Posts Tagged ‘President Theodore Roosevelt’

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Saint Dominic’s Catholic Church

Whenever I’ve been anywhere near the Southwest Waterfront during one of my middle of the day bike rides, I have been able to hear church bells ringing out at noon.  So on this ride I decided to track down the source.  As a result, I ended up at Saint Dominic’s Catholic Church, which is a Roman Catholic and Dominican parish, located in D.C.’s Southwest Waterfront neighborhood at 630 E Street (MAP), which is adjacent to the L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station, and just two blocks south of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. 

The parish of Saint Dominic was first established in 1852 under the care of the Order of Preachers, popularly known as the “Dominicans.”  Two years later, in March of 1854, the original parish church was dedicated during the feast of St. Joseph, the patron of the province of Dominicans serving St. Dominic’s parish.  A decade later, just months after the conclusion of the Civil War, the cornerstone was laid for a new church building, designed by the now famous architect, Patrick Charles Keely, who designed nearly 600 churches and hundreds of other institutional buildings for the Roman Catholic Church or Roman Catholic patrons in the eastern United States and Canada.  The new and larger English Gothic church was dedicated in 1875, and it is that church that remains today.

The outside of the church building looks much like it did when it was originally built.  But the inside of the church is very different,  And the neighborhood and surrounding area where it is located is also unlike it was.

On March 12, 1885, a fire destroyed the entire interior of the Saint Dominic’s.  But the church’s interior was restored thanks to fund raising efforts of Catholic and Protestants alike.  As part of the parish’s new interior, a Hilborne Roosevelt Organ was installed.  Today it is one of the few surviving organs made by the cousins of President Theodore Roosevelt, and the sound quality remains largely unchanged since its installation.  Although no photographs of the original interior are known to exist, it is said that the new interior is even more beautiful than the original.

The area surrounding the parish has changed even more than its interior.  In 1954 much of Southwest D.C. was demolished and rebuilt in accordance with the District of Columbia Redevelopment Act of 1950.  The convent, school, and original priory which were originally part of the parish were demolished to make room for the Southwest Freeway and frontage road.  The main church building itself, however, was protected and saved as a result of an official act of Congress.  During the intervening years since the church was built, everything else in the neighborhood has changed too, either being developed or torn down and replaced with large buildings housing either government offices, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Headquarters, or private businesses such as the Hyatt Place DC/National Mall Hotel.

Hopefully the parish bell tower’s large bronze bell, which was installed in March of 1889 and has been ringing each day for the past 127 years, will continue to draw people like me to experience this unique and beautiful church, which remains consistent in the midst of change.

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Statue of Brigadier General Thaddeus Kościuszko

On this ride I went to Lafayette Square Park, located just north of the White House between Pennsylvania Avenue and H Street, and between 15th and 17th Streets (MAP).  I went there to see one of the four statues which anchor the four corners of the park.  Today, I went to see the statue of Brigadier General Thaddeus Kościuszko, located at the northeast corner of the park.  The other three statues, which all outrank Kosciuszko, are of Major General Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette, Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, and Major General Comte Jean de Rochambeau.

The four corner statues located in Lafayette Square honor foreign volunteers who fought for the new nation during the American Revolutionary War.  As such, they are four of a total of fourteen statues known collectively as the “American Revolution Statuary”, which are scattered throughout D.C., mainly in squares and traffic circles, and are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Kościuszko statue was designed by a Polish sculptor named Antoni Popiel as part of a competition in 1907 to design a monument for the park.  Popiel’s design placed second in the competition.  For unknown reasons, however, President Theodore Roosevelt selected Popiel’s design for implementation.  It is unknown what happened with the design of the contest’s winner.  Kościuszko design was then erected in 1910, and dedicated by President William Howard Taft that same year.

The Kościuszko statue honors the Polish army officer, military engineer and statesman who gained fame both for his role in the American Revolution, and his leadership of a national insurrection in his homeland.

Born to a family of noble origin sometime in February of 1746,  Andrew Thaddeus Bonaventure Kościuszko began his rise to prominenace when he attracted the attention of King Stanisław II Augustus Poniatowski while working as an instructor at a military academy in Warsaw.  The king was so impressed, in fact, that he sent him to Paris for further study.  Upon his return to Poland, he taught the daughters of General Józef Sosnowski.  During this time he fell in love one of the daughters, Ludwika, and rather than ask her father for his daughter’s hand in marriage, he tried unsuccessfully to elope with her.  Facing the wrath of her father, Kościuszko fled to France, and in 1776 he came to America, where he joined the colonial forces in their fight for independence.  At the end of the war he was given U.S. citizenship.

