Archive for the ‘Fountains’ Category

HauptFountains02

The Haupt Fountains (with the White House in the background)

As I was out for a bike ride in the downtown area of D.C. on this unseasonably warm fall day, I watched as tourists and sightseers hurriedly walked toward some of the major monuments that reside in that part of the city.  But as they were doing so, they were oblivious to the fact that they were walking right past other features and historic aspects of the city that while perhaps not as significant, are certainly worth the time to stop and appreciate them as you pass by.  One such often overlooked feature is a set of fountains which flank the southern entrance to the Ellipse, located at 16th Street and Constitution Avenue (MAP).  They are known as the Haupt Fountains.

These two matching fountains were the gift of publishing heiress and philanthropist Enid Annenberg Haupt, who also donated the Enid A. Haupt Garden, a four-acre Victorian garden that is adjacent to the Smithsonian Castle.  They were given at the request of Mary Lasker, president of the Society for a More Beautiful Capital, as part of the First Lady Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson’s plan to have the White House framed in water views when seen from The Washington Monument.  Conversely, when viewed in the opposite direction, the fountains frame the Washington Monument.  As part of the First Lady’s overall plan to beautify The Ellipse, four fountains were originally planned, but only two were constructed.

The 18-foot square granite monolithic fountains with rough exteriors and a polished top surface were designed by architect Nathanial Owings, with the help of stone carver Gordon Newell and sculptor James Hunolt.  The engineering for the fountains was completed by the engineering firm of  Palmer, Campbell and Reese, which then contracted out the construction of the project to the firm of Curtin and Johnson, which completed the project in 1968.

The Haupt Fountains are significant landscape features in President’s Park.  So now that you know a little more about them, I hope that if you’re ever in the nearby area you will be one of the few who actually stop and take notice of these beautiful and historic fountains.

HauptFountains01     HauptFountains04
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

Advertisements
Butt-MilletMemorialFountain01

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.

Butt-MilletMemorialFountain02     Butt-MilletMemorialFountain03
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

MellonFountain01a

Andrew W. Mellon Memorial Fountain

On this lunchtime bike ride, I visited a fountain just down the street from my office. It is located on Pennsylvania Avenue, at its intersection with Constitution Avenue and 6th Street (MAP), and is known as The Andrew W. Mellon Memorial Fountain. The fountain serves as a tribute to Andrew Mellon, who in addition to being known as a famous Pittsburgh industrialist and financier, also served as Secretary of the Treasury, ambassador to Great Britain, and was the founder of the National Gallery of Art, which the fountain is located just north of.

The round, tiered fountain is comprised of a series of three small-to-large nested bronze basins which empty water into its pebble-lined granite pool. The outer, and largest, bronze basin is engraved with the twelve signs of the zodiac, each sitting in its correct astrological position for the sun’s rays. And the top basin houses a spouting jet that shoots a stream of water up to twenty feet in the air, before falling back down and cascading through the tiers and into fountain’s base. Surrounding the fountain is a seven-foot wide granite walkway, and a semi-circular granite bench with an inscription that reads, “1855.Andrew W. Mellon.1937; Financier Industrialist Statesman; Secretary of the Treasury 1921-1932 Ambassador to Great Britain 1932-1933; Founder of the National Gallery Of Art 1937; This Fountain Is A Tribute From His Friends.”

The fountain was dedicated during a ceremony on May 9, 1952, which was presided over by President Harry S. Truman. And in 1993, when the fountain was surveyed by the Smithsonian Institution’s Save Outdoor Sculpture! Program, it was still described as “well maintained.” However, over the past quarter century the fountain had fallen into a state of disrepair. In fact, beginning in 2008 the fountain was no longer operational. So on September 25th of last year, the National Park Service transferred custody of the fountain and the surrounding triangular park to the National Gallery of Art, so that it could be restored.

The restoration and renovation of the fountain and site was divided into two phases. The first phase of the project included conservation of the three-tiered bronze fountain, revival of the original landscaping plan, and replacement of sophisticated mechanical waterworks that power the fountain spout and cascades. That phase was completed earlier this year, and was unveiled on March 17, 2016. Phase two of the project includes rehabilitation of the plaza and memorial bench around the fountain, and is scheduled to be completed in the summer of next year.

Given the newly restored condition of the fountain itself, and the ambitious schedule for the remainder of the project, at least according to D.C. standards, I think it’s a shame that ownership of many other fountains in the city cannot immediately be transferred to the National Gallery of Art.

