Archive for June, 2016

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The Florida Embassy

There are a total of 178 embassies and diplomatic missions in the national capital city, and 177 of them belong to foreign countries.  The remaining one belongs to the state of Florida, which is the only one of the 50 states to have an embassy in D.C.  Other states, specifically California and Texas, have tried but have not met with success.

So on today’s lunchtime bike ride, I visited The Florida Embassy, which is located at 1 2nd Street (MAP) in northeast D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.  It is at the corner of East Capitol and Second Street, directly behind the Supreme Court building.  And it offers an excellent view of the dome and the Statue of Freedom on top of  the nearby United States Capitol Building.

Also known as “Florida House,” this unique embassy is located in a restored 1891 Victorian house, and since 1973 it has been a privately-owned and funded education and information center that provides meeting, classroom and reception space for visiting Floridians, students, dignitaries, elected officials and those doing business in the nation’s capital.

On today’s visit I was greeted by a very friendly summer intern, who gave me a tour of the embassy building, as well as the art and antique furnishings it contains.  The embassy also provides information about Florida’s congressional delegation, and other famous Floridians, as well as many other programs and partnerships that support and showcase the Sunshine State’s education, business, arts and culture, and of course, hospitality.  And I was able to learn about all of this while enjoying a complimentary glass of cold Florida orange juice.

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The Samuel Hahnemann Monument

Located on the east side of Scott Circle, near the cross section of Massachusetts and Rhode Island Avenues (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s DuPont Circle neighborhood, is a memorial to a German physician and the founder of the homeopathic school of medicine. Known as the Samuel Hahnemann Monument, or simply Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, it was the destination for this lunchtime bike ride.

Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann was born in Meissen, Saxony, near Dresden, Germany, on April 10, 1755. He studied medicine for two years at Leipzig but later, citing Leipzig’s lack of clinical facilities, he moved to Vienna to continue his studies.  He would go on to graduate with honors from the University of Erlangen in August of 1779.  He then settled down in Mansfield, Saxony, where he became a village doctor, got married, and raised a family that would eventually include eleven children.

Within approximately five years of starting his practice, Hahnemann became dissatisfied with the state of medicine at that time. Complaining that the medicine he had been taught sometimes did the patient more harm than good, he actually quit practicing medicine. Having become proficient as a young man in a number of languages, including English, French, Italian, Greek and Latin, he began working as a translator and teacher of languages. But he continued to be concerned about the medical practices of his day, especially practices such as bloodletting, leeching, and purging.  And he vowed to investigate the causes of what he considered to be medicine’s “errors.”

It was during this time, while he was working as a translator, that he was tasked with translating William Cullen’s “A Treatise on the Materia Medica.” While Hahnemann was contemplating information in the book he was translating, he began experimenting on himself. And through this experimentation he came up with the principle of “Similia Similibus Curentur” or “like cures like,” meaning a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people. And it was this principle that became the basis for an alternative approach to medicine which he gave the name homeopathy.

Following years of fundraising efforts by the American Institute of Homeopathy, this monument to the founder of homeopathy was dedicated in 1900. The monument was significant at the time because Hahnemann was the first foreigner not associated with the American Revolution to be honored with a statue in D.C. Among the thousands of attendees at the dedication ceremony were prominent citizens such as President William McKinley, Attorney General John W. Griggs, and Army General John Moulder Wilson. The Classical Revival monument consists of an exedra designed by architect Julius Harder, and a life-sized statue by American sculptor Charles Henry Niehaus, whose works include The John Paul Jones Memorial and several statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol Building.
The sculpture sits beneath a red, yellow and green mosaic dome, and the monument contains four relief panels, which depict Hahnemann’s life as a student, chemist, teacher and physician.

Because homeopathic remedies were actually less dangerous than those of nineteenth-century medical orthodoxy, many medical practitioners began using them.  At the turn of the twentieth century, there were approximately 14,000 practitioners and 22 schools dedicated to homeopathy in this country alone. However, although homeopathy continues to exist today, it is nowhere near as popular or accepted as it once was.  As medical science advanced, and large-scale studies found homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo, homeopathy declined sharply in this country.  The number of practitioners has decreased dramatically.  And schools either closed or converted to modern methods, with the last pure homeopathic school in this country closing in the 1920’s.

