A Tale of Two Statues

This weekend I visited two statues in the District I’ve been meaning to see for a long time now.  Sometimes it takes an out-of-town visitor to make it happen, and luckily I had a great one – my friend and former co-worker Heather, who was visiting from Johannesburg.

There she’s known better as 2Summers, which is a fantastic blog about life in South Africa – but particularly about the under-appreciated city of Johannesburg. She calls herself a destination advocate, which is how I feel about D.C.

One of our destinations on this trip was Meridian Hill Park (also known as Malcolm X), for a photography session with some of the park’s eclectic statues. The one she was particularly interested in learning more about is almost hidden in the northwest part of the park, and is called Serenity.

It looks like a weathered, marble Greek goddess from antiquity, but it turns out she’s much younger – only the years have not been kind to her. And neither have Washingtonians.

2Summers communing with the Serenity statue in Meridian Hill Park.
2Summers communes with the Serenity statue in Meridian Hill Park. (Photo: Historic District)

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Shaw’s Memorial

There have been a lot of significant Civil War anniversaries as we pass through the sesquicentennial (that would be 150 years) of America’s greatest conflict.

Today marks one of those – the failed assault on Fort Wagner by the 54th Massachusetts regiment, one of the first African-American infantry units to fight in the Civil War.

If you’ve seen the movie Glory, then you’re probably familiar with the story and its significance.

But what does that distant battle off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina have to do with Washington, D.C.?

For me, this anniversary hits close to home – literally. I live in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood, an historically African-American part of the city near U Street.

The neighborhood is named after Colonel Robert Gould Shaw from Boston, who was the commander of the 54th Massachusetts (and played by Matthew Broderick in the movie).

NPR had a story today on the influential Shaw Memorial by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens – an amazing piece of bronze sculpture depicting not only Shaw, but his regiment of soldiers marching out of Boston and off to war.

Shaw Memorial's plaster sculpture at the National Gallery.
Shaw Memorial’s plaster sculpture at the National Gallery.

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