MellonFountain02a

ColumbusFountain01

Christopher Columbus Memorial Fountain

It has rained, and occasionally stormed, every day for the past couple of weeks here in D.C.  And as indicated by the ominous-looking skies in the background of the photos from this bike ride, it rained again today. But I haven’t let that keep me from my lunchtime bike rides. And on this ride, I went to see the Christopher Columbus Memorial Fountain, located in the middle of Columbus Plaza (MAP), in front of Union Station in northeast D.C.’s NoMa neighborhood.

The fountain, also sometimes referred to as the Columbus Monument, is a memorial to Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer, navigator, and first colonizer of the Western Hemisphere or “New World.”  It was designed by American sculptor Lorado Zadoc Taft, a distant relative of President William Howard Taft, in collaboration with architect Daniel Burnham. It is a semicircular double-basin fountain with a shaft in the center. The front of the shaft bears a full-length portrait of Christopher Columbus staring south toward the U.S. Capitol Building with his arms crossed in front of him. He is flanked on his right side by an American Indian, who is facing west, representing the “New World.” On Columbus’ left side is an elderly man facing east, representing the “Old World.”  In front of the shaft is a ship prow that features a winged figurehead leading the way.  That represents “discovery.”  And above Columbus is a globe representing the Western hemisphere, with four eagles, one on each corner connected by garland.  Two lions, placed away from the base, guard the left and right sides of the fountain.

In a day the New York Times referred to as “second only to the inauguration of a President,” the fountain was publicly unveiled in a dedication ceremony and parade on June 8, 1912. After the Knights of Columbus’ successful lobbying for the sculpture which had begun a half a dozen years earlier, the festivities at the dedication ceremony included approximately 50,000 members of the organization. The ceremony was presided over by then Secretary of State Philander Knox, with invocation given by Father Thomas Shahan, the Rector of The Catholic University of America.  Other notable participants included Italian Ambassador Cusania Confalonieri, Apostolic Delegate to United States Archbishop Giovanni Vincenzo Cardinal Bonzano and other Catholic Church notables, as well as President Taft.  It also included 15,000 troops, 2,000 motor cars, a 21 gun salute, and elaborate horse-drawn floats depicting noteworthy incidents in Columbus’ life. And it was all viewed by around 150,000 spectators.

During his formal address at the dedication ceremony, President Taft said, “It is most difficult for us by any effort of the imagination to take in the problem which Columbus solved.” And as I visited the fountain today, I contemplated that statement. In this age of technology-assisted navigation and easy travel, it is almost impossible to fully comprehend the both the difficult conditions and the uncertainty of the outcome of Columbus’ journeys. Not only did he not have GPS or satellite imagery, Columbus didn’t even have a map.  That’s because no maps existed at that time of where he was going.  All he had was a compass and an astrolabe.  His boat actually started to fall apart on his first voyage.  They nearly ran out of food and water, facing starvation and dehydration.  In fact, Columbus wrote in his diary in 1492, “We ate biscuit which was a powder swarming with worms. It smelt of rats. … We ate sawdust from the boards.”   They also faced the threat of many diseases, and many people died on the ship.  They encountered severe storms and weather challenges as well.  And with all these problems, his crew not only wanted to turn back, they wanted to kill him.  So next time you’re headed through Union Station or Reagan National Airport on your way somewhere, stop and think about how good you’ve got it.

ColumbusFountain04      ColumbusFountain02      ColumbusFountain03
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

BartholdiFountain01

The Bartholdi Fountain

Of all the monuments, statues, memorials, and other interesting places and events in D.C., some of my favorite destinations on my lunchtime D.C. bike rides, especially during the warm months of summer, are public fountains. And there are many of them in the National Capitol City from which to choose. One of the most famous is officially named “Fountain of Light and Water,” but is more commonly referred to as the Bartholdi Fountain.  Located at the corner of Independence Avenue and First Street (MAP) in The United States Botanic Garden in southwest D.C., it was the destination for this ride.

The fountain is referred to as The Bartholdi Fountain because it was created by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the French sculptor who is best known for designing the Statue of Liberty. The fountain is based on Classical and Renaissance sculpture, and is composed of a series of basins, supported by sculptures of classical figures. The fountain was cast in Paris by A. Durenne Foundry, and the cast iron is coated with bronze. Standing in the center of a circular marble pool, the fountain weighs 30,440 pounds, stands 30 feet high, and has three caryatid figures 11 feet in height.

The three-level fountain is topped by a mural crown resembling a crenellated city wall. Water spills from the crown over three youthful tritons playfully holding seaweed and splashes into the upper basin. Twelve lamps surround the basin. The crown appears to be held by caryatid figures depicting nereids, or sea nymphs, standing on a triangular pedestal with an ornamental design of seas shells and coral. Three reptiles are positioned at the pedestal’s corners, and spout water while supporting the fountain’s lower vasque. Water spouts from a crown at the top, cascades down into the smaller vasque, and then down into the larger vasque before spilling into the main basin.

