Unless otherwise noted, all content and photos are © 2019 Monumental Thoughts.
(Reprinted from 2015)
RFK Stadium is known for its games, concerts and events, but the statues in front are altogether missed by many too busy to get inside or in too much of a hurry to beat the crowd afterwards.
The stadium was originally D.C. Stadium when opening in Oct. 1961 at a whopping cost of $24 million – triple its original budget. It was renamed Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in 1969, one year after Kennedy’s assassination.
I happened to co-author a book Hail to RFK still available on amazon.com that details the greatest players, coaches and games of the Redskins.
In the middle of the stadium’s main entrance are three monuments, two that shaped Washington sports.
The first game was a Redskins loss (what else?) and the owner was George Preston Marshall, who brought the team from Boston in 1937. There’s a large red granite marker on the right side of the entrance by the street with Marshall’s image.
A former RFK general manager wanted to move the monument in 2001 to make way for a concession stand. He tried to give the monument to Marshall’s family. A deal was made with Marshall’s hometown for a site, but nobody wanted to pay the $30,000 shipping costs. District politicians, well aware Marshall was forced to sign black players in return for the stadium’s use, don’t want it downtown, either. So the marker remains there indefinitely.
On the left side is a granite marker to Clark Calvin Griffith, who simply did everything there is to do in baseball before his son moved the team after 1960 to become the Minnesota Twins. Thus, Griffith isn’t a popular name in sports circles despite the American League placing an expansion team in Washington in 1961, which also left in 1971 to become the Texas Rangers. The Washington Nationals came from Montreal in 2005 and after three years at RFK now play at their own stadium a few miles away.
Anyway, Griffith pitched, managed and owned the Senators and even built his own stadium – Griffith Stadium – that is now the site of Howard University Hospital. The “Old Fox” died in 1955 and a monument was erected by the former stadium in 1956 and moved to RFK by 1965.
The seven-foot tall Georgia marble marker was dedicated by U.S. vice president Richard Nixon and cost $7,000, which was paid by the Home Plate Club of Washington. The memorial was designed by Lee Preston Claggett of Arlington-Claggett Memorial Co.
Finally, the centerpiece is a bronze bust of Bobby Kennedy, who was assassinated in June 1968 just when it appeared he would be the Democratic presidential nominee and likely become president. The former Senator and U.S. Attorney General was honored as the stadium’s namesake. There was a brief movement in 2005 to sell naming rights when the Nationals arrived, but that was quickly beaten by then Sen. Ted Kennedy.
The bust was created by Robert Berks, who made hundred of pieces, including the John F. Kennedy bust in the Kennedy Performing Arts Center, the Albert Einstein statue on 22nd and Constitution Ave. and the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial in Lincoln Park. Berks died on May 17, 2011.
It’s not often one monument can essentially tell the history of the U.S., but the Torch of Freedom gives 12 scenes from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam.
Located in front of the Veterans of Foreign Wars building at Constitution Ave. and Second St. N.E. the three-sided bronze marker features relief scenes of major events.
The 35-foot marker was erected in 1976 and sculpted by Felix de Weldon, who is more famous for the Marine Corps War Memorial commonly known as the Iwo Jima Memorial.
It has probably been 40 years since I last saw the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and it wasn’t even completed then. A recent visit showed I’ve been away too long.
The Shrine on the outer edge of Catholic University on 400 Michigan Ave. NE is far more than a Catholic church that has seen Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict visit. It is a place of unique architecture as well as worship with nearly one million visitors annually.
It was a long journey towards completion, starting with a 1910 request to build it that took 10 years before the cornerstone was layed. The lower (crypt) level was completed by 1931, but the death of a bishop, the Great Depression and World War II halted construction until 1959. It was completed in 1990. More than 70 chapels and oratories fill it.
The beauty and peace that fills the Shrine certainly make it a must see. And, there’s even guided tours, free and ample parking and a cafeteria.
Notice the white stripe on the Jefferson Memorial’s dome? It’s just the start.
The U.S. Park Service awarded an $8.75 million contract to clean the marble of a biofilm, repair stone and replace the roof by May 2020. Meanwhile, the memorial to the nation’s third president will remain open to the public.
The white stripe came from a laser test to remove the black biofilm comprised of algae and bacteria that resembles dirt. Removal through chemicals was thought to damage the marble so lasers to burn it off were tested several years ago. Now, the park service has funding to complete the job on the 1944 memorial.
The Yoko One tree in the Hirshhorn sculpture gardens remains, but people are now asked to whisper their wishes rather than write them down and tie them to the tree until it blooms.
Uh, turn around and come back when you have more time would be a sensible tip. But, tie your shoe laces tighter (seriously, makes the feet move faster) and get ready to roll.
The key here is what time is it? The guard changes at :00 and :30 until Sept. 30, then the top of every hour until April. It takes 15 minutes for most people to walk there from the visitor’s center. If you have 20 minutes, go to the Tomb first. I think it’s a harder walk than going to the flame first and cutting across the cemetery to the Tomb, but the time crunch decides this. You’ll catch your breath while watching the guard change, which takes eight minutes.
If it’s 10 minutes before the guard change, see the eternal flame first and give yourself 15 minutes from there to get to the Tomb. Go around the left side of the flame to catch the stairs down and (unfortunately) up to the Tomb.
The good part is it’s all downhill from the Tomb and I tell my charges that dessert tonight is guilt free. You’ve already burned off those calories off walking Arlington.
It would be nice to have two hours to see Arlington and the many other graves and monuments, including Arlington House. I’ve been to Arlington many times and still don’t think I’ve truly seen the place. I have six relatives buried at Arlington, including a great uncle buried four rows from the back wall by Henderson Hall and an aunt and uncle in the front so I have walked the entire cemetery on a 100-degree day.
When people ask if this is hard walking, I just say if a fat old man like me can do it, they can do it. But seriously, if you have trouble walking long distances and hills, pay for the tram that will take you throughout the cemetery.
The time of day you’re photographing cherry blossoms determines the best place to photograph them.
Many serious photographers arrive at dawn to avoid crowds and get that sunrise shot. The best spot is along the Tidal Basin by 15th St. SW and Independence Ave. SW across from the Holocaust Museum. The sun will be behind you and cast a glow on the water with the Thomas Jefferson Memorial as a backdrop.
If you’re coming more around 7 p.m. for sunset, go to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial at Independence Ave. SW and West Basin Dr. SW. The sun will be behind you near the Lincoln Memorial so you can shoot eastward with the Thomas Jefferson Memorial or the Washington Monument as backdrops.
Any time of day, you can photograph around the King Memorial. It’s a good entrance way into the Tidal Basin and the oldest 50 trees that were part of the 1913 planting still remain to the left of King as you near the water. You can tell by their large girth. This is a good place to photograph King through the blossoms.
There are isolated pockets of cherry blossom trees throughout Washington, but you can’t beat the Tidal Basin when it’s in full bloom.