But the monument to the pseudo-science’s founder remains.  In fact, it recently underwent an extensive restoration process, which was completed in 2011.  Today, the Samuel Hahnemann Monument is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it and the surrounding property are owned and maintained by the National Park Service.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

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Saint Mother Théodore Guérin

Saint Mother Théodore Guérin is a statue by American artist Teresa Clark, and it is located on the grounds of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Catholic University neighborhood. The statue serves as a memorial to Théodore Guérin and was a gift from the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, an apostolic congregation of Catholic women which she founded in Indiana in 1840. It was this public artwork that was the destination for this lunchtime bike ride.

Born Anne-Thérèse Guérin in France in 1798, she knew from an early age that she wanted to devote her life to the church. When she was ten years old, she was allowed to take her First Communion, which was two years earlier than the custom of the time. And it was on that day that confided to the priest that she wished to enter a religious community. But at the age of 15, tragedy struck her family when her father was killed. Having already lost two children, the grief of losing her husband was too much for her mother to bear, and she fell into a deep and incapacitating depression. So Anne-Thérèse took on the responsibility of caring for her mother and sister and the family’s home. It wasn’t until years later, when Anne-Thérèse was 25 years old, that her mother recognized the depth of her daughter’s devotion, that she permitted her to leave to join a religious order.

Anne-Thérèse entered the young congregation of the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé-sur-Loir, where she was given the religious name Sister St. Théodore. She was first sent to teach at Preuilly-sur-Claise in central France. During her career in France, Sister St. Théodore also taught at St. Aubin parish school in Rennes and taught and visited the sick and poor in Soulaines in the Diocese of Angers. In 1939 Sister St. Théodore would be asked to travel to the United States to assist the Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana, by providing assistance and religious instruction to the great influx of Catholic immigrants of French, Irish and German descent. Although she was at first unsure of her abilities to complete such a mission, after considerable discernment Sister Théodore agreed.

Despite the humble resources available to them, in July 1841 Sister Théodore and the along with some other sisters opened St. Mary’s Academy for Young Ladies, which later became Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.  Over the next decade she also helped establish parish schools at Jasper, St. Peter’s, Vincennes, Madison, Fort Wayne and Terre Haute, all in Indiana, and at St. Francisville in Illinois. In 1853, she opened establishments in Evansville, Indiana and North Madison, Indiana; in 1854, at Lanesville, Indiana; and in 1855 at Columbus, Indiana, south of Indianapolis.  She also assisted in establishing two orphanages in Vincennes, and free pharmacies at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and in Vincennes.

Sister Théodore also proved to be a skilled businesswoman and leader as well as a beloved general superior.  By the time of Mother Théodore’s death in 1856, the Sisters of Providence congregation had grown from six sisters and four postulants to 67 professed members, nine novices and seven postulants.  Since that time more than 5,200 women have entered the Sisters of Providence.  Currently there are nearly 350 sisters in the institute, roughly 300 of whom live and minister from the motherhouse grounds in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.  Other sisters minister in 17 U.S. states and here in D.C., as well as in Asia.

Sister St. Théodore was canonized a saint on October 15, 2006, and continues to be a woman who inspires people more than a century and a half after her death.  She is a mentor for people today because she was an educator, a businesswoman, a pharmacist, a leader and, most of all, a strong, faith-filled woman.  She even inspired Teresa Clark, the artist who was commissioned to create the statue for the shrine.  Clark was a non-religious person, but was so was moved by the story of the Saint Mother that at the age of 50 she was baptized Catholic.

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The Empty Grave of Frank Kameny

On today’s lunchtime bike ride I stopped by Historic Congressional Cemetery, located at 1801 E Street (MAP) in southeast D.C.’s Barney Circle neighborhood, where I visited the gravesite of Frank Kameny. Known as “one of the most significant figures” in the American gay rights movement,” Kameny’s lived an impactful public life. But as was suggested by the title of this blog post, his story doesn’t end there.