The cast-iron fountain was made for the first official World’s Fair in the United States, also known as the Centennial Exposition, which was held in Philadelphia in 1876 to celebrate the 100th birthday of the United States. After the conclusion of the Centennial Exposition, Bartholdi offered the statue for sale for $12,000. However, he could not find a buyer. The following year, at the suggestion of Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscape architect who designed the Capitol Building grounds, the U.S. Congress offered him $6,000 for the fountain, half his original asking price. Bartholdi begrudgingly agreed, and in 1877 the fountain was placed at the base of Capitol Hill on what used to be Botanic Garden grounds. It was removed and placed in storage in 1926 in order to facilitate completion of The George Gordon Meade Memorial, and for landscaping improvements around the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial. Then in 1932, the sculpture was placed at its current location in the United States Botanic Garden, within the grounds of the United States Capitol Building.

Since the bike rides I write about in this blog take place during my lunchtime breaks at work, I did not visit the fountain at night. But if you are in the city after dark, I highly recommend a visit because to really appreciate the beauty of the Bartholdi Fountain, you’ll need to see it when the cascade of water is illuniated after the sun sets.  Originally designed and fitted with gas lamps, it was one of the first monuments in D.C. to be lit at night. Other than the fact that the lamps were later converted to electricity in 1915, the Barholdi Fountain remains the same popular evening destination that it has been since the 1880s.

Bartholdi01a     BartholdiFountain02     BartholdiFountain04
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

Darlington02

Joseph Darlington Fountain

During today’s lunchtime bike ride I went by Judiciary Park, which is located at the corner of 5th and D Streets (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Judiciary Square neighborhood. A small park located between the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the focal point of the park is fountain featuring a gilded bronze statue. It is named the Darlington Memorial Fountain, and is a memorial to a lawyer named Joseph Darlington.

Joseph James Darlington was born on February 10, 1849, in Abbeville County, South Carolina, the third of four children born to Henry Dixson Darlington and Charlotte G. Blease. He came to D.C. as a young man to attend law school, where he lived for the rest of his life. He opened an office on 5th Street near where the memorial was later built, worked there for his entire career, eventually becoming known as a leader in the legal community, as well as a teacher and author.

Shortly after his death on June 24, 1920, friends and colleagues proposed to have a memorial built in his honor. Three years later, a committee was formed under Frank J. Hogan, who was named the head of the Darlington Memorial Committee. The duties of the committee, which consisted of approximately 100 people, some who were lawyers who had studied under Darlington was to take charge of the dedication of the memorial later that year.

The Darlington Memorial Fountain was designed by a German-born American sculptor named Carl Paul Jennewein. It was approved by the United States Commission of Fine Arts in 1921, and installed in November 1923. However, because it features a nude Greek nymph, the memorial’s statue caused a bit of public outrage when it was initially put on display. And that controversy has never really gone away. As late as July 3, 1988, a story in The Chicago Tribune reads, “The voluptuous nymph in Judiciary Square, honoring Joseph Darlington, one of Washington’s most prominent 19th Century lawyers, could easily grace the centerfold of Playboy.”

A prolific artist, Jennewein is also the sculptor responsible for a number of other statues in the D.C. area, including statues at the entrance to the Rayburn House Office Building, and monumental eagles at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, and another on the Arlington Memorial Bridge. He also created more than 50 separate sculptural elements of the Robert F. Kennedy Justice Department Building, as well as a statue in the building’s Great Hall, named the Spirit of Justice. Like the statue in the Darlington Memorial Fountain, the Spirit of Justice has also been the source of public controversy.

The Spirit of Justice is a semi-nude depicting Lady Justice, which stands on display along with its male counterpart, Majesty of Justice. The statue and the controversy surrounding it first became well known with the help of Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2002. It was then that the department spent $8,000 on curtains to hide the semi-nude statue from view during speeches and other events. Critics derided then-Attorney General Ashcroft, and President George W. Bush’s administration received widespread criticism for covering up the naked Lady Justice. Ashcroft’s successor as Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, removed the curtains in June 2005, making the statue visible again during public events.

But the controversy resurfaced again last year when the Obama administration reversed that practice, and curtains are once again being used to hide the Spirit of Justice’s nudity from public view. So at this point in time, if you want to see one of Jennewein’s nude statues in D.C., your only current option is the Darlington Memorial Fountain.

