The 150th Anniversary of the George Washington Statue in Washington Circle

Washington_Circle_190sqThis past Feb­ru­ary 22nd marked the 150th anniver­sary of the ded­i­ca­tion of this pub­lic work. The eques­trian statue of George Wash­ing­ton in Foggy Bottom’s Wash­ing­ton Cir­cle was ded­i­cated in 1860 by Pres­i­dent James Buchanan before an audi­ence that included the vice pres­i­dent, cab­i­net sec­re­taries, sen­a­tors and mil­i­tary leaders.

“Alto­gether it was the finest mil­i­tary and civic dis­play in Wash­ing­ton for many years,” accord­ing to a Harper’s Weekly arti­cle from the time. “The [parade] col­umn, extend­ing over half a mile in length, pro­ceeded up Penn­syl­va­nia Avenue under pleas­ing aus­pices, except the mud.”

In a short but impres­sively ver­bose speech, Pres­i­dent Buchanan pro­claimed, “The hon­or­able and impor­tant duty has been assigned to me of ded­i­cat­ing this statue of Wash­ing­ton, which is a noble pro­duc­tion of native Amer­i­can genius. This wel­come and grate­ful task I now pro­ceed to perform.”

Pres­i­dent Buchanan then char­ac­ter­ized the ded­i­ca­tion as an “act of pious devo­tion … in the name of the whole Amer­i­can peo­ple of the United States, one and indi­vis­i­ble, now and for­ever.” Despite the rhetoric, a year later the nation was torn apart by the Civil War.

Sculp­tor Clark Mills also cre­ated the 1853 eques­trian statue of Andrew Jack­son in Lafayette Park just north of the White House.


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