Franklin Edward Kameny was born on May 21, 1925 to Ashkenazi Jewish parents in New York City. He grew up in New York City and graduated from high school at the age of 16, and went on to college to study physics. Before he could complete his education he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the European theater throughout World War II. After being honorably discharged from the service, he returned to college and earned a degree in physics in 1948. He then went on to enroll in Harvard, where he studied astronomy and earned a master’s degree in 1949, and doctorate in 1956.

After a year teaching at Georgetown University, he obtained a civil service job as an astronomer with the U.S. Army Map Service in July of 1957. It wasn’t long afterward that an investigator from the U.S. Civil Service Commission came to question him about reports that he was a homosexual. That fall, only a few months after being hired, he was fired for being gay.  And in January of 1958, he was barred forever from Federal government employment. Kameny formally appealed his firing, first through formal channels, then all the way to the House and Senate Civil Service Committees, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  After not prevailing through those channels, he filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court to get his job back. But he lost that too, as well as a subsequent appeal in the Federal Court of Appeals. Then after being abandoned by his lawyer who declared his cause hopeless, Kameny personally brought and represented himself in a landmark albeit unsuccessful appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Although he lost the case, the proceeding was notable as the first known civil rights claim based on sexual orientation pursued in a U.S. court.

For the vast majority of people during that time, homosexuality was seen as abhorrent, sinful, and criminal. Even most homosexuals thought so too. So there were not any gay rights organizations in D.C. for Kameny to turn to. So in a move that would begin a lifelong role as an organizer and an advocate, Kameny decided to start one of his own. He was a cofounder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, and later the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, and the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the National Gay Task Force, and the National Gay Rights Lobby, which was the first national political lobbying organization for the gay and lesbian community. He also led the first gay rights protests at the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Civil Service Commission, and at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. He would also become the first openly gay person to run for Congress, help lobby the American Psychiatric Association to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness, create the first test case against the military ban on gay service by Air Force Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, and be appointed a Commissioner of the D.C. Commission on Human Rights, thereby becoming the first gay municipal appointee.

In 2007, Kameny’s death was mistakenly reported by The Advocate, an American LGBT-interest magazine, alongside a mistaken report that he had HIV. The report was retracted with an apology. A little over four years later Kameny died from natural causes due to arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease.  He died on October, 11, 2011, coinciding with National Coming Out Day, an annual awareness day pertaining to the voluntary self-disclosure of one’s sexual orientation.  His body was subsequently cremated, and Timothy Clark, his legal heir, took possession of the ashes. Because Clark and the Kameny estate lacked the financial means, a burial plot was purchased by a LGBT charitable group named Helping Our Brothers and Sisters. But Clark would not allow the interment of the ashes to take place until ownership of the cemetery plot was signed over to the estate. And after years of fighting between the Kameny family, friends, and Clark, his ashes have still not been interred in the plot. However, the headstone, along with a footstone bearing the slogan, “Gay is Good,” which Kameny coined in 1968, were placed at the plot last year. Clark subsequently interred the ashes at an undisclosed location, and has asked the public to respect “his wishes and his privacy.”

The area of the cemetery where the Kameny memorial headstone is located has in recent years become somewhat of a tourist attraction, particularly to those in the LGBT community.  Kameny’s plot is located right behind that of Leonard Matlovich, as well as the nearby gravesites of J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson.  A growing number of other out gays, including veterans and couples, have also chosen to be buried in the same once obscure graveyard such as gay rights pioneers Randy Wicker, Barbara Gittings and Kay Lahusen.  Also, members of American Veterans for Equal Rights have purchased eight nearby adjoining plots to create a LGBT veterans memorial.

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The Inukshuk at the Canadian Embassy

The first time I saw an Inuksuk (also spelled inukshuk, plural inuksuit) here in D.C., I happened upon it by accident. From a distance it looked like just a big pile of rocks.  But because it was on the well-kept grounds of the Organization of American States, I approached it to get a better look.  I then researched it to find out more because it was the first time I had ever encountered an inuksuk. The situation was different this time. I’d previously heard there as an inukshuk in the lobby of the Canadian Embassy, located at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in downtown D.C., so I intentionally road there on this lunchtime bike ride to check it out.