Darlington01     Darlington03
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

Crystal City Water Park

Crystal City Water Park

On this bike ride I left D.C. via the 14th Street Bridge, and went for a ride on the trails in Virginia. I starting out on the Mount Vernon Trail, and then rode south past Gravelly Point Park and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. But instead of continuing south, I decided to turn off and take one of the side trails. So I turned west and went through a tunnel, and discovered a park I did not know about before. It is called the Crystal City Water Park, and is located at 1750 Crystal Drive (MAP), between 15th and 18th Streets in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington County.

Depending on the time of day, Crystal City Water Park can be a quiet, serene setting, with the sound of the water from the multiple fountains and waterfalls adding to the calm. During these times it provides an ideal setting for those seeking a place to de-stress. At other times, such as mid-day during the week, the park often fills up with nearby office workers having lunch. There is a small restaurant located in the park named The Water Park Café, which serves Mediterranean, Egyptian and American food. And whether you get your lunch from the Café or brown-bag it from home, there is plenty of outdoor seating.

The park is the site of many scheduled, organized activities as well. For example, Mind Your Body Oasis offers free yoga in the park at 7:00 am on Monday mornings during the warmer weather between May and September. And a local wine shop named Vintage Crystal sponsors events called “Wine in the Water Park,” which features interesting wine varietals and great live music on Fridays evenings in June and September.

Similar in a way to the plane watching in nearby Gravelly Point Park, another favorite activity in Crystal City Water Park is train watching. By walking up the path to the “observation deck” area on top of the park’s wall of water, you can see the trains go by on the three tracks that pass by the back of the park.  But unlike the planes at Gravelly Point, if you wave to the passing trains you may just get a wave back from the conductor and maybe a toot from the train whistle too if you’re lucky.

CrystalCityWaterPark05     CrystalCityWaterPark03     CrystalCityWaterPark06

CrystalCityWaterPark07     CrystalCityWaterPark02     CrystalCityWaterPark09
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

The Court of Neptune Fountain

The Court of Neptune Fountain

The Court of Neptune Fountain is a lavishly ornate fountain with a group of bronze sculptures, which was partly inspired by the popular 18th-century Trevi Fountain in Rome, and created in 1898 by American sculptor and painter Roland Hinton Perry. If you look carefully, you can see that the artist’s name and the date he completed the work are inscribed to the right of Neptune, just at the fountain’s water level. On this bike ride I chose the fountain as my destination.  It is located at 10 First Street (MAP) in front of the Thomas Jefferson Building of The Library of Congress in northwest D.C.’s Capitol Hill Neighborhood.

The 50-foot wide Baroque fountain consists of a semicircular granite basin set in a retaining wall flanked by a set of stairs leading into the building behind it. Within the retaining wall, there are three large concave niches which frame the fountain’s statuary of allegorical figures.

Front and center in the middle niche is Neptune, the Roman god of freshwater and the sea. He is the counterpart of the Greek god Poseidon. He is depicted with a long flowing beard, and is sitting on a bank of rocks as if on a throne presiding over a grotto of the sea. The muscular figure of Neptune is large and imposing, and would be approximately twelve feet in height if standing. He is flanked on his sides by his sons, the tritons, who are mythological minor sea gods characterized by figures with the torsos of men and the fins of fishes. They are both blowing on conch shells like trumpets, summon the water deities to Neptune’s presence.

In the niches to the left and right of Neptune are sea nymphs riding wild sea horses. And in the fountain’s basin are a menagerie of real and mythical sea creatures, including a sea serpent, four large turtles, and two giant frogs all spouting water. On the retaining wall, just above the niches, are detailed reliefs of dolphins and stalactites.

This extraordinary and splendid grotto of the sea is worth making the time for. Not only is the Court of Neptune one of the most popular fountains in D.C., it is one of the most elaborate fountains of its kind in the world.

The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

On this ride I went by the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, located on the National Mall directly east of the Lincoln Memorial (MAP), with The Washington Monument to the east of the reflecting pool.  It is lined by walking paths and shade trees on both sides.  Depending on the viewer’s vantage point, it dramatically reflects the Lincoln Memorial, as well as the Washington Monument, the Mall’s trees, and the expansive sky above D.C.

The Reflecting Pool was designed by American architect Henry Bacon, who also designed The Lincoln Memorial.  It was constructed beginning in 1922, following the dedication of the President Lincoln’s Memorial, and completed the following year.  At over a third of a mile long and 167 feet wide, with a a depth of approximately 18 inches on the sides and 30 inches in the center, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool is the largest of the many reflecting pools in D.C.

