Buchanan Statue

buchananPresident James Buchanan: served as President from 1857-1861
Sculpture: Hans Schuler
Architect: William Gordon Beecher
Dedication: June 26, 1930, 2:30pm
Ceremony: President Hoover addressed the crowd
Cost: $100,000 given by Mrs. Harriet Lane Johnston, Buchanan’s niece and mistress of the White House during his administration.

Buchanan was born in Franklin County, Pa., on April 23, 1791, and died March 1861 at Wheatland in Pennsylvania. His public service career included being both a U.S. Representative and a Senator, serving as Minister to Russia, Secretary of State under Polk, and Minister to Great Britain under Pierce. His tenure as President is marked by strife in the Kansas Territory, the Dred Scott Supreme Court case, and the lead up to the Civil War.

During Buchanan’s service as President, his niece, Harriet Lane served as White House hostess. President Buchanan, who never married, was her uncle and guardian after she was orphaned at the age of eleven. When Harriet Lane Johnston died in 1903 her will included a bequest for a statue honoring her uncle and the 15th President of the United States.

The controversy over erecting a memorial statue for James Buchanan in Meridian Hill Park began immediately. For 15 years Congress debated  or ignored voting about the statue. The bequest had to be accepted by the United States by July 2, 1918 or the monies would revert to other purposes. And it took until 1918 for Congress to resolve to allow a statue in Buchanan’s honor, and then another 10 years to finish the memorial in Meridian Hill Park.

At issue was the question of Buchanan’s loyalty to the Union during his presidency, which immediately preceded Lincoln’s.

Leading the dissent was Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (R.,-Mass.) who stated, “This joint resolution proposes at this moment, in the midst of this war, to erect a statue to the only President upon whom rests the shadow of disloyalty in the great office to which he was elected.” Lodge also argued that was no excuse for erecting a statue to a man like Buchanan in the Capital City that at the time had no memorial to such Presidents as the John Adams, who signed the Declaration of Independence; Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Democratic Party, and Madison, Monroe and John Quincy Adams.

In the meantime the fine arts commission had approved the final model of the Buchanan memorial in 1916. So, on June 17, 1918 the Buchanan statue site was passed in the Senate by a vote of 51 to 11. The House of Representatives had passed a resolution for the statue on February 20, 1918 by a vote of 217 to 142.

Controversy continued for another 10 years with many citizens arguing against a memorial of any kind.

The Buchanan Statue was unveiled on June 26, 1930. According to reports, President Hoover and a group of diplomats and government officeals attended the unveiling and dedication for the memorial to James Buchanan on June 26, 1930.  And the formal presentation of the statue was made by Roland S. Morris, former ambassador to Japan. The ceremony was not open to the public.

Upon unveiling the statue a dozen carrier pigeons were released from a lower pavilion, and the ceremony ended with the playing of “Taps”.

In his presentation of the statue to the nation, Roland S. Morris declared that over time, “[Buchanan’s] qualities as a statesman became apparent, and we now recognize him as one of our truly great men.”

Buchanan was called the first of the log-cabin presidents that included Lincoln, Johnson, and Grant. Of these four, three have statues in the nation’s capital.

Photos by: Fiona Clem

Citations:

The Washington Post, Jun 18, 1918 (p7)

The Washington Post, Jun 26, 1930 (p20)

The Washington Post, Buchanan Statue Site Authorized, June 18, 1918

The Buchanan Statue, Jan 16, 1928, pg6

The White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/jamesbuchanan

Dante Statue

dante_closeupDante Alighieri, Italian poet (1265 – 1321)
Location: Meridian Hill Park, southwest corner, 15th Street and Florida Avenue, NW. The location was original called Poet’s Corner.
Sculptor: Ettore Ximenes, Italy
Ceremony: Thursday, December 1, 1921, 3:30pm
Dedication: Commissioner Rudolph, M. Rene Viviani, Amb. Ricci

The statue of Dante was given to the city by Chevalier Carlo Barsotti, president of the Dante commission of New York. Created by Italian Commentator Ettore Ximenes, it is a replica of the Dante statue in New York City. The statue is twelve feet high, and the pedestal is 9 feet high.  At the unveiling a temporary pedestal was used. The statue show Dante wrapped in a long cape, with a book under his arm.  Whitney Warren was the designer.

The dedication schedule was changed to accommodate some of the European delegation who were in Washington, D.C. for a post-World-War-I conference on the limitation of armaments.

Addressing the crowd was M. Rene Viviani, former French premier. Also on hand were Italian Ambassador Roland Ricci, and Ambassador Jusserand. President Warren G. Harding was in attendance along with delegates from the recently concluded arms conference.

Barsotti explained that reverence for Dante, hope for success “of the noble work started by America in the interests of world-peace”, and “love, devotion, and loyalty to this great nation” were the main reasons for this gift to America.

Commissioner Rudolph of the Fine Arts Commission accepted the state on behalf of the city and said, “The selection of the location for the statue is a particularly happy choice in that it is in what is destined to become one of the most beautiful sections of the Nation’s Capital.” He continued: “This spot will prove a popular resort to hosts of students, writers, painters and sculptors who visit the Capital from all parts of the world.”

Op-Eds questioning the positioning of the Dante statue — hidden away in Meridian Hill Park, were plentiful after the dedication. But as one writer pointed out, Dante was a man of the people, using the quote: ‘Give the people light and they will find their own path’ to illustrate his point, and therefore perfectly situated.  Speculation and opinions continued until November 1923 when final arrangements were made for a Rockport granite base, a replacement for the temporary base that had been used during the dedication. The base was presented and paid for by Carlo Barsotti, who had paid for the statue.

The year the statue was dedicated, 1921, was the 600th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri.

citation:

The Washington Post, (Oct 22, 1910)

The Washington Post, Place Dante Statue in Meridian Park Soon (Nov. 18, 1921)