Posts Tagged ‘Lady Bird Johnson’

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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.

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The First Division Monument

The destination for this lunchtime bike ride was a plaza within President’s Park, west of the White House and due South of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, between 17th Street Northwest and West Executive Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood. I rode there because it is the location of the First Division Monument. 

The First Division Monument commemorates all of the soldiers who died while serving in the 1st Infantry Division of the U. S. Army, also known as The Big Red One. Conceived by The Society of the First Infantry Division, the veteran’s organization of the Army’s First Division, it was designed by American architect Cass Gilbert, and sculptor Daniel Chester French, who created the Victory statue that sits atop the monument. French also created the Butt-Millet Fountain, also located in President’s Park.  But he is perhaps best known for the sculpture of a seated Abraham Lincoln at The Lincoln Memorial.

The monument was erected in 1924 and dedicated later that year by President Calvin Coolidge.  It was originally intended to honor the sacrifices made by soldiers of the First Division who fought and died in World War I.  Later, additions to the monument were made to commemorate the lives of First Division soldiers who fought in subsequent wars and conflicts. The World War II addition on the west side was designed by the original architect’s son, Cass Gilbert Jr., and dedicated in 1957. The Vietnam War addition on the east side was added in 1977, and the Desert Storm plaque was installed in 1995.

Another, different type of addition was made to the monument in 1965.  A large flower bed in the shape of a First Division patch was added to the monument as part of Lady Bird Johnson’s landscape plans to beautify the national capital city. The flower bed is located just east of the monument’s south steps.  The symbolism of the flower bed’s shape is clearly visible from the top of the monument’s steps, but less so at ground level, which often results in it being overlooked by visitors.

After obtaining Congressional approval to erect a monument on Federal property, the Society of the First Infantry Division raised all the funds for the original monument, as well as its additions. No taxpayer money was used. However, today the monument and grounds are maintained by the National Park Service.

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There are many libraries in the nation’s capitol.  There are municipal libraries, law libraries, and specialty libraries like The Folger Shakespeare Library.  The largest library in the world, The Library of Congress, is also located in D.C.  But there is one very popular library that has no books, and it is officially named The Floral Library.

On a recent bike ride I visited The Floral Library.  But it is better known during this time of the year as “The Tulip Library” because the entire garden is replanted each spring with over 10,000 tulip bulbs that are flown in from Holland and the Netherlands.  Often never known about until accidentally stumbled upon, “The Library” is a secret garden hiding in plain sight.  It is located on Independence Avenue in southwest D.C. between The Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial just north of the Tidal Basin (MAP).

The Library was first planted back in 1969 as part of First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson’s Capital Beautification Project through the Society for a More Beautiful National Capital. Their goal was to improve physical conditions in D.C., for both residents and tourists by planting millions of flowers.  Her beliefs regarding the importance of national beautification can best be summarized in her statement that “where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

The Library is currently maintained by the National Mall and Memorial Parks Department of the National Park Service.  Over the years, The Library has become a popular place to make comparisons of color and shape between different types of tulips planted in individually numbered beds.  There are separate beds each showcasing one of the 95 varieties of tulips, planted in groups of 100 to 200, that can be seen at The Library.

Both professional and amateur photographers alike can be seen taking photographs at The Library, as well as small groups of tourists who cab be found meandering through the rows of tulips and stopping to admire some of the more exotic varieties that they don’t see in their neighbors’ gardens back home.  Also, adjacent to The Library is a large, open grassy area perfect for picnics or an afternoon of people-watching.

Although they are not as transient as D.C.’s springtime cherry blossoms, the tulips at The Library will be gone shortly.  The tulip season in the D.C. area lasts only from early April to the first week of May, so plan to visit The Library soon.   And plan to go back again in a few months, because during the summer the library of tulips are replaced with an annual planting of annuals.   A third planting of chrysanthemums is available for viewing in the fall of each year.

 

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