Created by David Ruben Piqtoukun, an Inuit artist from Paulatuk in the Northwest Territories, the inukshuk at the Canadian Embassy was the first, and for many years the only one, in D.C. It was created in 1988. And it wasn’t until more than two decades later, in 2010, that the city’s second inuksuk was built. That inuksuk, the one on the grounds of the Organization of American States, was a gift from Canada. To date, they remain the only two inuksuit in the city.

An inukshuk can be small or large, and be comprised of a single rock, or several rocks of varying sizes and shapes balanced on each other.  They are usually built from whatever stones are at hand, making each one unique.  One of the things that impressed me the most about the Canadian Embassy inukshuk was how vital each and every rock is to the integrity of the piece.  Even the smallest rock, as shown in the video below, is indispensable.  Without it, the entire structure would fall.

The Canadian Embassy inukshuk depicts the form of a human being and is, therefore, also referred to as an inunnguaq. An embassy brochure explains that the “Inuit sculpture mimics the figure of a solitary man.  The rocks are balanced one on top of the other, only the bottom two are fixed. Such Inukshuit, built by the people of Canada’s northernmost region, are used to mark trailheads and to pen caribou. When snowfall creates whiteout conditions, the Inukshuk serves as the only distinguishing feature between land and sky.” For these reasons, an inukshuk can be a welcome sight to a traveler, making it very appropriate to the embassy’s lobby, where it welcomes visitors.

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Marvin Gaye Mural

Change is sometimes good and sometimes bad, but it is always inevitable. And sometimes change has unintended consequences. One type of change that can have consequences that occurs here in D.C. is the construction of new buildings and the renovation of existing ones. An example of this was the mural of Marvin Gaye that was painted by prominent local artist Aniekan Udofia on the side of the building at 711 S Street in northwest D.C.’s Shaw/Uptown Neighborhood. Construction of an adjacent eight-story building next door to the mural resulted in the destruction and covering up of this piece of public art.

The mural of one of D.C.’s most beloved native sons was not up for very long, but it made quite an impact on the neighborhood.  Aniekan (the artist who usually goes by just his first name) knew when he undertook the original mural that it would eventually be covered up. So he used that as motivation to make it not just noticeable, but unforgettable.  And he succeeded. In fact, the mural became so well liked in such a short time that after its destruction, he was commissioned to create/recreate a new Marvin Gaye mural nearby in the neighborhood, next to the Hollywood Barbershop at 710 S Street (MAP). It was this replacement mural that was my destination for this lunchtime bike ride.

The replacement mural is similar in its bright, colorful composition, and possesses the same spirit as the original. But according Aniekan, it contains more “soul.” In fact, the artist suggested entitling it “The Soulful Return of Marvin Gaye.” I think many residents of the neighborhood are glad to see the reincarnated mural, as are fans of the artist like me.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

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Bernardo de Gálvez Statue

On today’s lunchtime bike ride I rode to Gálvez Park, a small park located at Virginia Avenue and 22nd Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, to see a statue entitled Bernardo de Gálvez.  The statue is part of a series, entitled “Statues of the Liberators,” honoring liberators and other national figures of western-hemisphere countries.  The statues can be found along Virginia Avenue between 18th and 25th Streets, near the Headquarters of the Organization of American States in northwest D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The statues were erected by various Latin American countries, and are maintained by the National Park Service.

Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Viscount of Galveston and Count of Gálvez, was the Spanish Governor of Louisiana from 1777-1785, prior to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. During his time as governor he staged a three-year military campaign that tied up significant numbers of British troops, allowing the . to capture British-controlled territories such as Baton Rouge, Pensacola, and Natchez. Gálvez also aided the American settlers with supplies and soldiers. Later he was among those who drafted the Treaty of Paris of 1783, negotiated between the United States and Great Britain, ended the Revolutionary War. In appreciation, America’s new president, George Washington, took Gálvez with him in the parade on July 4th. This is the reason that many U.S. cities and landmarks are named for him. Galveston, Texas, Galveston Bay, and St. Bernard Parish Louisiana are examples of these.

And on December 16, 2014, the United States Congress conferred honorary citizenship on Gálvez, citing him as a “hero of the Revolutionary War who risked his life for the freedom of the United States people and provided supplies, intelligence, and strong military support to the war effort.”

