Posts Tagged ‘Woodland-Normanstone Terrace’

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Statue of Sir Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill is a widely-known historic figure. When asked, a majority of people would be able to tell you who he was – the Prime Minister of England during World War II, and one of the greatest world leaders of the 20th century. But most people know relatively little about the man himself, despite the fact that he was one of the most diverse, interesting and admired men in recent history.

The following are some examples of the little-known facts that even people who know of Churchill don’t know about him.

  • Like his father, Churchill was a citizen of England. However, his mother was an American. And late in his life, Churchill became an American citizen when President John F. Kennedy made him the first person to be made an honorary American citizen, an honor that has been conferred on only two people during their lifetimes. The other was Mother Teresa.
  • As a young man he was often bullied and teased mercilessly by other children. Churchill struggled with a stutter and a lateral lisp, and was mocked for his red hair, for which he was given the cruel nickname “Copperknob”.
  • Churchill was extremely accident prone. In fact, he was so accident prone that the world is fortunate he survived into adulthood. During his lifetime Churchill fell off a bridge, fell several times from horses, nearly drowned in a lake, dislocated his shoulder while disembarking from a ship, crashed a plane while learning to fly, and was hit by a car when he looked the wrong way while crossing New York’s Fifth Avenue. None of these incidents, however, left him too worse for wear.
  • For Churchill it was not the third, but rather the fourth time that was a charm. Churchill proposed to three different women during his twenties. But all three said no.  It wasn’t until he proposed to his future wife, Clementine Hozier, that his proposal was accepted.  He and his darling Clementine remained married for 57 years, and the bond between the Churchills remained strong throughout. The couple would often send one another affectionate letters during long periods of absence – sometimes decorated with handdrawn illustrations. The pair also had pet names – she was his “Kat” and he was her “Pug”.
  • Much like the soon-to-be-former Speaker of the House, John Boehner, Churchill was an incredibly emotional man. He would often breakdown into sobs during meetings when he was given bad news, and he can even be heard trying to hold back tears in some of broadcasts and recordings of his speeches.
  • Like many Englishmen, Churchill often enjoyed his afternoon tea. But far from being a teetotaler, Churchill also frequently enjoyed a drink, and particularly Champagne. He once was quoted as saying, “I could not live without Champagne. In victory I deserve it. In defeat I need it.”
  • He also enjoyed good cigars, and was so notorious for his smoking that there is a Cuban cigar named in his honor.
  • Churchill claimed to have witnessed Abraham Lincoln’s ghost walking the corridors of The White House.  He is not the only one to make this claim though.  Both Theodore Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, also claimed to have encountered President Lincoln’s ghost in the White House.
  • When Churchill retired he moved to the South of France to concentrate on his writing. Under the pen name “Winston S. Churchill”, he wrote about 20 books over the course of his life, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
  • Churchill could be tactful, but didn’t always choose to be.  He once defined tact as “the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.”  But in response to a British politician named Bessie Braddock, who accused him of being drunk, he is quoted as saying, “I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.”
  • Using the pseudonym “Charles Morin”, Churchill was a prolific and accomplished painter. Not only did he use this creative outlet to derive great pleasure, but in it he found a haven to overcome his clinical depression, which he referred to as his “black dog”, a condition from which he suffered throughout his life. He produced almost 600 works of art during his lifetime.
  • In addition to being an artist and a writer, Churchill was, oddly enough, also an amateur bricklayer, and was at one time a member of the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers.  In his retirement he constructed brick buildings and garden walls and at his country home.
  • Lastly, Churchill was also a passionate breeder of butterflies. As a young man, he was a serious butterfly collector on his travels across the world. In fact, his interest in butterflies can be traced back as far as the age of six, when he wrote to his mother, “I am never at a loss to do anything while I am in the country for I shall be occupied with ‘butterflying’ all day.” In his later years, he built a butterfly habitat garden, complete with a brick breeding house, at Chartwell, his country home in England. He even attempted to bring back an extinct species, the black-veined white, by breeding imported caterpillars.

So on today’s lunchtime bike ride, I decided to go see a local statue erected in honor of this joint-citizenship-holding, red-headed, stuttering, clumsy, emotional, clinically-depressed, alcohol-drinking, cigar-smoking, ghost-seeing, book-writing, sometimes-tactless, artistic, bricklaying, butterfly-breeding, world leader.

The statue of Sir Winston Churchill is located at the British Embassy, which was the first embassy built in an area of D.C. now known as Embassy Row.  It is located at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP), in the Woodland-Normanstone Terrace neighborhood of northwest D.C.  The sculpture was created by an American sculptor named William Mozart McVey, and rests on a granite base.  Underneath the base is a time capsule and soil from England’s Blenheim Palace, from his rose garden at Chartwell, and from the Brooklyn home of his mother. The time capsule will be opened in the year 2063 to celebrate the centenary of the date on which Churchill was given honorary U.S. citizenship.

Churchill is depicted making the “V” for Victory sign with his right hand, and holding a cigar and a cane at his side with his left hand.  He is dressed in a suit, vest, and bow tie.  And symbolically, Churchill is positioned striding forward, with one of the cast bronze statue’s feet on British soil inside the marked embassy grounds, while with the other foot he is stepping into D.C., and thus in the United States.  This was done to symbolize Churchill’s Anglo-American parentage, his dual citizenship, and his work towards the maintenance of the Anglo-American alliance.

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

The plaque at the base of the statue reads, “Sir Winston Churchill 1874 – 1965 This statue, by William McVey (1902-1995), was erected in 1966 by public subscription, on the initiative of the English Speaking Union. One foot stands on United States soil, one on British Embassy grounds: a symbol of Churchill’s Anglo-American descent, and of the Alliance he did so much to forge, in war and peace.”

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The Kahlil Gibran Memorial Garden

When you’re traveling by bike, you have the benefit of a different perspective along the way.  You’re going slow enough to be able to see and appreciate things you otherwise might miss if you were driving in a car.  But you’re also travelling fast enough to cover a lot more distance than you can when you’re walking.  That’s the way it was on this ride.  Along the way I ran across the Kahlil Gibran Memorial Garden.  It is located in the midst of the wooded ravine known as Normanstone Park which borders Rock Creek Park, just off of Massachusetts Avenue and across the street from the British Embassy (MAP).  The garden was built and then dedicated as a memorial in 1991 to one of history’s most influential Arab Americans, Kahlil Gibran.  Of Lebanese descent, Kahlil Gibran was a writer, poet, artist and philosopher.  His writings and poetry have inspired countless millions around the world.  He is the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu.

The memorial garden was a project of the Kahlil Gibran Centennial Foundation, established in 1983 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the poet’s birth.  The centerpieces of the memorial are a bust of the Gibran in a contemplative pose, and a star-shaped  fountain surrounded by flowers, hedges and limestone benches engraved with various quotes from the poet, which include:  “We extract your elements to make cannons and bombs but out of our elements you create lilies and roses.  How patient you are earth and how merciful!”  “When you love you should not say God is in my heart, but rather, I am in the heart of God.”  “Do not the spirits who dwell in the ether envy man his pain?”  “Life without freedom is like a body without a soul, and freedom without thought is confusion.”

Unlike many of the memorials downtown, this off the beaten path site is a serene and peaceful place, reflecting Gibran’s passion for peace.  So if you have the time, pack a lunch and bring along good book (such as Gibran’s “The Prophet”), and you’ll be rewarded with a delightful way to spend a quiet afternoon in D.C.

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