Around the “World” with Tavish

Around the "World" with TavishWith much public  attention focused on what happens on Capitol Hill it’s easy to overlook that Washington, DC has a vibrant international scene.  Amid the smörgåsbord of national associations, government agencies and multinational corporations are an astounding 176 official diplomatic missions. They’re all within northwest DC. While a few outliers are in Cathedral Heights, Penn Quarter or the U Street corridor, the vast majority are clustered on Embassy Row and in the Cleveland Park, Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom, Georgetown, and Kalorama neighborhoods. The architecture of the chanceries and ambassadorial residences are as varied as the countries themselves. And while you might think that embassies and their staffs are cloistered entities, nothing could be further from the truth.

Over the years the diplomatic community has developed creative and far-reaching ties with its host city. Many embassies sponsor or coordinate events with DC museums and institutions like the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Washington Performing Arts Society collaborates with 52 embassies annually as part of its Embassy Adoption Program, connecting 1,500 DC middle schoolers with embassy personnel for curriculum on world cultures. Ambassadors regularly entertain at their personal residences, and within several chanceries are public exhibition galleries that orient visitors to a country’s history, art and culture. Scan a  DC calendar of events and in any given month you’re bound to find an array of embassy-based lectures, film festivals, or national holiday celebrations. There’s even a highly-anticipated annual Embassy Chef Challenge.

Perhaps the best way to instant immersion in the DC embassy scene is to partake in Cultural Tourism DC‘s perennial “Passport DC” celebration. Drawing more than 160,000 visitors throughout the entire month of May are a series of festivals and open houses showcasing the embassies. The true extravaganza is the Around the World Embassy Tour that takes place, rain or shine. Admission is free and no advance reservations are necessary. Participants vary from year to year with consistently more than 40 featured.  As you tour you’re apt to take in everything from fashion shows to folk dancing and crafts to cuisine. Highlights from past years’ celebrations included seeing at the British Embassy a  place setting from Kate Middleton and Prince William’s royal wedding, experiencing a Dvořák concert and Tatras car show at the embassy of the Czech Republic, being drawn into a festive dance demonstration at the embassy of Trinidad and Tobago, tasting Marmite at the Australian embassy, and sampling goulash at the Hungarian embassy.

While you most definitely need to leave your dog at home (repeat, do not bring your dog!) if you’re attending this event, there’s nothing to say you can’t get in the international spirit and re-create the experience by doing a little “globe-trotting” with your pooch later on. Take your cue from the Intrepid Pup, who managed to go spanning the globe without ever leaving the city limits. Here’s his whirlwind tour of embassies from six continents that are also representative of the various styles and neighborhoods. Bon voyage!

Dogging the Details

Australian flag

38°54′27.65″N,
77°14′53.5″W
Embassy of Australia, Washington DC

Did you know that Australia is the only country to govern an entire continent? Australia’s embassy is on Massachusetts Avenue near Dupont Circle. Embassies often prominently display near their entrances symbolic works of public art by artists from their home countries. Outside the Australian embassy is a bronze by Australian sculptor Thomas Bass (1916-2010). It depicts a stylized version of Australia’s coat of arms where a red kangaroo and emu flank a shield that contains the badges of the Commonwealth’s six states.

Embassy of Australia

Dogging the Details

Canadian flag

37°53′34.2″N, 77°1′6.52″W
Embassy of Canada,
Washington DC

In 1989, the Embassy of Canada moved off Embassy Row to this building designed by Canadian architect Arthur Erickson. It dominates the Pennsylvania Avenue streetscape in the busy, high-profile Penn Quarter neighborhood. It was a cold afternoon in mid January when Tavish visited, so he is wearing a sweater to keep warm.

Canadian Embassy

Dogging the Details

Flag of China38°56′32.20″N, 77°3′58.90″W
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China,
Washington DC

The Embassy of China sits within an enclave of embassies in the Cleveland Park area of Washington, DC. Opened in 2009, this massive limestone building was designed by renowned Chinese American architect I. M. Pei (b. 1917) and constructed by Chinese contractors.

