Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Jefferson Building’

Plant-Based D.C. Landmarks

Sadly, despite having worked in downtown D.C. for the past 30 years, I had never visited the United States Botanic Garden during the Christmas holiday season before this year.  I’ve been there many times but not during the holidays. But a friend who only lived here for a year before moving out of the area knew about the Botanic Garden’s annual holiday display, entitled Season’s Greenings, and the sights, smells, and sounds that accompany it.  When she asked me about this year’s display, it prompted me to go check it out.  And I’m so glad I did.

This year’s display is a multifaceted one that stretches throughout the Botanic Garden.  First, it includes the return of a series of D.C. landmarks made out of plant materials.  The holiday display also includes thousands of blooms throughout the Conservatory, from exotic orchids to a showcase of heirloom and newly developed poinsettia varieties in the seasonal Poinsettia Room.  Lastly, this year’s holiday decorations include a showcase of model trains chugging around, below, through, and above plant-based recreations of iconic sights and roadside attractions from across the United States.

I will be covering the Poinsettia display, and the model train and roadside attractions showcase in the near future.  Today’s blog post focuses on the collection of D.C. landmarks, all made from a myriad of plant and other natural materials, which is displayed in the Garden Court.  There are a dozen local landmarks and memorials on display this year.  The White House swing set, which had been included in previous years, was not present this year because the actual swing set is no longer at the White House.  In it’s place is the Albert Einstein Memorial.  Also new this year is the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened a little over a year ago.  All of the landmarks would be incredible in and of themselves.  But knowing that they are made of plants adds to the experience.

For added holiday cheer at the Botanic Garden, there are concerts on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December, when hours are extended until 8pm.  If you can, I highly recommend going on one of these days for both the music and to see the exhibit and plant collections illuminated by colorful lights.  One of my first thoughts after seeing Seasons Greenings was wishing that I had known about it and gone in previous years.  So do yourself a favor and go so you don’t have the same thought years from now.


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

1 – U.S. Capitol Building
2 – The Thomas Jefferson Memorial
3 – Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building
4 – Lincoln Memorial
5 – National Museum of African American History and Culture
6 – National Museum of the American Indian
7 – Smithsonian Institution, The Castle
8 – U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory
9 – U.S. Supreme Court
10 – Washington Monument
11 – White House
12 – Albert Einstein Memorial

NOTE:  My blog post on “Seasons Greetings: Railroads and Roadside Attractions” will appear next Monday.

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.