Joan of Arc

Statue: Joan of Arc (Jeanne D’Arc, French)
Location: Meridian Hill Park
Sculptor: Paul Dubois, French
Dedication: January 6, 1922
Cost: $0, gift of the Femmes de France of New York

The only equestrian statue of a women in the nation’s Capital, the Joan of Arc statue was given to the United States by a group of women, Society of French Women of New York, and is dedicated to the women of the United States.

Joan of Arc was born in the village of Arc in 1412. When she was 13 she heard the voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret telling her to fight for France, which she did, driving the English from Orleans in 1429. In 1429 she was captured by the Burgundians, then tried in a French ecclesiastical court and convicted of heresy. In 1431, they burned her at the stake. She was 19.

The statue portrays her in armor, looking toward the heavens, with her sword held high. The statue, by Paul Dubois (1829-1905), is a replica of the one he erected in front of Rheims Cathedral in 1896.

According to The Washington Post the dedication services ‘were extremely simple.’ The ceremony included ‘a few speeches, the ceremony of unveiling and the national anthems of the United States and France.’

President and Mrs. Harding attended the ceremony, as did Ambassador Jules Jusserand of France. Speeches at the dedication ceremony were given by U.S. Secretary of War Weeks; Mme. Carlo Polifeme, president of the Society of French Women of New York, which gave the statue to the city; and Mrs. George Maynard Minor, president of the National Society of the D.A.R., who accepted the statue on behalf of the women of the United States. Amb. Jusserand also presented a medal from France to Mme. Polifeme for her work in getting the statue erected in Washington, D.C.

Statue of Jeanne D’Arc Unveiled with Simple but Impressive Services, The Washington Post, January 7, 1922

This equestrian statue of Joan of Arc, The Washington Post, 15 Aug 2004


I recently gave a tour of Meridian Hill Park as part of WalkingTownDC – a 10-day festival of tours organized by Cultural Tourism DC.

If you haven’t heard of Cultural Tourism DC check out their website at They offer a weekly e-newsletter distributed on Wednesdays and filled with activities and other interesting happenings. It’s a great resource.

Cultural Tourism is an independent coalition of over 230 culture, heritage, and community-based member organizations. They’re the ones that put up those heritage signs explaining neighborhood history, and they are assist with the Art on Call initiative.

WalkingTownDC is one part of the 10-day event, BikingTownDC is the other part. All the events are free and open to the public. The tours are provided by professional tour guides, historians, DC enthusiasts, and other local experts. If you didn’t get a chance to participate this year put a reminder on your calendar for the mid-September 2012 – for this wonderful event.

If you were not able to take my Meridian Hill tour, here are some fun facts you missed:

  • The lower part of the part was designed in an Italianate-like design. There are many design elements that reflect Italianate design including the human chessboard on the east-side of the lower reflecting pool.
  • John Earley, the concrete contractor, perfected the technique of concrete aggregate that was used throughout the park.
  • The park was the site of two Civil War encampments – the 5th New Jersey, and the 7th New York regiments.
  • The designer of the park never liked the placement of the  Joan of Arc statue – he felt it was disproportionate in scale to its surroundings.

Serenity Statue

Location: Meridian Hill Park, NW, upper park, on the 16th Street side
Placement: 1925
Sculptor: Jose Clara
Cost: Gift to the United States

The Serenity memorial is dedicated to Navy Lieutenant Commander William Henry Schuetze. It was given to the United States by Charles Deering. Deering and Schuetze were classmates at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and graduated in 1873.

According to the Deering Estate: “Charles Deering, a Civil War child, was enthralled by stories of naval heroics. He entered the U. S. Naval Academy as a cadet midshipman. In 1873, he graduated second in his class. Charles’ roommate and best friend, William Henry Schuetze, graduated in the top position.” Schuetze served in the United States Navy until his death in March of 1902.

The Serenity Statue had been completed by the time that Charles Deering “offered” the statue to the people of the United States for a memorial to his Navy Academy classmate and friend William Henry Scheutz. Deering had purchased the statue in Paris in 1900. When Schuetze died in 1902, Deering offered as a gift to the United States in memory of Schuetze.

The Commission of Fine Arts welcomed the statue calling it “an ideal statue designed by Jose Clara, a leading Spanish sculptor of to-day [sic], this Commission welcomed the idea. Congress having so authorized, a site was selected in Meridian Hill Park, where the statue of Serenity takes its place among the other distinguished works in a garden-park.” The memorial was accepted in 1924. The statue was placed in the park in July 1925.  

There is an inscription in the front on the base of the statue reading:


Note: William Henry Schuetze’ name is misspelled on the monument.

Serenity is located in the northwest side of the park facing Sixteenth Street. The statue is sculpted by Jose Clara from a solid block of Carrara marble. The sculpture is 5’ 6” tall and shows a woman wearing long, flowing classical robes which are tied at her waist, her arms casually rest on rocks behind her. Her left foot rests on a broken sword.

The Most Abused Memorial in DC

Often referred to as the most abused memorial in the city, The Washington Post reported in 1926 the Serenity statue was painted with red and black paint. In 1934 her face was painted with lipstick and rouge. Sometime in the 1950s Serenity’s nose was broken off. And in 1960 it was reported that two fingers were missing from her left hand and one from her right hand. And in 1990 the statue was spray painted with the word Uhuru.

In another story of disrespect for the memorial, in 1933, with only the upper portion of the park completed and officially opened, the Columbia Heights citizens association called for the removal of Serenity on artistic grounds calling the statue offensive.

Col. U.S. Grant, 3d, director of Public Buildings and Public Parks at the time was resigned to having the statue stay in the park explaining that an act of Congress put it there. He gave his opinion about the statue stating, “Personally I think it is an entirely unattractive statue, but I had nothing to do with its acceptance and I realize only too well that tastes and opinions on subjects of aesthetics change from time to time.”


James Buchanan

President 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 1867 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.

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 officials 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


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: