5 posts tagged george washington
IWALKED WASHINGTON D.C.’S GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
George Washington University, also known largely via the initials “GW,” is the largest university in Washington, D.C. This private school is, of course, named in honor of our nation’s first president, George Washington. Washington had tried unsuccessfully on a number of occasions to begin an institution of higher learning within the city. His original plan was to erect a school atop Observatory Hill off of Massachusetts Avenue. When this effort did not come to fruition he ensured that suitable funds were set aside for the establishment of a university in the future. Washington donated the sum of fifty shares of stock in the Potomac Company, a company created in 1785 to help establish canals throughout the area. Seen as a strong investment at the time, Washington could not have foreseen that railroads would supersede canals and by the early nineteenth century the stocks were of no value.
Luckily another individual held a similar lofty goal for establishment of a university, a Baptist minister named Luther Rice. Rice donated a substantial sum of land for construction of a university (forty-seven acres in total) along Boundary Street (now known as Florida Avenue, NW) between the block of 14th and 15th Streets. A large building was constructed on-site and on February 9, 1821 President James Monroe officially approved a congressional charter creating Columbian College. The inaugural class for Columbian only featured thirty enrolled students which were instructed via three full-time faculty. Tuition for each of those students seems to have been a relative bargain at $200 for the year versus the $8,673 for residents as of 2012. The first graduate class from Columbian College was in December 1824 and was an assumingly close knit group of three individuals.
Over the ensuing year the college would begin a massive expansion. A medical school was introduced in 1824 and a law school would follow just two years later. In 1873 graduate classes were offered for the first time and school was granted university status. The University was officially renamed in honor of our first president in 1904 and moved to Foggy Bottom in 1912.
Growth during this period did not occur without some setbacks though. During the Civil War the University saw a significant decline in enrollment as many students left to enroll in the war. Ironically much of the student population was southern sympathizers and thus a majority of the students fought for the Confederacy. Spare buildings and bunks during this period were refitted for usage as hospitals and barracks for soldiers.
Today GW is not only one of the most prestigious schools in the area but also one of the wealthiest. The university lays claims to over forty-two acres of land within the Foggy Bottom area alone, making it the second largest land owner in the area less the U.S. government. Its approximate ninety buildings are spread across three campuses that are located within Foggy Bottom, Mount Vernon and Ashburn, VA.
With more than twenty-thousand students in attendance here annually, it goes without saying that GW has had its share of noted alumni. On January 26, 1939 it was here that Niels Bohr announced that Otto Hahn had split the atom for the first time. Nobel Prize winner George Gamow also developed the Big Bang Theory here in the 1930s and 1940s. Other celebrities have included the likes of the former head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, actor Alec Baldwin, former Boston Celtics coach Arnold “Red” Auerbach, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The heart of the campus is located near the intersection of 20th Street, NW and H Street, NW–the University Yard. The brick paved paths leading you to the Yard are beautifully decorated with rose gardens that bloom here each spring through early fall. While the University Yard primarily serves as a gathering place for either student or social functions, it is also home to a cast bronze statue of George Washington.
This bronze statue was cast as a replica of the original marble version by sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. The original statue currently graces the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond. Houdon was a well-known sculptor in his time including noted works of individuals such as Benjamin Franklin (1778) and Thomas Jefferson (1789). In fact, it was Jefferson that recommend Houdon create a tributary portrait statue of Washington. Franklin made the added effort of actually sailing over to France in 1785 to convince Houdon to visit Mount Vernon. After some persuasion Houdon agreed to a two-week stay in October in which he could study Washington in preparation for a new work.
Houdon’s resulting sculpture shows Washington in the uniform he wore during the Revolutionary War. In his right hand Washington holds a cane while his left hand rests atop a stack of thirteen rods (selected to symbolize the original thirteen colonies). When Washington’s friend Marquis de Lafayette saw the statue for the first time he was quoted as saying, “That is the man himself. I can almost realize he is going to move.”
Additional castings of the original work were made (with some reluctance) during the years 1840-1910. During this period, thirty-three replicas were made of both bronze and plaster. The work in front of you was acquired by George Washington University in 1932 in celebration of the former president’s two-hundredth birthday. The statue has seen a number of homes throughout the years on this campus but finally made its way to the University Yard on September 6, 1991 and it has remained here ever since.
One other interesting fact related to the former first president and his association with the University exists around Washington’s own Freemason Bible. It is said that this Bible is the same one on which each university president must take his oath of office.
Address: 2000 H Street, NW, Washington, DC. (Note: Address is related to LawSchool located near University Yard.)
IWalked Audio Tours To See This Site: Washington D.C’s White House and Foggy Bottom. (Download the MP3 tour here. iPhone application tour is available here. Please note, all WashingtonD.C. tours are now available as in-app purchases upon download of ourFREEWashingtonD.C.Tours application, which includes a nearly 4-hour tour of the National Mall.)
