DC’s Unsung Memorials and Monuments
DC is chockablock with statues, little known memorials, and monuments. Here’s a sampling of those you might not go out of your way to see, but if you pass them, you’ll now know what they are:
- • Downtown, next to the Archives Metro stop, the Navy Memorial is a large pavilion that honors the men and women of the U.S. Navy. It contains a sculpture, The Lone Sailor, as well as fountains, nautical flagpoles, and a huge map of the world etched into the pavement. Next door, offering a great overhead view of the memorial, is the Naval Heritage Center, a compact yet extensive museum containing naval artifacts and a research library.
- • The lovely bandstand near the Korean and World War II Memorials off Independence Avenue is actually a monument itself, the DC World War I Memorial, installed by the city in 1931 to honor city residents who served in the Great War. The Doric temple can accommodate a large orchestra and in fact was built to accommodate the Marine Corps Band led by John Philip Sousa. It is currently being restored to its former glory and hopefully will be used for performances.
- • On the northern end of East Potomac Park near the Jefferson Memorial lies the George Mason Memorial, a tribute to the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, whose lobbying efforts regarding states and individual rights contributed to the creation of the Bill of Rights. This quiet respite contains a statue of Mason in repose, flanked by samples of his writings.
- • President Harry Truman had a point when he called the building next to the White House the “greatest monstrosity in America.” Ouch. The facility is the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, formerly the Old Executive Office Building, home to the offices of the vice president and numerous executive-branch suites. Other buildings in Washington that share its unique French Second Empire architecture include the Willard Hotel and the Renwick Art Gallery.
- • The redbrick and multihued-tile building on the Mall that vaguely resembles the Smithsonian Castle but isn’t, the Arts and Industries Building is part of the museum complex but is currently under extensive renovations, including replacement of its deteriorating roof and repairs to its structural problems. Built in 1881 to house artifacts from the 1876 Centennial Exposition, it contained much of the Smithsonian’s collection for years, and during the Bicentennial housed a retrospective of the 1876 artifacts. A carousel, on the Mall directly in front of the building, operates year-round; the cost of a ride is $2.50.
- • Near Embassy Row is the Islamic Center (2551 Massachusetts Ave.), the national mosque for American Muslims. Open to the public, visitors can wander around the grounds and tour the limestone structure, which contains intricate tile work, Persian carpets, and stunning ceilings detailed with gilded verses from the Koran.
- • The weird fish sculpture at the corner of 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue is a Temperance Fountain, a long-dry memorial built by California dentist and abstainer Henry Cogswell to encourage people to drink water instead of booze.
- • It’s an iconic, often imitated scene in the movie Titanic: Star Kate Winslet leans from the bow of the ship, arms outstretched, after her love, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, declares he’s king of the world. But this image isn’t new: It was sculpted into stone in 1931 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney for the Women’s Titanic Memorial, at 4th and P Streets near the Washington Marina. No word as to whether Titanic director and writer James Cameron ever visited the monument, which was paid for by private donations from women to honor the men who gave their lives on the ill-fated ship.