Posts Tagged ‘President John Tyler’

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The First Public Performance of The Star Spangled Banner

On this bike ride as I was riding east in the protected bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue between The White House and the U.S. Capitol Building, I happened to see a small plaque on the front of a building.  Out of curiosity I circled back and stopped to see what it was.  And as it turns out the plaque, located 601 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP), commemorates the location where “The Star Spangled Banner” was sung in public for the first time.

The Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States.  It was recognized for official use by the United States Navy in 1889, and by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916.  And it was made the national anthem by a Congressional resolution on March 3, 1931, which was signed by President Herbert Hoover.

The song’s lyrics come from a poem entitled “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, which was written in September of 1814 by Francis Scott Key, who just a few block past the western end of Pennsylvania Avenue has a memorial park named after him.  Key was inspired to write the poem by the sight of a large American flag flying above Fort McHenry during its bombardment by the British Royal Navy during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812.  The words were later set to the tune of a British song which was already popular in the United States entitled “To Anacreon in Heaven”, written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men’s social club in London.

Despite the fact that the song is notoriously difficult for nonprofessionals to sing because of its wide range, The Star Spangled Banner today is traditionally sung most often at the beginning of many public sporting events in the United States, as well as other types of public gatherings.  But on this bike ride, I discovered where the patriotic song was sung in public for the first time a little over two hundred years ago.

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The plaque reads, “On this site in 1814, “The Star Spangled Banner” was first sung on public.  The most famous of several hotels on this block was Brown’s Marble Hotel (1851 – 1935), an innovative greek revival landmark, where John Tyler and Abraham Lincoln were guests.  In the 1830’s, Beverly Snow, a free black, operated the epicurean restaurant on the corner of 6th Street.  The Atlanta Coast Line Railroad Building was completed at the same location in 1863.  Its façade was incorporated into the present office building, erected by the B.F. Saul Company in 1985.”

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St. John’s Episcopal Church

On this bike ride I rode to St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square.  An historic church located in the heart of our nation’s capital at 16th and H Streets (MAP), St. John’s is across the street from Lafayette Square Park and near The White House in downtown D.C.   It is informally known as the “Church of the Presidents,” a nickname it earned because every sitting President, beginning in 1816 with James Madison, has been a regular or at least ­an occasional attendee.

Officially organized as a parish in 1815, the church was named for Saint John, the Evangelist.  The church’s building was designed by the “Father of American Architecture,” Benjamin Latrobe, one of the architects of the U.S. Capitol Building and the architect of The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also called the Baltimore Basilica, which was the first Roman Catholic cathedral built in the United States, and among the first major religious buildings constructed in the nation after the adoption of the Constitution.  Construction of St John’s was completed and the first service held in October of 1816.  In 1820, the portico and tower were added, and in 1966,  St. John’s Church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Church of the Presidents also has a “President’s pew.”  President Madison first established the tradition of a President’s pew, selecting pew 28 for his private use in 1816.  During subsequent renovations over the years, the pews were renumbered, including the President’s pew.  President John Tyler paid for its use in perpetuity by Presidents of the United States.  Today, the President’s pew is pew 54, and remains reserved for the President’s use when in attendance.

Another historic aspect of St. John’s Church is the bell in the steeple.  Cast by Paul Revere’s son, Joseph, at his Boston foundry in August of 1822, it weighs nearly 1,000 pounds.  It was installed at St. John’s in November of that same year, and has been in continuous service ever since.  In addition to signaling a call to services, the bell has also served as an alarm bell for the neighborhoods and public buildings in the vicinity of the church.

From its historic origins in our country’s early days, to the founding of an orphanage in 1868 to serve children of the Civil War, to its modern-day ministry in D.C. and throughout the world – St. John’s continues its traditions of the past while having a present-day effect on our nation and our world.

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[Click on photos above to view full size versions]

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The Daniel Webster Memorial

Daniel Webster was a U.S. statesman who had a lengthy career in Congress and the Federal government, one which would be absolutely impossible in today’s political climate.  He was elected and served as both a Congressman and Senator from three different political parties representing two different states.  He was also appointed Secretary of State by three separate Presidents from two different political parties.

He was originally elected in 1813 as a Federalist from New Hampshire to the Thirteenth, and then the Fourteenth Congresses.  After not running for election, he moved to Massachusetts to practice law.  Years later, he again ran for Congress and was elected to represent Massachusetts to the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Congresses.

He the ran as a member of the Adams Party, later referred to as Anti-Jacksonian, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1827.  He was reelected to the Senate as a Whig in 1833 and 1839, and served until his resignation, effective in 1841.

Despite an unsuccessful run as the Whig candidate for President in 1836, as a leader of his party, he was one of the nation’s most prominent conservatives of his time.  He was appointed Secretary of State by President William Henry Harrison and again by President John Tyler.  Again elected as a Whig to the U.S. Senate from 1845 to 1850, he resigned to again be  appointed Secretary of State by President Millard Fillmore, a position in which he served until his death in 1852.

Among the many memorials in D.C. is one to honor Webster.  The statue is located near Webster’s former home at 1603 Massachusetts Avenue in northwest D.C., beside Scott Circle at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Rhode Island Avenue (MAP).

The Daniel Webster Memorial consists of a 12-foot bronze statue of Webster on an 18-foot granite pedestal in a sober classical style.  The statue of Webster was given to the United States government by Stilson Hutchins, founder of the Washington Post and, like Webster, a fellow native of New Hampshire.  An Act of Congress on July 1, 1898 authorized its erection on public grounds and appropriated $4,000 for a pedestal. The memorial was dedicated on January 19, 1900.  On October 12, 2007, the Daniel Webster Memorial was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.