Embassy of China

Dogging the Details

Flag of Ghana38°56′32.30N,
77°4′4.65″W
Embassy of Ghana,
Washington DC

Ghana’s embassy shares International Drive with 15 others. As opposed to some embassies that have adapted existing buildings throughout the city for their use, the embassies in this neighborhood were all built intentionally for consular services.

Embassy of Ghana

Dogging the Details

Flag of the Holy See

38°55′28.26″N,
77°3′58.56″W
Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See, Washington, DC

You’re probably not the only one who can’t readily identify the yellow and white flag flying over the entrance to this impressive structure on Embassy Row. It’s the flag for Vatican City denoting this building as a nunciature, effectively a Vatican embassy and an administrative center of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. While the Vatican has had a delegation in Washington, DC since 1893, formal diplomatic relations were not established until 1984, the result of growing friendship between Pope John Paul II and U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

Holy See

Dogging the Details

Flag of the Czech Republic38°56′23.10″N,
77°3′16.16″W
Embassy of the Czech Republic, Washington, DC

This compound includes both the ambassador’s residence and the chancery, where consulate business is conducted. It’s located in the Cleveland Park neighborhood, and the extensive grounds border a section of picturesque Rock Creek Park.

Tavish at the Czech Embassy

 

Dogging the Details

Flag of India38°54′39.6″N,
77°2′49.12″W
Embassy of India,
Washington DC

Hailed as the father of India and a crusader for human rights via non-violent civil disobedience, Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) is memorialized in this 9-foot bronze statue by Gautam Pal (b. 1949). Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Prime Minister of India, dedicated the Gandhi Memorial in front of the Embassy of India during his state visit to the United States in 2000.

Embassy of India

 

Dogging the Details

Swedish flag38°54′4.08″N,
77°3′32.33″W
Embassy of Sweden
, Washington, DC

The House of Sweden opened in 2006 on the Georgetown waterfront as a stunning example of contemporary Scandinavian architecture. The House of Sweden contains the embassies for Sweden and Iceland, galleries, and premier event space.

House of Sweden

Dogging the Details

Flag of the United Kingdom38°55′11.36″N,
77°3′41.56″W
Embassy of the United Kingdom, Washington DC

The British Embassy is undoubtedly one of the grand dames of Embassy Row and is the largest of the UK’s embassies anywhere in the world. It’s also the largest of all the embassies in Washington, DC. The British government has had diplomatic representation in DC since 1791 and was the first to build on Embassy Row; its current embassy dates to the late 1920s/early 1930s. This statue of Winston Churchill (1874-1965) on Massachusetts Avenue in front of the ambassador’s majestic Queen Anne-style residence stands with one foot on embassy property and the other on American soil to symbolize Churchill’s Anglo-American heritage and honorary U.S. citizenship, as well as the long-standing relationship between the two countries.

Embassy of the United Kingdom

Dogging the Details

38°54′5.15″N,
77°2′38.81″W
Embassy of Uruguay, Washington, DC

This is an example of a smaller embassy located in a modern office building in the heart of the Foggy Bottom neighborhood in the nation’s capital. It’s strategically situated within close proximity to the World Bank, Organization of American States, and the International Monetary Fund. In addition to consular offices, this embassy has space for presenting programs and exhibitions on Uruguayan art and culture.

Embassy of Uruguay

The Intrepid Pup has also visited the embassies of Austria, Chile, Kingdom of Bahrain, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Georgia, Greece, Haiti, Kenya, Myanmar, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turkmenistan. You can see these additional photos by locating the embassies on the Intrepid Pup Map!

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter means Prepare to log some serious mileage if you’re going embassy-hopping with your dog, and plan accordingly. Keep in mind that you’re simply out for a fascinating stroll past some beautiful and culturally significant diplomatic missions—not to create an international incident by romping around on embassy grounds!  Your ’round-the-world tour ranks a “1” on the Intrepid Pup Wag-a-Meter for the ease in being to experience DC’s unique international flair.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

A Synagogue’s Moving Story

 

Tavish at the Adas Israel SynagogueNow that the calendar has flipped to May, the national observance of Jewish American Heritage Month has begun. President George W. Bush first enacted it in April 2006, and it’s been an annual celebration ever since.

Apropos of the month, Tavish the Intrepid Pup recently visited Washington, DC’s first Adas Israel Synagogue, now home to the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington‘s (JHSGW) Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum. The next time you’re zipping along (or sitting in traffic?) on I-395 near Massachusetts Avenue in the District, cast a glance high up on the west side of the interstate to catch a glimpse of it. Better yet, go visit!

This just so happens to be the oldest synagogue building in the nation’s capital. On the day we stopped by, both JHSGW’s education specialist Lisa and long-time archivist Wendy were on hand, and it was clear from conversing with them that the story of this synagogue is relevant to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences alike.

On one level, it’s an immigrant saga that has played out in countless cities throughout the country. In this case, the year is 1873, and 38 families among a rapidly growing Jewish community yearn for a permanent home for their Adas Israel congregation, which had split from Washington Hebrew in 1869. They enlist Max Kleinman and J. William & Co. to design and build a two-story brick synagogue at the corner of Sixth & G Streets, NW.

But here’s where an otherwise very local story intersects with the national stage. After years of planning and construction, the Adas Israel Synagogue’s completion is celebrated in 1876 with a three-hour Orthodox service. President Ulysses S. Grant is there, making him the first U.S. president to attend a synagogue service. While having a sitting president at a grand opening is a coup by any standard, Grant’s presence in particular is both significant and highly intentional on the part of the synagogue’s founders. Back in December 1862, while still serving as Union general in the Civil War, Grant issues “General Orders #11” calling for the expulsion of Jews from all territories under his command as a means of cracking down on black marketeers. President Abraham Lincoln quickly intervenes to overrule Grant’s astonishingly ill-conceived order, and Grant is scathingly criticized for anti-Semitism. The scandal festers throughout Grant’s 1868 presidential campaign and presidency (1869-1877). Through his many conciliatory actions, Grant eventually restores much of his integrity with the Jewish community nationally, and his attendance at Adas Israel in 1876 is met favorably. (Note: Historian Jonathan D. Sarna has just come out with a book on the subject entitled, When Grant Expelled the Jews and will be presenting a lecture and book signing with JHSGW later this week.)

On another level, the synagogue’s story reflects the changes in a congregation and in a neighborhood. The congregation ends up outgrowing the synagogue in less than 30 years and by 1906 sells the building. As part of an ethnically diverse neighborhood full of row houses and small businesses owned by African American, Chinese, Irish, Italian, German, Greek, Jewish and Russian families, it’s little wonder that the synagogue structure gets redefined in myriad ways throughout the 20th century. Other religious denominations use the space and, ironically, for a time there’s even a pork BBQ joint on the first floor!

Ultimately, though, the synagogue’s legacy is one of successful historic preservation. When the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (aka Metro) bought the land at Sixth & G Streets for building its headquarters, the Adas Israel Synagogue building seemed destined for a wrecking ball. The JHSGW, formed by volunteers in 1960, recognized the synagogue’s importance as a designated DC historic landmark and sprang into action to save it. In 1969, JHSGW had the synagogue moved in its entirety to its current site three blocks away at Third & G Streets, NW. The synagogue was added to the National Register of Historic Places that same year and, after extensive renovations, opened as the JHSGW’s museum in 1975.

With a number of JHSGW events specifically planned for this May’s Jewish American Heritage Month—from a challah sale (a traditional, braided egg bread…yum!) to a guided walking tour of Jewish sites at Arlington National Cemetery—there are plenty of reasons to put JHSGW on your agenda.

Dogging the Details

38°53’54.25″N,   77° 0’54.37″W
Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington (JHSGW), Adas Israel Synagogue, Washington, DC

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter meansLike most museums, JHSGW doesn’t permit pet dogs inside the synagogue building, but that shouldn’t stop you and your pup from visiting the museum’s small but nicely landscaped grounds. Getting there on foot is easiest as there’s limited public parking nearby. Additional points of interest within the vicinity include the Judiciary Square complex, the National Building Museum, and the National Law Enforcement Memorial.

However, the best way to extend the JHSGW experience with your dog is to pick up two of the museum’s informative (and free!) tri-fold brochures. One is for a self-guided walking tour throughout the synagogue’s immediate neighborhood, highlighting a dozen buildings with various connections to Jewish heritage in DC. The other pamphlet is similar but provides a walking tour of Jewish sites within Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, just 8.5 miles south. Learn a little local history and get your dog (and yourself!) out for some exercise! For the compelling history and pleasant strolls, visiting JHSGW scores a “1” on the Intrepid Pup Wag-A-Meter.

A Grotto with a View: Olmsted’s Dog-Friendly Legacy

Tavish at the Summerhouse grotto on Capitol Hill

Today—April 26, 2012—is Frederick Law Olmsted Sr.’s 190th birthday. The Intrepid Pup is pretty sure Olmsted’s birthday isn’t widely celebrated nationwide, but it should be! After all, it’s because of Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. (1822-1903) that the terms landscape architecture, green space, and parkway are even part of our vocabulary.

Olmsted’s life is well-chronicled. An early writing and publishing career took the turn to landscape design when in 1857 he secured the position of superintendent of New York City’s Central Park. With a design competition for the park underway, Olmsted was approached by London architect Calvert Vaux (1824-1895), and together they submitted what ended up being the award-winning plan. In 1865 they formed Olmsted, Vaux & Company, a partnership lasting seven years, but eventually Olmsted’s reputation eclipsed Vaux’s. Olmsted would go on to found his own firm, which he relocated to the Boston suburbs in 1883. Today, the National Park Service maintains Olmsted’s Brookline design office “Fairsted” as the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site. Prior to Olmsted’s retirement in 1897, he and his firm had executed approximately 500 commissions, notably including the landscape design for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Boston’s Emerald Necklace park lands, Detroit’s Belle Isle, the Stanford University campus, and Asheville’s Biltmore Estate. Olmsted’s nephew/stepson John Charles Olmsted (1852-1920) and son Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (1870-1957) joined the firm and became full partners, successfully perpetuating Olmsted’s original design aesthetics and the family business well into the 20th century. Both men were founding members of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Frederick Jr. in particular became an adviser to a nascent National Park Service, and his influence can be readily identified in such parks as Yosemite and Acadia.

*  *  *

Where there are parks, there is Tavish, so clearly the Intrepid Pup thing to do in honor of Olmsted Sr.’s birthday is to visit an Olmsted landscape. In Tavish’s case, it’s the grounds of the United States Capitol.

The mid 19th-century Capitol expansion responsible for adding the massive wings and installing a larger dome also necessitated attention to the surroundings. Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. presented a landscaping plan in 1874 and was brought in to oversee its implementation. What were by that time hallmarks of Olmstedian design—scenery, winding paths, integrated topography—were once again employed to the task at hand. Olmsted was cognizant that the Capitol itself was to be the centerpiece of the immediate landscape and thus created a pastoral expanse. He meticulously laid out the walkways and placement of more than 7,800 trees to create very intentional vistas. While he went fairly minimalist on exterior fountains and statuary so as not to distract or detract from the Capitol itself, Olmsted specified ornamental lamps and wrought iron streetcar shelters (thankfully still in place…see photo below!) to subtly harmonize with the overall design. In 1879, he began work on an open-air, hexagonal brick Summerhouse on the west, Senate-side lawn. An absolutely enchanting structure, neatly embedded among heavy vegetation along a sinuous path, it’s probably a safe assumption that many of the 3.5 million modern-day annual visitors to the Capitol never notice it. Yet step inside the Summerhouse, and it’s a little world unto its own. The thick brick walls keep it cool on even the sultriest of DC days, and the stone benches set into the alcoves can accommodate up to 22 people. In the center is a burbling fountain; originally, the cascading water was supposed to activate a series of musical chimes, but the mechanics were never quite right, so that feature was abandoned. Two oblong, rondel-like windows perforate the walls, but the third—fronted by a lattice of  ornamental grillwork—affords the view of a small grotto (see Tavish’s photo above). The effect is not unlike that of peering through the opening of one of those panoramic sugar Easter eggs to behold a magical scene.

