Archive for October, 2017

The Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

One of my very favorite gardens in D.C., and one which I stop by frequently during my lunchtime bike rides, is the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden. Conveniently located on the south side of the National Mall in the city’s Downtown neighborhood, the garden is tucked neatly in-between the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (MAP), in an area which had previously been slated to become a parking lot.

The half-acre curvilinear-shaped garden was designed by local architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen as a sensory garden, with raised planting beds and greater accessibility for handicapped and other visitors. Many of its original plants were brought in from the Litchfield, Connecticut home of Mary Livingston Ripley, an avid lifelong plant scholar-collector, active gardener, and wife of the S. Dillon Ripley, the Smithsonian Institution’s eighth Secretary.  The garden opened in 1978, and a decade later it was renamed in Mrs. Ripley’s honor by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, a philanthropic group she helped found.

The garden has evolved over the years, with more recent efforts focused on exposing visitors to the widest variety of plants and flowers possible, many of which are grown in the Smithsonian Gardens Greenhouse Complex in Maryland.  Currently there are more than 200 varieties of plants in hanging baskets, borders, raised serpentine and circular beds, and even growing vertically on plant walls.

The garden is also adorned with a number of 19th-century cast-iron furnishings. These furnishings are part of the historical collection belonging to Smithsonian Gardens, and include a large Acanthus fountain anchoring the middle of the garden, ornate light posts interspersed along the paths, and benches that are far away enough from each other that they provide a sense of intimacy with the person you’re sitting with rather than people on the next bench.

Another asset of the Ripley Garden is horticulturist Janet Draper and her staff.  They not only maintain this incredible garden, but are also friendly, helpful if you have a question or need assistance, and even offer an informal walking tour of the garden every Tuesday at 2 p.m. through October, weather permitting.

For anyone who hasn’t yet been there, I highly recommend it.  And I would encourage you to spend some time there and be attentive, unlike the commuters and other pedestrians who simply use the garden as a cut-through between Independence Avenue and the National Mall.  And if you’re able, I would suggest going several times, perhaps at different times during the year.  It is worth repeated visits not only for the quantity and variety of plants. but because the garden is ever changing.

         

         

         

         

The following are some of my favorite photos, mostly of of flowers and plants, that I took over the past year
or so in the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden.  Click on each to see the full-size version.  Viewing them on a
high definition screen is suggested in order to better see the complexity and intricate beauty of each.

         

         

         

         

         

         

          

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

          

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Sign hanging in the Ripley Garden

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Battleground National Cemetery

On this lunchtime bike ride, while I was riding north on Georgia Avenue with no particular destination in mind, I came across a small cemetery, located at 6625 Georgia Avenue (MAP).  Located near Fort Stevens in the city’s Brightwood neighborhood, I found out that it is named Battleground National Cemetery, and it’s a military burial ground managed by the National Park Service, together with other components of Rock Creek Park.  Later, I found out a lot more.

The cemetery was created after the Civil War Battle of Fort Stevens, which took place on July 11 and 12, 1864.  The battle was significant in that it marked the defeat of General Jubal Anderson Early’s Confederate campaign to launch an offensive action against the poorly defended national capitol city.  The Battle of Fort Stevens also gained notoriety as being the only military action in which the commander in chief, President Abraham Lincoln, came under direct fire from an enemy force.  President Lincoln lived, but during the battle, 59 soldiers were killed on the Union side, and there were approximately 500 casualties on the Confederate side.

After the battle, Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs seized an acre of farm land to use for burying the dead. Under direction from President Lincoln and General Meigs, forty were buried on the evening of July 12, 1864, on the battlefield site. That night, Lincoln came to the site to dedicate it as Battleground National Cemetery.

The piece of land seized for the cemetery was previously part of a fruit orchard owned by farmer James Malloy.  When he returned to his land after the dust cleared from the battle, Malloy was upset that his land was taken and challenged the action. Through an act of Congress passed on February 22, 1867, the land was acquired and officially transferred to the Federal government, and on July 23, 1868, payment made to Malloy.

Battleground National Cemetery is one of our Nation’s smallest national cemeteries. The entrance to the cemetery is flanked by two Civil War vintage 6-pounder, smoothbore guns.  Also near the entrance are monuments commemorating each of the units which fought at Fort Stevens.  They were the 25th New York Volunteer Cavalry, the 98th Pennsylvania Volunteer, the 122nd New York Volunteer, and the 150th Ohio National Guard.

