pluribus Unum” inscribed. The 1,500-seat venue saw Gen. James A. Garfield (my sixth cousin) speak at its dedication.

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Adams Memorial proves haunting in a graveyard

You will stop. Stare hard. Start to feel the grief. It’s an amazing memorial — the Adams Memorial.

Located in Rock Creek Cemetery (though this photo is of a copy at the American Art Museum) is a bronze marker dedicated to the memory of Marian “Clover” Adams who committed suicide by drinking film developer chemicals. Prone to depression, she feared illness and was overcome by her father’s recent death.

Clover’s husband, Henry Adams, grandson of U.S. president John Quincy Adams, asked leading American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create a family memorial.

And that’s when it gets really weird. The sculpture was an “abstract personification” that was finished in 1891. The six-foot cloaked figure is neither gender with a lowered head indicating grief. It is haunting, thought-provoking and one of the greatest sculptures you’ll find in a cemetery.

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