Olmsted intended the Summerhouse as a place for travelers to regroup and perhaps ladle refreshment from the fountain. More than a century later, the Summerhouse’s role is unchanged, and it’s an apt spot for reflecting upon the considerable Olmsted legacy.

Tavish on Capitol Hill

Dogging the Details

38°53′29.33″N, 77°0′38.33″W
The Summerhouse
on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter meansThe U.S. Capitol grounds, including the Summerhouse, are dog-friendly, but you must keep dogs on leash and pick up any waste. It’s worth noting that, for security reasons, you won’t find public trash receptacles in close proximity to the Capitol perimeter.

The central fountain is no longer fed by a spring, and the three drinking fountains surrounding it supply filtered DC water, so it’s safe for drinking…or for refilling a travel bowl for your dog!

The Olmsted grounds score a “1” on the Intrepid Pup Wag-a-Meter as they’re expansive, scenic, walkable, and easily accessible.

Save

Save

Thanks, Teddy!

Tavish at Roosevelt Island If you’re as big a fan of America’s national parks as Tavish the Intrepid Pup, then National Park Week is like having Christmas, a birthday, and the 4th of July all rolled into one. In 2012 National Park Week runs from April 21 through April 29. Jointly promoted by the National Park Service (NPS) and the National Park Foundation—the parks’ official charity—National Park Week collectively celebrates the 84 million acres preserved as “America’s best idea” by offering free admission to all 397 national park sites throughout the country. To be fair, more than 250 of these are free year-round, but in going fee free system-wide for a week, cost simply can’t be an excuse for not visiting a national park. So, in the spirit of Intrepid Pup:  “Come! Adventures Await.”©

Throughout the week, Intrepid Pup will highlight various NPS sites he’s visited recently, so check back often! In the meantime, we’re starting with the Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial because, seriously, where better to step off National Park Week than the place dedicated to the guy who first made the environment and national parks central to domestic policy?

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) became the the youngest man to ascend to the U.S. presidency, taking over when President McKinley’s term ended prematurely with an assassin’s bullet. While Roosevelt can’t lay claim to designating Yellowstone the country’s first national park (President Grant had that honor in 1872) or even to establishing the National Park Service (President Wilson got the credit in 1916), he arguably did more to shape the tenor of American resource conservation than any president before or since. During Roosevelt’s 1901-1909 tenure as the 26th president of the United States, he created five national parks and established the U.S. Forest Service. With the passage of the 1906 Antiquities Act he provided the precedent and legislative vehicle for presidents to protect historically significant sites as National Monuments…of which he then personally authorized 18. All told, among national forests, parks, game preserves, bird reservations and national monuments Roosevelt amassed a legacy of preserving a staggering 230 million acres of public land.

To visit Roosevelt Island today is to step onto a sylvan oasis. Wedged between Virginia and the District of Columbia’s banks of the Potomac River, this 88-acre dollop has had a schizophrenic past:  Inhabited by 16th-century Native Americans. Overtaken by various colonials in the 18th century. Owned by George Mason (author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights) and later by his son in the early 19th century for entertaining high society in a summer house built upon its ridge. Utilized by the 1st U.S. Colored Troops as a Civil War mustering ground in 1863. Cherished as a safe haven for escaped and freed slaves fleeing the South between May 1864 and June 1865.

