Posts Tagged ‘Glenwood Cemetery’

Wooden Sculptures in Glenwood Cemetery

Wooden Sculptures in Glenwood Cemetery

After a local ordinance was passed in 1852 barring the creation of new cemeteries in many parts of the city at that time, Glenwood Cemetery was founded in what was then considered a “rural” area.  Located at 2219 Lincoln Road (MAP) in northeast D.C.’s Edgewood neighborhood, Glenwood Cemetery is a private, secular cemetery that is home to enough elaborate Victorian and Art Nouveau funerary monuments to make almost any taphophile satisfied.  But more recently, it has also become home to some ornately carved wooden sculptures that have started to develop into a minor tourist attraction in their own right.

There is actually a set of four wooden sculptures located behind the cemetery’s Romanesque Revival mortuary chapel, which is itself an attraction and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The largest sculpture is 30 feet tall and depicts a large dragon’s arm catching a smaller dragon.  Right next to the dragon is a piece depicting a sabertooth tiger, with woodland animals at its feet.  The remaining two are of angels. The sculptures were inspired by passages in the Bible from the Book of Revelation, Chapter 20:1-3, 7, which reads, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the bottomless pit and a heavy chain in his hand. He seized the dragon–that old serpent, who is the devil, Satan–and bound him in chains for a thousand years. The angel threw him into the bottomless pit, which he then shut and locked so Satan could not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years were finished. Afterward he must be released for a little while. .. When the thousand years come to an end, Satan will be let out of his prison. (New Living Translation)”

According to the superintendent of the cemetery, the statues were carved by Dayton Scoggins, a world renowned chainsaw sculptor artist, in lieu of simply removing some of the cemetery’s old-growth trees that were either dying or heavily damaged in storms.  The decision to utilize the dying trees and to make something out of the wood ironically gave the dead trees in the cemetery “a new life.”

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

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The Firemen Monument in Glenwood Cemetery

Benjamin C. Grenup was a member of the volunteer Columbia Fire Company #1, which is now known as District of Columbia Fire Department Engine Company #3.  On May 6, 1856, while en route to a fire at Shreeve’s Stable on 7th Street in northwest D.C., he was killed in the line of duty.  In those days, the water wagons carrying the hoses and firefighting equipment were pulled by the firemen themselves rather than by horses. Greenup was killed when the wagon he was pulling down Pennsylvania Avenue on the way to a blaze collided with a lamppost, crushing him underneath its wheels.  Grenup’s death is considered by many to be the first firefighter killed in the line of duty in D.C., and he is honored as such at D.C.’s fire training academy at Blue Plains.

Grenup was buried at the Historic Glenwood Cemetery, which is located at 2219 Lincoln Road (MAP) in northeast D.C.  At his gravesite, a monument was erected in his memory by the members of his fire company.  He was only 24 years old at the time of his death and, according to the inscription on his monument, “A truer, nobler, trustier heart, more loving or more loyal, never beat within a human breast.”

The Benjamin C. Grenup Memorial is located within the cemetery in a triangular plot bordered by an iron fence with bright red fire hydrants at each corner.  The central marble obelisk is on top of a square base with three relief carvings on it which were sculpted by Charles Rousseau.  The relief on the west side of the base depicts a fire hose and two nozzles, while the one on the east side is a relief of a fire axe, torch and spanner wrench tied together with a rope.  But it is the relief on the south side that stands out.  It graphically depicts Grenup at the time of his death, being run over by the fire water wagon, while his fellow firefighters are attempting to stop the wagon or are reacting to the horrific accident.

The Benjamin C. Grenup Memorial eventually came to be considered as a monument to more than just Grenup, but to all firefighters killed while serving the city.  The National Fallen Firefighters Association includes the monument in Glenwood Cemetery on its list of states and other territories which have built memorials that pay tribute to firefighters who have made the supreme sacrifice in service to their communities.  And at regular intervals, a D.C. fire engine bearing new recruits moves reverently through the gates of Glenwood Cemetery to pay their respects and visit the monument.

However, in recent years, some have come to believe that there were, if fact, firefighters who were killed in the line of duty prior to Grenup’s death in 1856.  This began in 2010, when a retired D.C. firefighter named Jimmy Lloyd came across a 1911 book by Washington Evening Star reporter James Croggon, which mentions a firefighter named John G. Anderson who was killed on March 11, 1856, almost two months before Greenup.  In descriptions of Anderson’s death and funeral, wording is used, including “as such a casualty has not occurred for a long time, there will doubtless be a general turnout of the Fire Department” and “the usual badge of mourning,” which would seem to indicate even earlier deaths.  So we may never know for certain whom was the first D.C. fireman killed in the line of duty.

Regardless of the dispute of the history of the first fireman killed in D.C., the Benjamin C. Grenup Memorial continues to symbolically serve as a monument to all fallen D.C. firefighters, and is worth a visit.