IWALKED WASHINGTON D.C.’S WASHINGTON MONUMENT
The Washington Monument is not only the tallest structure in Washington D.C. but it is also the world’s tallest stone structure and obelisk. Standing at 555 feet and 5 1/8 inches it also ranks as the third tallest column in the world after the San Jacinto Monument in Texas (11.9 feet taller) and the Juche Tower in North Korea (less than 1 meter taller). The monument is constructed of 36,000 pieces of granite and marble and weighs 81,120 tons (the capstone along weighs 3,300 pounds). Its walls range in thickness from fifteen feet near the base to approximately eighteen inches near the top. Surrounding the monument in a circular pattern are fifty U.S. flags that were added in 1959.
Discussion around a tributary monument to America’s first president started as early as following the Revolutionary War. The initial plan called for construction of a large equestrian statue which Congress approved in 1783. Despite having received authorization from Congress, plans for the memorial did not move forward. It was not until after George Washington’s death in 1799 that an active interest arose once more. During this time the possibility of creating a mausoleum in tribute was raised, however, Washington’s family expressed reluctance to move his body from Mount Vernon. Thomas Jefferson, meanwhile, took the initiative to even place a marker at a proposed site to signify where he envisioned the yet to be agreed-upon memorial would reside. (This original marker eventually sank into the boggy marsh land and was lost to time.) Repeated efforts to move forward were subsequently raised in 1816, 1819, 1824, 1825 and 1832 but each time lack of funds was raised as an issue.
After the latest failure in 1832, an effort was begun to raise money from American citizens to help fund the structure. Each American was asked to donate $1 to aid in the cause. By 1836, approximately $26,000 had been raised (equivalent to about $600,000 USD in 2010) to begin planning for the monument. With suitable funds in hand, a competition for the monument’s design was announced.
The winner of the competition turned out to be one of the first American born architects, Robert Mills. Mills, who studied under James Hoban (architect of the White House), had ironically “already” designed a Washington Monument. This one was located in Baltimore, Maryland and constructed in 1815. Mills’ design called for a large flat-topped obelisk surrounded by a circular colonnade. Atop the colonnade would reside a sculpture of Washington atop a chariot, and inside would be thirty statues dedicated to various heroes of the American Revolution.
Concern was raised over the price tag associated with Mills’ design (estimated at over $1 million in 1836). Planners decided to move forward with building of the obelisk though, with hope that visual progress would spur further donations to fund the remainder. Thus, on July 4, 1848 ground was officially broken for construction of the Washington Monument.
Construction halted at one hundred fifty-six feet in 1854 when funds ran out. Congress initially approved an additional sum of $200,000 to continue work; however, the funds were rescinded in favor of having each state (or other interest groups) donate commemorative stones to integrate into the structure. Due to continued bickering over the design and sources of money (followed by a little thing called the Civil War), work did not commence on the structure for twenty-two more years. Mark Twain described the partially completed monument as “a factory with the top broken off.”
After the Civil War, efforts to resume construction began. Congress once again appropriated $200,000 towards the monument and this time the funds stuck. As planning started, discussions once again arose around the structure’s design. Multiple proponents for the removal of the colonnade stepped forth which Mills vehemently fought. The continued bickering eventually led to the solicitation for alternative designs. Congress considered up to five other designs before deciding to alter Mills’ original submission by removing the much debated colonnade and adding a pointed pyramid atop.
Building started again in 1876, now under the supervision of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lincoln Casey. During his tenure, Casey managed to strengthen the foundation of monument and integrate a number of the previously provided commemorative stones (193 in all) into the building’s interior walls. The point at which construction resumed in 1876 can still be seen today by the slight variation in color and tone of the stones used. The original quarry used from Maryland was no longer operational in 1876 and thus another quarry from Massachusetts had to be used to provide the needed stone. The monument was finally completed on December 6, 1884 with the placement of the one hundred ounce aluminum apex atop the structure. Etched onto the pyramidal apex were the names of key figures that assisted in the planning and building of the structure along with the words “Laus Deo” (“Praise God”…as confirmed via the 2009 Dan Brown novel, The Lost Symbol).
Despite being completed in 1884, visitation by the public would not be formally allowed until October 9, 1888. Originally visitors could climb the full 897 stairs inside; however, the general public is no longer allowed to do so because of concerns over safety and previous acts of vandalism on the interior. Currently the only allowable path to the top of the Washington Monument is the central elevator. This present-day elevator (installed in 1959) will get you to the top in just seventy to seventy-five seconds. Compare that to the “original” steam hoisted elevator which resided here and took a leisurely twenty minutes for the full journey. Only men were allowed to ride the original elevator (due to safety concerns) and they were provided with wine and cheese to help pass the time on their ride.