The center of the cemetery is marked by a central flagpole, surrounded by 41 regulation marble headstones, marking the remains of the honored dead of Fort Stevens. Behind these headstones and to the east, stands a marble rostrum used to conduct yearly Memorial Day services. The four granite pillars are in memory of the four volunteer companies who fought at Fort Stevens.

Also within the cemetery grounds is a series of cast iron markers containing the first of the twelve stanzas of a poem entitled “Bivouac of the Dead,” which was written by Theodore O’Hara in memory of those men who perished during the Mexican-American War.  The poem, as well as the words of the Gettysburg Address found on the side of the caretaker’s lodge, are reminiscent of many national cemeteries.

For an aimless bike ride with no particular destination in mind, I sure came across a lot of interesting history.  Unfortunately, that portion of Georgia Avenue is not particularly bike friendly.  So I imagine the vast majority of those driving hastily by in their vehicles probably have no idea of what they are passing by, and the history behind it.

         

         

    

         

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

BIVOUAC OF THE DEAD
The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on life’s parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame’s eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.

For today’s bike ride I rode over to Arlington National Cemetery (MAP).  However, my original destination within the cemetery was changed when I saw some artillery guns being set up at the end of McClellan Drive.  I asked one of the soldiers what was happening and found out that they were members of the Presidential Salute Battery, and they were there getting ready to participate in a military honors funeral.  So I decided to stay and watch, and go to my previously planned destination on another day.

Formed in 1953, the Presidential Salute Battery is a United States Army artillery battery that is part of the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment, or The Old Guard, the President of the United States’ escort regiment.  Also known as the 3rd U.S. Infantry Salute Guns Platoon, the battery  is chiefly responsible for firing ceremonial cannon volleys to render honors to visiting foreign dignitaries and heads of state at the White House, the Pentagon and elsewhere in the D.C., area. The battery also fires the final salutes during many funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.  They are also tasked with providing artillery support to the regiment during combat operations in the event of the need to defend the national capital city.  It also serves as the battalion’s mortar platoon, providing firepower support during tactical training exercises at nearby Fort A.P. Hill, in Virginia.  The guns platoon is the only unit of its kind in the Army, and its busy schedule includes more than 300 ceremonies each year.

The platoon is equipped with eight 3-inch anti-tank guns of World War II vintage, mounted on 105mm Howitzer chassis. Each gun weighs 5,775 pounds and fires 75mm blank shells with 1.5 pounds of powder

The battery is customarily deployed to Arlington National Cemetery for the funerals of sitting and former presidents of the United States, sitting cabinet secretaries, and military flag officers.  For funerals at Arlington it uses one of two firing positions, either from Section 4 of the cemetery on Dewey Drive, or at Red Springs on McClellan Drive where they were set up today.

The gun salutes rendered by the battery are done according to a customary order of arms which is 21 volleys for heads of state (including the president of the United States and former presidents); 19 for the vice-president of the United States, foreign chiefs of government, and members of the cabinet of the United States; and 17, 15, 13, and 11 for flag officers of the rank of O-10, O-9, O-8, and O-7, respectively.  Today’s salute was a 13-gun version done for an former admiral in the Navy.

         

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

Needle Tower

The destination of today’s lunchtime bike ride was Needle Tower, a public artwork by Kenneth Duane Snelson, an American contemporary sculptor and photographer.  The 60-foot abstract sculpture of steel wires and aluminum tubes is on display outside of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, which is located just off the National Mall at Independence Avenue and 7th Street (MAP) in southwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood. 

At first glance it seems improbable that Needle Tower can even remain upright.  But the aluminum tubes of the slim and graceful piece act in compression, and held in tension by the stainless steel cables threaded through in the ends of the aluminum tubes.

Snelson’s works often center around or incorporate geometric shapes.  And this piece is a good example of that.  The tower itself is interesting.  But looking up from the inside of Needle Tower is where it really impresses.  I see Stars of David getting progressively smaller in a seemingly endless procession ascending into the sky, symbolizing the infinite nature of the universe.  According to Snelson, however, six-pointed stars are common, and the piece does not include the Star of David nor is it symbolic.  In Needle Tower the six pointedness comes from the natural geometry of the three compression struts that make up each layer.  Sets of three alternate with left and right helical modules, adding up to six when viewed upwards from the base of the tower.