In 1784, however, Kościuszko returned to Poland.  But because of his association with the Czartoryski family, then in opposition to the king, he could not secure an appointment in the Polish army.  So for the next five years he lived in poverty on a small country estate.

With the advent of reforms in Poland in 1789, Kościuszko returned to military service. Under the protection of his former love, Ludwika, now the wife of Prince Lubomirski, and with the support of local nobility, he was granted the rank of general major.  Then in March of 1794, Kościuszko organized an uprising against Russia which, under the rule of Catherine the Great, had invaded Poland in an attempt to end Polish internal reforms designed to liberate the nation from Russian influence.  While serving as commander-in-chief of the uprising, Russian forces captured him at the Battle of Maciejowice in October 1794, which led to the defeat of the Kościuszko Uprising.

In 1796, following the death of Catherine the Great, Kościuszko was pardoned by her successor, Tsar Paul I, and he emigrated back to the United States.  It was then that be became a close friend of Thomas Jefferson, with whom he shared many ideals of human rights.

After receiving news of fresh possibilities to promote Poland’s cause in France, Kościuszko  secretly left the United States on May 5, 1798.  But his return to France was a disappointment when he could not gain Napolean’s support for Poland’s independence, nor later on, that of Alexander I of Russia.  Hence, Kościuszko retired from public life, and for the rest of his life remained in exile from Poland, living first in France and later in Switzerland.  It was not until after his death in 1817 that Kościuszko was finally able to return to his native Poland, when his remains were carried to Kraków and buried among the kings’ tombs in the cathedral.

Kościuszko was not only a supporter of American independence and a Polish national hero, but also a believer in social equality.  Kościuszko wrote a will in 1798 dedicating his assets to the freedom and education of American slaves.

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Note:  If you want to learn even more about Thaddeus Kościuszko, I would recommend a visit to the foundation named after him.  Founded in 1925, on the eve of the 150th anniversary of his enlistment in the American revolutionary cause, The Kosciuszko Foundation is a national not-for-profit, nonpartisan, and nonsectarian organization dedicated to promoting educational and cultural exchanges between the United States and Poland, and to increase American understanding of Polish culture and history.  It is located about ten blocks from the statue, at 2025 O Street (MAP), in northwest D.C.’s DuPont Circle neighborhood, just a block down the street from Sonny Bono Memorial Park.

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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.

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The James Cardinal Gibbons Memorial

The James Cardinal Gibbons Memorial

The James Cardinal Gibbons Memorial Statue is a public artwork, and is located in front of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic parish, in a median at the confluence of 16th Street, Park Road and Sacred Heart Way (MAP), in northwest D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood.

The statue depicts a bronze figure of James Gibbons seated, wearing cardinals robes, with his right hand in a raised position as if giving a blessing.  In his left hand he is holding a cross that hangs from his neck.  The base, which is made of granite, has a relief of a shield topped with an ecclesiastical hat. The shield has the coat of arms of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and the Cardinal’s personal coat of arms.  Around the shield are rows of tassels that represent the ranks of clergy. The statue was authorized by Congress and President Calvin Coolidge on April 23, 1928, at no expense to the United States. The piece was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, and created by Italian sculptor Leo Lentelli.  It was unveiled in August of 1932, a date chosen to coincide with the Knights of Columbus’ 50th anniversary.  The statue was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

Cardinal James Gibbons was born in 1834 in Baltimore, Maryland, to Irish immigrant parents.  After his father fell ill with tuberculosis, he moved the family back to Ireland, where he believed the air would benefit him.  After his father died in 1847, his mother moved 19-year old James and the rest of the family back to the United States in 1853, settling in New Orleans, Louisiana.

After deciding to pursue the priesthood, Gibbons entered St. Charles College in Ellicott City, Maryland.  After graduating from St. Charles, he entered St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.  On June 30, 1861, Gibbons was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Francis Kenrick of Baltimore, and served during the Civil War as a volunteer chaplain at Fort McHenry.  In 1868, at the age of 34, he became one of the youngest Catholic bishops in the world, and was known by the nickname “the boy bishop.”  From 1869 to 1870, Gibbons attended the First Vatican Council in Rome, and ultimately was the last of its participants to die.  In 1877, the Baltimore-born Gibbons became the head of the oldest archdiocese in the United States. Also in 1887, he helped found The Catholic University of America in D.C., and served as its first chancellor.  Nine years later, in 1886, Pope Leo XIII named him as the second-ever U.S. cardinal.