A few years ago the National Park Service determined that the Reflecting Pool’s massive weight had begun to cause it to leak and sink, while the approximately 6,750,000 gallons of water in it had become stagnant.  As a result, it underwent an extensive rennovation.  The massive project , which was part of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, shut down a large swath of the National Mall for almost two years as the old pool was removed and the new one constructed.  The Reflecting Pool reopened just before Labor Day in 2012.

The newly renovated landmark remains the largest in D.C., but is shallower than the original, measuring less than three feet at its deepest point.  This not only makes it lighter but saves water as well. Its bottom is tinted gray to make the water darker and more reflective.  And the new pool has been reengineered with a circulation and filtration system. So instead of continuing to use city water, it draws river water from the nearby Tidal Basin, conserving approximately 20 million gallons of drinking water each year.

As a result of the renovation project, the grounds also include new security features to prevent a vehicle from reaching the Lincoln Memorial for a potential terrorist attack, like the one which occurred in 2003 when an angry tobacco farmer from North Carolina named Dwight Ware Watson brought much of the nation’s capitol to a standstill for two days when he drove a tractor into the pond in the nearby Constitution Gardens area of the National Mall and claimed to have explosives.

When visiting the Reflecting Pool, one cannot help but reflect on the rich history of events that have taken place there.  Included in the long list of events are when singer Marian Anderson sang at an open air concert on Easter Sunday in 1939, because she had been denied permission to perform at D.C.’s Constitution Hall because she was African American.  On August 28, 1963, the Reflecting Pool was also the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered from the steps of the memorial to a crowd of 250,000 people during the Civil Rights Movement’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. And several protests against the Vietnam War took place in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s around the Reflection Pool, attracting hundreds of thousands of protestors.  These and many other events make the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool a site for reflection in more ways than one.

Women In Military Service For America Memorial

Women In Military Service For America Memorial

On this bike ride I went to see the Women in Military Service for America Memorial (WIMSA). Many people who have seen this relatively new memorial are not even aware that they have. Almost any visit to Arlington National Cemetery includes seeing the WIMSA, because the memorial is located at the western end of Memorial Drive (MAP) as a ceremonial entrance to Arlington National.

In the early 1980s, women veterans began pressing for a memorial to women in the U.S. armed services.  They initially won the formal support of the American Veterans Committee (AVC), which was founded in 1943 as a liberal veterans organization and an alternative to groups such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which supported a conservative political and social agenda.  The AVC established the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation (WMSAMF) to raise funds and lobby Congress for a memorial.  The foundation turned first to the larger veterans groups, and won the support of both the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  With most veterens solidly behind the effort, the decision to build the memorial was essentially a foregone conclusion, and legislation for the Memorial was introduced and passed the House of Representatives in November 1985.

After her retirement from the U.S. Air Force in 1985, Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught became the primary spokesperson for the WMSAMF.  According to Vaught, she was elected president of the memorial foundation because she missed the first meeting and was not there to turn down the honor.  Under her leadership, the site selection process identified its current location.  And even though the existing Hemicycle and entrance to the cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, permission was granted to modify the site to create the WIMSA.  The design was then selected through a national competition.  Finally, construction of the Memorial began, and was in progress for approximately 11 years.

The WIMSA was officially dedicated October 18, 1997.  The Memorial dedication ceremony began with a fly-over of military aircraft, all of which were piloted by women.  This was the first time in U.S. history that an all-female fly-over had occurred. Speakers at the event included Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Sandra Day O’Connor, retired General John Shalikashvili, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Hugh Shelton.  President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton addressed the audience via taped message, as they were on a state visit to South Africa.  But the highlight of the dedication ceremony was 101-year-old Frieda Mae Greene Hardin, a veteran of World War I.  She was escorted to the speaker’s podium by her 73-year-old son, and wore her World War I Navy yeoman’s uniform.  An estimated 30,000 people attended the ceremony.  The Memorial was permanently opened to the general public two days later.

The WIMSA site is the 4.2-acre ceremonial etrance to Arlington National Cemetery. A 30-foot high curved neoclassical retaining wall stands at the entrance, with an education center in the cemetery hillside behind the existing retaining wall. The Memorial incorporates a reflecting pool on the plaza in front of the curved gateway, or hemicycle.  And the Memorial’s roof is an arc of glass tablets inscribed with quotations by and about women who have served in defense of their country. Sunlight passing over these quotes creates changing shadows of the texts on the walls of the gallery below and brings natural light into the interior of the Education Center.  Four staircases pass through the hemicycle wall, allowing visitors access to the education center, as well as a panoramic view of D.C. from the terrace.

WomenMilitaryServiceMemorial03     WomenMilitaryServiceMemorial01     WomenMilitaryServiceMemorial04
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]