On August 23, 2001, the Washington Monument sustained structural damage from an earthquake that centered on Louisa Country in Virginia. The magnitude of the earthquake was measured at 5.8 and caused damage to both the interior and exterior of the monument. Cracks and missing mortar were noted via inspection by the National Park Service (NPS) and repairs are underway to ensure its preservation. When inquired as to the extent of the damage, the NPS responded, “It’s structurally sound and not going anywhere.” Repair costs are being largely financed by billionaire David Rubenstein (co-founder of The Carlyle Group). Rubenstein has donated the sum of $7.5 million towards the costs of fixing any damage caused by the earthquake. As of August 2012, estimates for the length of the repairs were calculated to be approximately ten to twelve months. This would set the Washington Monument for re-opening in June-August 2013 assuming the planned scheduled is maintained.
Upon completion of its restoration, normal business hours are planned to return. The Washington Monument is traditionally open every day outside of Christmas. Hours of operation are 9am-5pm, with extended hours until 10pm during the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Tickets to visit are free but must be obtained in advance. They may be obtained online (http://www.recreation.gov/tourParkDetail.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=77811), for which there is actually a $1.50 service fee, or at the Washington Monument Lodge located along the 15th Street, SW side of the site. The lodge is open beginning at 8:30am.
Address: Intersection of 15th Street, NW and Madison Drive, NW, Washington, DC
Cost: Free unless purchased online, then there is a $1.50 service charge.
IWalked Audio Tours To See This Site: Washington D.C’s The National Mall. (Coming Summer 2012.)
IWALKED NEW YORK CITY’S FEDERAL HALL NATIONAL MEMORIAL
Originally located on the site where Federal Hall now resides was said to be a magnificent building which served as the first US Capitol in New York during a brief period when New York was our nation’s capital. The building was a renovation of the prior British City Hall and was designed by Pierre L’Enfant, who is most famous for planning the layout of Washington D.C. It is in this building that George Washington actually took his oath to become the first president of the United States in 1789. It was also the site where the Bill of Rights was presented to Congress for the first time.
After our nation’s capital was moved to Washington D.C. a few years later, L’Enfant’s structure was eventually razed in 1812. Its pieces were sold for scrap for the erection of a replacement structure which netted the grand sum of $425. In 1842 that replacement structure (the current Federal Hall) was completed. Federal Hall was unveiled as a large stone Greek Revival building with large Doric columns and as the home to the U.S. Custom House. It remained the Custom House headquarters until the 1920s before eventually becoming a museum which it remains to this day.
Guided and free tours are available. Unfortunately Federal Hall’s hours echo those of many government institutions and is only open Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm. Inside you can see many items from that brief period when New York was the center of the US government including the actual Bible on which George Washington took his oath of office.
If you are unable to enjoy any of the interior of Federal Hall be sure to check out the large bronze statue of Mr. Washington situated just outside the front façade on the steps. This over-sized statue was designed by John Quincy Adams Ward, an American sculptor, who also was responsible for the famous Ether Monument in Boston’s Public Garden if you are at all familiar with it.
Movie fans may recognize the exterior as the site of two famous movies. In 1979, the exterior served as the supposed courtroom in Kramer vs. Kramer where the child custody battle ensued. And in 1990, you in may recall Whoopi Goldberg providing a generous gift of $4 million to the homeless after some carefully persuasion by Patrick Swayze.
Address: 26 Wall Street, New York City, NY
Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-5pm
IWalked Audio Tours To See This Site: New York City’s Lower Manhattan. (Purchase/download the MP3 tour here. iPhone application tour is available here. Please note, all NYC tours are now available as in-app purchases upon download of our FREE NYC Lite application, which includes a free 1.5 hour tour of a portion of the Upper West Side.)
A Peak of Washington
The grandest of all statues located within the Boston Public Garden is the George Washington Equestrian statue located near one of the park’s major entrances at the intersection of Arlington Street and Commonwealth Avenue. The statue is breathtaking measuring thirty-eight feet tall. Atop the granite base is Mr. Washington in his full military gear astride his horse, which is well, what an equestrian statue is. This was the first equestrian statue in all of Boston. Another noted equestrian statue of Paul Revere is located Boston’s Little Italy district (the North End). Alongside Washington’s left side is his scabbard and within his right hand is a sword which has known to disappear so often that a stock of spares is maintained by the city.
The artist was Thomas Ball who also designed the second-place Charles Sumner statue located within the Garden (http://iwalkedaudiotours.com/iwalked-boston%e2%80%99s-public-garden-charles-sumner-statue/). Other noted works by Ball include the Daniel Webster statue in Central Park. Ball, a Charlestown native, spent three years on this work prior to it’s unveiling on July 3, 1869. With its unveiling, the statue finally gave Boston the fitting tribute to Washington which it had sought for thirty-nine years since a failed attempt to rename the Boston Common to Washington Park.
Address: Boston Public Gardens, Boston, MA. Near the intersection of Arlington Street and Commonwealth Avenue.