The structure was built in 1968, and has been on continuous display since the museum’s namesake, Joseph Hirshhorn, donated it in 1974. It remains one of the museum’s most popular works of art.  Needle Tower is so popular, in fact, that it was placed in its central spot outside the museum so that when tourists pass by on their way to and from nearby museums and attractions, it draws their attention to both the piece and the Hirshhorn.

A second Needle Tower, Needle Tower II, was completed in 1968 and was acquired in 1971 by the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands. That piece resides in the museum’s sculpture garden.  And I look forward to seeing it on my next bike ride to the Netherlands.

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

View of the Folger Rose Garden from the Smithsonian Castle

As I was riding around near the National Mall on this lunchtime bike ride, the bright colors of flowers in a garden near the Smithsonian Castle caught my attention.  So, of course, I rode over for a closer look.  The flowers were roses, and I was surprised to see so many of them in bloom so late in the season.  So I decided to look into it and find out more about roses and the garden.

There are many different kinds of roses, and they have been around for a long time.  At last count, there were roughly 150 known species alone, and the garden hybrids of those currently number in the thousands.  And although they are over 35 million years old, every year new varieties are developed and tested, and some are eventually introduced.  And if what I saw on this ride is any indication, a great resource for viewing roses is the Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden, located downtown at 900 Jefferson Drive (MAP), in front of the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building and to the east of the iconic Smithsonian Castle.

The Folger Rose Garden embodies the best practices in modern rose care and culture. When planning for this project, Smithsonian Gardens staff spent months carefully selecting rose varieties that are fragrant, disease resistant, and–whenever possible–“own-root roses” meaning they are grown from cuttings rather than grafted onto another rootstalk. Good selection is critical to maintaining a beautiful and scented garden without constant disease pressure and pesticide application.

The Folger Rose Garden features a bed of roses in a rainbow of colors, along with selected companion plants, annuals, perennials, and groundcovers chosen for year-round interest.  Specimen conifers and evergreens also punctuate the garden and anchor it during the winter months.  Because of it’s prominent and conveniently accessible location, the garden provides an engaging space for visitors on their journey around the Smithsonian museums.  You often see people walking by stop to smell the various fragrant roses, read the plant name tags to gather ideas for their own gardens, and to enjoy the spectacular view.  And with educational signage interspersed throughout the garden, it also provides an opportunity for visitors to better understand roses as a part of a larger ecosystem.

The garden also includes a number of pieces of cast iron adornment, several of which are part of the Smithsonian Gardens’ garden artifact collection.  The cast iron pieces include four benches and a large urn, but the centerpiece is the cast iron original 19th century, three-tiered Keith Fountain at the western end of the garden.  The fountain, manufactured by the J. W. Fiske Iron Works Company in New York, formerly belonged to the Ellerslie Farm in Petersburg, Virginia.

The garden was made possible by a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Lee M. Folger, in honor of their mother, Kathrine Dulin Folger, and the widow of John Clifford Folger, a prominent Washington investment banker, civic leader, fund-raiser for the Republican Party and former U.S. ambassador to Belgium.  The restoration of the fountain was made possible by contributions of Narinder K. Keith and Rajinder K. Keith.

         

          

          

         

         

         

         
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

The Georgetown University Grilling Society

On today’s lunchtime bike ride I rode across town to Georgetown University. I had seen a show recently on PBS entitled Neighborhood Eats, about a campus club that cooks out every Friday.  So I rode over there, and then rode around campus until I smelled the aroma of meat grilling. Then I just followed the smell and blended in with the eclectic crowd.

The GUGS (the first “G” is soft, as in genius) started out in December of 2002 with just four guys “with one mysteriously-acquired grill.  It has now become one of the university’s most popular social collectives.  The society’s creed  sums up the group.  It reads, “Beneath the trees which line the grounds of Georgetown, the Georgetown University Grilling Society strives to maintain the fundamental values of mankind through bonds and friendships forged in the very fires upon which we cook.”

The members of GUGS grill burgers and hot dogs between about 11:00am and 2:00pm every Friday in the campus’ Red Square.  And the burgers are quite unusual. Round like a giant meatball and grilled to perfection, the half-pound burgers are as delicious as they are unusual.  It might just be the best burger in town. And at just three bucks, it is almost definitely the best deal in town too.

It was a great bike ride today, and an even better lunch. What a way to end the workweek!  And I think I may have just begun a new weekly tradition as well.

         

         

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

Mayor Marion Barry’s Headstone

After dominating his city’s political life for most of four decades, former D.C. Mayor Marion Shepilov Barry, Jr. passed away on November 23, 2014 at the age of 78.  But for the first couple of years after his passing, there was no public memorial or monument, or even a private headstone at his gravesite in Historic Congressional Cemetery.  On this lunchtime bike ride I rode to the cemetery to see the headstone that was finally installed at his gravesite.

The headstone was designed by Cora Masters Barry, Barry’s wife, and his late son, Christopher Barry, who subsequently died of a drug overdose without seeing the monument completed.  It was created by Andy Del Gallo, who has worked on a number of notable projects, perhaps most prominent of which was chiseling “‘I have a dream,’ words spoken by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.”, into the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the spot where king stood when he delivered the famous speech.  But when it came to creating a suitable grave marker for the “Mayor for Life” of  D.C., the artistic process took some twists and turns.

A spokeswoman for Barry’s family, Raymone Bain, said the process of marking Barry’s grave took longer than expected in part because the original design had to be scrapped for not conforming to the cemetery’s requirements. His son Christopher’s death was another setback.  But finally, one day short of the two year anniversary of his death, a memorial headstone was installed.

The headstone Barry’s gravesite is located amid rows of headstones and obelisks, many of them inscribed with the names of people who lived and died in the 19th century.  Barry’s grave is located in an adjoining section on the same row of the graves as Leonard Matlovich and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

The black stone memorial includes an image of bronze relief of Barry with the words “Mayor for life, beloved forever.”  It also is inscribed with a Bible verse, found at Mark 9:35, which reads, “If any man desires to be first, the same shall be last of all and servant of all.”  It is also inscribed with a statement about Barry by Maya Angelou, which reads, “Marion Barry changed America with his unmitigated gall to stand up in the ashes of where he had fallen and come back to win.”  Lastly, another inscription on the headstone, a quote by Barry himself, reads, “Most people don’t know me … the don’t know about all of the fighting I’ve done to manage a government that was progressive and more oriented to uplift the people rather than suppress them.  That’s what I want my legacy to be.  I was a freedom fighter, and a fighter for the economic livelihood of not only black people but all people.”

And that is indeed part of his legacy.  But it is not his complete legacy, because that is a complex amalgam of good and bad, of success and failure, of a public life and a private life that cannot be easily summed up.  The Washington Post, in an article published shortly after Barry’s headstone was unveiled, described his legacy as “civil rights activism and drug use, job creation and womanizing, part history lesson and part punchline — that defies simple labels.”

The creation of a private monument for Barry underscores how little the city has done to formally memorialize its most famous public figure. City officials have said they have plans for a statue of Barry, although it is not yet clear where it will be placed or when it will be created.  So aside from naming the city’s summer jobs program after Barry, who started it, it has yet to bestow Barry’s name on a school or other significant public structure, and there is still no public memorial or monument to the “Mayor for Life”.  And with the city’s changing demographics, deciding on an apt gesture toward Barry’s four terms as mayor – as well as his additional service as a council member and school board member, and his 1960s civil rights activism – grows more complicated and less likely as time goes on.

         

         
The two photos below show how Mayor Barry’s unmarked grave looked almost two years after his death.
MarionBarry02     MarionBarry03
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

Black Rock Star Superhero

During today’s lunchtime bike ride, as I was riding in the 16th Street Heights neighborhood in northwest D.C., I saw a mural on the side of a building at the corner of 14th and Randolph Streets (MAP).  So I rode over to get a closer look.  The eclectic nature of the things in the mural indicated to me that there might be a good story behind it.  So later I researched the mural.  And I was right about there being a story behind it.  The mural has undergone several distinct phases to become what I saw today.

The mural was originally entitled Washington Pizza, and was located on the side of the Washington Pizza restaurant.  It was created by Alicia Cosnahan, also know professionally as Decoy, a local artist who creates a lot of local graffiti and murals.  In its original incarnation it showed a family eating, what looks like a couple of colorized local rowhouses, and an another person eating something.  It was topped off by a scrawled and odd-looking no parking warning.

For the 2014 release of “Mayor of D.C. Hip Hop” Head-Roc‘s album of the same name (which, by the way, contained a song entitled “Mayor for Life” in tribute to former four-term D.C. mayor, Marion Barry), local muralist Pahel Brunis modified the mural, which was then retitled “Black Rock Star Super Hero.” Some graffiti text reading Head Roc covered the family, and a likeness of Head-Roc, covered up the cool pizza-eating person.  Thankfully, he also covered up the scrawled “Washington Pizza parking only!”

Later that same year, on the morning of November 23, “Mayor-for-Life” Marion Barry died.  That same afternoon, Head-Roc, along with other local rappers, performed an impromptu musical tribute to Barry at the vacant lot in front of the mural.  As the music played Pahel Brunis returned and once again modified the mural, this time with a tribute to Barry.  It wasn’t planned.  He just grabbed what supplies he had at home and showed up.  Three hours later he had painted a large portrait of Barry on top of the rowhouses.  And that’s how the mural looks today, at least for now.

Paradise In Pots

During today’s lunchtime bike ride I stopped to take a break at the Enid Haupt Garden, located just behind the Smithsonian Castle, just off the National Mall at 1000 Jefferson Drive (MAP).  As I was entering the grounds I saw a sign for an outdoor potted plant exhibit located on the garden’s western patio entitled Paradise In Pots.  The exhibit included hundreds of tropical and warm weather plants, most of which are currently in bloom despite the increasingly cooler autumn temperatures.

The exhibit is only temporary, however, because they will have to take the plants in before the really cold weather arrives.  When they take the plants in, they will be taken back to an off-site facility in Suitland, Maryland.  The facility, known as the Smithsonian Gardens Greenhouse Complex, actually includes fourteen greenhouses and serves as the production and maintenance facility for thousands of seasonal plants that are displayed in gardens, grounds, and indoor and outdoor horticultural exhibits throughout the Smithsonian Institution museums and properties.  The Suitland complex also houses the Smithsonian Orchid Collection, tropical plant specimens, interior display plants, and thousands of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs, plus hundreds of poinsettias and other holiday plants.  They grow the nectar plants as well for the Butterfly Pavilion at the National Museum of Natural History.

So the next time you step outside your office or visit the museums downtown, take notice of all the plants – inside and outside the buildings. It is most likely that every one of them came from your newest neighbors on the Suitland Campus; the staff at the Greenhouse Nursery Branch!

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

    
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

christlightoftheworld01

Christ, The Light of the World”

During this lunchtime bike ride I found myself in the Edgewood neighborhood in northeast D.C., near the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and The Catholic University of America.  And as I was riding I saw a statue in a garden that to me looked vaguely like a different pose of the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  So I stopped to get a closer look and find out more about it.

It turns out that the 17-foot-tall, 10-ton brass statue is entitled “Christ, the Light of the World.”  Located 3211 4th Street (MAP), it is in a garden in front of the headquarters for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  It was originally the idea of a woman named Marjorie Lambert Russell, who lived in Topeka, Kansas.  In 1936 she wrote a letter to Bishop John F. Noll, who was the founder of a publication entitled “Our Sunday Visitor.”  Bishop Noll frequently used the pages of the newspaper to advocate for important Catholic causes in the United States, and she suggested that that the publication begin a drive to erect a statue of Christ in our nation’s capital.  Russell pointed out that since D.C. had many statues of famous people, one should be erected to represent the greatest person who had ever walked the earth.  Along with the letter she enclosed a dollar bill, which was to serve as the first donation to fund the statue.

The idea appealed to Bishop Noll, who published her letter in the newspaper. The idea caught on with its readers, who soon began sending in donations for the project which would eventually total more than $150,000.  Bishop Noll later arranged for the statue, designed and created by University of Notre Dame art professor Eugene Kormendi, to be placed outside the National Catholic Welfare Conference headquarters, which at that time was located at 1312 Massachusetts Avenue in downtown D.C.

Bishop Noll presented the statue to the conference, and was present at its dedication ceremony in April of 1949, where it was dedicated by The Most Reverend Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate to the United States, and accepted by The Most Reverend John T. McNicholas, Chairman of the National Catholic Welfare Conference Administrative Board.  Half a century later, in 1989, the statue was moved to its current home in front of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offices, where I saw it today.

christlightoftheworld02[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]