A man who was often viewed as the face of the Catholic Church in America, Gibbons was also an advocate of the labor movement of those days, and played a key role in obtaining permission from the Pope for Catholics to join labor unions.  And in his dealings with the Vatican, he and other “Americanizers” championed the separation of church and state.

An ardent proponent of American civic institutions, Gibbons called the U.S. Constitution the finest instrument of government ever created.   He was also a frequent visitor to the White House.  Gibbons knew every president from Andrew Johnson to Warren Harding, and served as an advisor to many of them.  President William Howard Taft honored him for his humanitarian work at the 1911 golden jubilee celebration of his ordination. And in 1917, President Theodore Roosevelt hailed him as “the most venerated, respected and useful citizen in America.”

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Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial

The National memorial to our 26th President is located on an island in the middle of the Potomac River. The Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial is maintained by the National Park Service, and is  part of the nearby George Washington Memorial Parkway.  It is  located near the western end of the Mount Vernon Trail (MAP), and is accessible by a footbridge from Virginia on the western bank of the Potomac River.  The land is generally maintained as a natural park, with various trails and a memorial plaza.

Roosevelt Island is a teardrop-shaped, 88.5-acre island that features various hiking trails and a memorial with a plaza featuring a statue of Roosevelt.  The land is land is generally maintained as a nature preserve.  One of Theodore Roosevelt’s greatest legacies was his dedication to conservation.  Today, this island stands as a fitting memorial to the outdoorsman, naturalist, visionary, explorer, historian, and politician.

In 1931, the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association purchased the island with the intention of erecting a memorial honoring Roosevelt.  Congress authorized the memorial in May of that year, but did not appropriate funds for the memorial for almost three decades.  Funds were finally designated by Congress in 1960.  As with all historic areas administered by the National Park Service, the national memorial is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; the listing first appeared on October 15, 1966.

The memorial was dedicated on October 27, 1967, and includes a 17-foot statue, four large granite monoliths with some of Roosevelt’s more famous quotations, and a water feature with two large fountains.  On the eastern and western ends of the memorial are two arched footbridges that lead over the water feature to 2 1/2 miles of foot trails and boardwalks that wind through the swamp, marsh and forest areas of the park.

The National Memorial includes a 17-foot statue, a water feature with two large fountains, and a central plaza.  On the eastern and western ends of the plaza are two arched footbridges that lead over the water feature to 2 1/2 miles of foot trails and boardwalks that wind through the swamp, marsh and forest areas of the park.

Surrounding the perimeter of the memorial plaza are four large granite monoliths.  Carved into the monoliths are some of Roosevelt’s more famous quotations.  The quotes are divided into four categories entitled Manhood, Nature, The State, and Youth.  The wisdom of the man imparted by these quotes from the memorial (see below) provide an understanding of the diverse and complex nature of the man to whom the memorial is dedicated.

MANHOOD •  A man’s usefulness depends upon his living up to his ideals in so far as he can. (A Letter to Dr. Sturgis Bigelow, March 29, 1898) •  It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. (The Strenuous Life, 1900) •  All daring and courage, all iron endurance of misfortune make for a finer and nobler type of manhood. (Address to Naval War College, June 2, 1897) •  Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die: and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life and the duty of life. (The Great Adventure, 1918)

NATURE   •  There is delight in the hardy life of the open. (African Game Trails, 1910)  •  There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm. (African Game Trails, 1910)  •  The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value. (The New Nationalism, 1910)  •  Conservation means development as much as it does protection. (The New Nationalism, 1910)

THE STATE   •  Ours is a government of liberty by, through, and under the law. (Speech at Spokane, WA, May 26, 1903)  •  A great democracy has got to be progressive or it will soon cease to be great or a democracy. (The New Nationalism, 1910)  •  Order without liberty and liberty without order are equally destructive. (Miscellaneous Writings, c. 1890s)  •  In popular government results worth having can be achieved only by men who combine worthy ideals with practical good sense. (Address at Harvard Union, Feb. 23, 1907)  •  If I must choose between righteousness and peace I choose righteousness. (America and the World War, 1915)

YOUTH  •  I want to see you game, boys, I want to see you brave and manly, and I also want to see you gentle and tender. (Address at Friends School, Washington, DC, May 24, 1907)  •  Be practical as well are generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground. (Speech at Prize Day Exercises at Groton School, Groton, MA, May 24 1904)  •  Courage, hard work, self-mastery, and intelligent effort are all essential to successful life. (America and the World War, 1915)  •  Alike for the nation and the individual, the one indispensable requisite is character. (American Ideals, 1897)

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