The statue, depicting Gálvez atop his horse, was sculpted by Juan de Ávalos of Spain, and sits atop a marble base that is inscribed, “Bernardo De Gálvez, the great Spanish soldier, carried out a courageous campaign in Lands bordering the lower Mississippi. This masterpiece of military strategy lightened the pressure of the English in the war against American settlers who were fighting for their independence. May this statue of Bernardo de Gálvez serve as a reminder that Spain offered the blood of her soldiers for the cause of American Independence.” It was installed in its current location on this day in 1976.

The bronze equestrian statue is idiosyncratic in that it both celebrates a Spanish loyalist and was paid for and donated by King Juan Carlos of Spain to the American people in celebration of the United States Bicentennial.  It is Gálvez’s role as a helper of the rebellious colonies during the Revolutionary War which the statue celebrates.

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The Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain

On this lunchtime bike ride I rode over to President’s Park, which encompasses the White House, a visitor center, Lafayette Square, and The Ellipse. There are a number of monuments and memorials located throughout the park, and on this ride I specifically went there to see the Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain, which is located just south and within sight of the White House, and about thirty yards northwest of The Zero Milestone, near the western junction of E street and Ellipse Road (MAP).

The fountain is a memorial to Archibald Willingham DeGraffenreid Clarendon Butt and Francis Davis Millet, believed to be the only officials of the United States government who perished, along with more than 1,500 others, when the “unsinkable” RMS Titanic hit an iceberg during its maiden voyage and sunk on the night of April 14th through to the morning of April 15th in 1912.

On May 16, 1912, just one month after the Titanic went down, Senator Augustus Octavius Bacon of Georgia submitted a resolution authorizing the constructing of a private memorial to Butt and Millet on federally owned land somewhere in D.C..  Bacon argued that Butt and Millet were public servants who deserved to be memorialized separately from the rest of the dead.  Initial press reports indicated that President William Howard Taft planned an elaborate dedication ceremony for the memorial.  But Taft was no longer president by late 1913, having lost the presidential election to Woodrow Wilson.  So the Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain was dedicated without ceremony on October 25, 1913.

The Fountain is 12 feet high, with an octagonal grey granite base which supports an 8 feet wide bowl made of golden brown Tennessee marble. Rising up from the bowl is a panel with two relief figures. The one on the southern side of the panel depicts a man in armor and helmet who is holding a shield, representing military valor and memorializing Butt. The figure on the north side of the panel depicts a woman with paint brush and palette, represents the fine arts and memorializes Millet.

Butt, known as “Archie” to his friends, was a United States Army officer. He served in the Quartermaster Corps during the Spanish-American War, where he gained notice for his work in logistics and animal husbandry.   Later, after brief postings in D.C and Cuba, he was appointed as a military aide to President Theodore Roosevelt. At the time of his death he was serving as a military aide to President Taft. Known as one of the most eligible bachelors in D.C., Butt never married and mystery surrounded his personal life as well as his death. There were many sensational accounts reported of Butt’s last moments aboard the Titanic.  But none of them has ever been verified. Although his body was never found, a cenotaph in the shape of a Celtic cross memorializes him in Arlington National Cemetery.

Millet was an accomplished painter, sculptor, and writer, and at the time of his death served as vice chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts, a committee with approval authority for the “design and aesthetics” of construction within the national capitol city. Some mystery also surrounded Millet’s personal life. Despite being married and a father of three, he is also thought to have had several same-sex relationships during his life.   Millet’s body was recovered after the sinking and was buried in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

Despite the mystery in their personal lives, both men were well liked in local social circles and among the D.C. elite. In Butt’s eulogy in The Washington Times, it stated that, “the two men had a sympathy of mind which was most unusual.” Noting that Butt was “mourned by Washingtonians of all walks of life,” the article claimed, “None could help admiring either man.” Some historians have also asserted that Butt and Millet were involved in a romantic relationship. They were close friends and housemates, often attending social gatherings and parties together. And they were aboard the Titanic because they were returning to the United States after vacationing together in Europe.  Quite possible an early example of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” they were together in both life and death.

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