The Roosevelt connection didn’t come until the 1930s, when the Theodore Roosevelt Association acquired the island and promptly transferred title to the National Park Service. Initial efforts to create the only capital-area memorial to Roosevelt involved the Civilian Conservation Corps removing invasive vegetation and planting nearly 20,000 native trees. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (1870-1957) was enlisted to come up with an overall design. Various issues hampered progress, including World War II, and the project wasn’t resumed until the 1960s. Though Olmsted had passed away in the intervening years, many of his original ideas like a Memorial Plaza and foot trails survived the final plan put forth by Eric Gugler (1889-1974). Paul Manship (1885-1966)—perhaps better remembered for his Prometheus Fountain in New York City’s Rockefeller Center—designed the 17-foot bronze statue of Roosevelt ultimately dedicated on the site in 1967.

In Tavish’s visits to the island, we invariably begin at the expansive Memorial Plaza where Roosevelt stands at the far end, backed by a 30-foot granite shaft, right arm raised above his head as if he were in the midst of an animated speech. Four 21-foot granite tablets bear Roosevelt quotations under the headings of Nature,  Manhood, Youth, and The State. Three trails (Swamp, Woods, and Upland) radiate from the plaza; none are longer than 1.3 miles. Except for a traffic helicopter’s shadow raking through the tree canopy or the dull roar of a Dc-9 following the river southward on its final approach to Ronald Reagan-Washington National Airport, you’d never believe you’re so close to the city. Don’t go expecting dazzling waterfront views; for most of the year, heavy foliage occludes shoreline panoramas of the Kennedy Center, the Watergate and Georgetown. The Potomac River is tidal but it’s fresh water that infiltrates the marshland skirting the Swamp Trail’s boardwalk. On our most recent jaunt yesterday, yellow irises were in bloom. Low tide had temporarily marooned minnows in the shallows. We spotted numerous marsh birds and encountered three deer grazing on green tendrils mere feet from the boardwalk. Two salamanders basking in the sun skittered away when we approached.

Roosevelt Island is one of five NPS sites—if you don’t count his visage on Mount Rushmore—specifically honoring our 26th President. (Intrepid Pup bonus points if you can name the others! Answers are below.*) In hiking the island,  Roosevelt’s foresight for preserving parkland is readily appreciated. As one of his quotations chiseled in the nearby stone states:

“The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets
which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.”

Thanks, Teddy!

Dogging the Details

38°53′50.70″N, 77°3′50.22″W
 Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial, Virginia

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter means By car, one can only reach the parking lot for Roosevelt Island from the northbound lanes of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The  lot serves as a trailhead for runners and cyclists on more far-flung journeys along the Mount Vernon and Potomac Heritage Trails. Though most who park here likely never cross the pedestrian bridge onto the island, the grounds nonetheless attract a fair share of walkers and joggers. Dogs are permitted on the island but must be on a 6-foot leash at all times. As always, pick up after your dog. Trash receptacles are understandably sparse along the island’s trails but are abundant in the parking area.

Be aware that low-lying areas of the island flood easily, and sections of trail are seasonally boggy or otherwise closed. Consult the bulletin board on the island side of the pedestrian bridge for current trail info.  Bear right and make the first left uphill to view the Memorial Plaza; otherwise stay right to embark on the Swamp Trail that encircles the island. The Island scores a “1” on the Intrepid Pup Wag-a-Meter for its easy hiking.

*The other four Roosevelt-related NPS sites are Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota), the Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site (New York City), Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (Oyster Bay, NY), and the Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site (Buffalo, NY).

The Road to Freedom

Tavish at the Freedmen's Memorial

It’s April 16th. In the District of Columbia, kids have the day off from the school, and DC government offices are closed. A parade has concluded, but the street festival will continue, culminating in a fireworks display just a few hours from now. What’s the occasion? DC Emancipation Day: widely celebrated for years but only officially made a DC public holiday by Mayor Anthony Williams in 2005.

While Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, is what always makes the cut to be on virtually any timeline of the American Civil War, the fact of the matter is that the emancipation of slaves really began 8 1/2 months earlier. Presented with the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act—first introduced by Massachusetts senator Henry Wilson in December 1861—President Lincoln signed it into law on April 16, 1862. The stroke of his pen granted instant freedom to 3,100 slaves in the nation’s capital and ended the abhorrent anomaly that slaves could be bought and sold within sight of the very bastions of a federal government simultaneously struggling to save a divided nation at war. The “compensated” portion of the Act entailed the government remunerating slave owners loyal to the Union with up to $300 for each slave; the government ultimately paid out nearly $1 million through a process managed by a three-person Emancipation Commission. In addition, former slaves were offered a $100 incentive should they opt to emigrate from the country, namely to Liberia or Haiti.

Lincoln must have had some satisfaction in enacting the legislation, since he had long believed gradual, compensated emancipation to be viable option in trying to run the gauntlet between outright abolition and the all-important preservation of the Union. Yet, interestingly, the compensation factor so prevalent in the DC act did not carry over to the more sweeping Emancipation Proclamation.

While the Freedmen’s Memorial Monument to Abraham Lincoln (pictured here during the Intrepid Pup’s recent visit) was actually erected in response to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, it’s equally relevant to remember it on today’s 150th anniversary of the DC Emancipation. Blocks from the Capitol Building in a park that was once the site of a Civil War hospital, the monument rises, a pedestal topped with a sculpture grouping designed by Thomas Ball (1819-1911). It depicts a newly-emancipated male slave kneeling before Abraham Lincoln. At the base, in capital letters, is the single word: EMANCIPATION. The memorial has been roundly criticized as reinforcing notions of paternalism, supplication and subservience. Indeed, the monument presents an image jarring to 21st-century sensibilities. As a run-up to this year’s 150th anniversary DC Emancipation festivities, the Washington Post just ran an article that included the Freedmen’s Memorial; one reader who’d grown up a stone’s throw from the park responded online, “I never liked that statue. Even as a child, I always thought they should be shaking hands.” But it’s also important to place the memorial within its historical context. As the plaque affixed to the rear of the monument reads:

Freedom’s Memorial
In grateful memory of Abraham Lincoln

This monument was erected by the Western Sanitary Commission of Saint Louis MO:
with funds contributed solely by emancipated citizens of the United States declared free by his proclamation January 1st A.D. 1863.
The first contribution of five dollars was made by Charlotte Scott a freed woman of Virginia being her first earnings in freedom and consecrated by her suggestion and request on the day she heard of President Lincoln’s death to build a monument to his memory.

The monument was dedicated on April 14, 1876, the 11th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination. Frederick Douglass gave the keynote address before a reported crowd of 25,000. It’s clear from his remarks that he thought of the statue much more as a memorial to Lincoln than as a monument to the act of emancipation, and privately he, too, apparently expressed disappointment at how the figures were portrayed. Then, as now, public art encourages exploration and invites discussion.

Dogging the Details

38°53′23.26″N,  76°59′24.76″W
Freedmen’s Memorial Monument to Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Park, Washington, DC

wag-a-meter set at 2As noted in an earlier Intrepid Pup posting related to Lincoln Park, the site of this statue is exceptionally dog-friendly (earning it a “2” on the Intrepid Pup Wag-a-Meter), with many people using it as a de facto dog park. It’s important to mention, however, that this is not an officially-designated city dog park. Rather, it’s maintained by the National Park Service, and the expected rules of conduct apply (e.g. keep your dog under your personal control and clean up).

The park is located at 12th Street and Massachusetts Avenue, NE and an easy walk due east from the U.S. Capitol. If arriving by car on a weekday, it’s not difficult to find free 2-hour parking nearby along the residential side streets.