District Bridge Sculptures

On October 27, 2013 · 1 Comments

I decided to take a bit of a departure today, focusing more on images and diving even farther into hyper-local coverage. This may interest a smaller slice of the usual 12MC audience.

I took the kids to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo recently and decided to take the Memorial Bridge across the Potomac River instead of the usual Roosevelt Bridge just for grins. I’d seen the bridge sculptures on the Memorial Bridge many times before of course although they reminded me that the District of Columbia seemed to have an abundance of such features. I thought I might catalog them, or at least the ones I knew about, and maybe learn more about them in the process.

My thanks in advance to the many people who shared Creative Common images of these artworks. That meant I didn’t have to use grainy Google Street View images although I’ll include links to those for anyone who may be curious.

Arlington Memorial Bridge

Memorial Bridge
Memorial Bridge by vpickering, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

The Memorial Bridge linking Arlington National Cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial actually had a longer name, the Arlington Memorial Bridge. The architectural firm John G. Waite Associates performed a structure report recently and listed various themes and sculptors,

“The Arts of War,” “Sacrifice” and “Valor” were sculpted by Leo Friedlander. The “Arts of Peace,” “Music and Harvest” and “Aspiration and Literature” were sculpted by James Earle Fraser.

(Map) (Street View)

Duke Ellington Memorial Bridge

Duke Ellington Memorial Bridge, Washington DC
Duke Ellington Memorial Bridge, Washington DC by yeowatzup, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

I’d always called this double-arched bridge over Rock Creek Park the Calvert Street Bridge (or the bridge I had to walk across to get from the Metro to Adams Morgan). More properly it’s named for Duke Ellington, a beloved native son of Washington. Each of four abutments included reliefs sculpted by Leon Hermant in 1935. They featured forms of transportation; automobile, train, ship and airplane. Collectively they’re titled "Four Modes of Travel." A windblown topless lady on wheels represented automobiles, apparently.

(Map) (Street View)

Dumbarton Bridge

American Bison -- Dumbarton Bridge NW Washington (DC) April 2013
American Bison — Dumbarton Bridge NW Washington (DC) April 2013 by Ron Cogswell, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

I didn’t know the Dumbarton Bridge had a name other than "That Bridge Over Rock Creek Park at Q Street" until just now. It featured four buffalo — actually American Bison as my obsessive compulsive nature forced me to note — sculpted and cast in bronze by Alexander Phimister Proctor circa 1912-1914 (dates seemed to vary). A bison adorned each of four pylons.

(Map) (Street View)

Taft Bridge

Taft Bridge
Taft Bridge by StreetsofWashington, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

Originally called the Connecticut Avenue Bridge, the Taft Bridge was named for former U.S. President William Howard Taft. He was the President possibly best known for being morbidly obese and getting stuck in a bathtub although that likely never happened. It must have been tough to be a President sandwiched between Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Imagine serving as the chief executive for the administration between two individuals of such stature. He also served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court subsequently, a unique honor. The bridge was named for Taft in 1931, the year following his death.

I chose a vintage postcard to represent the lions perched on the four corners of the Taft Bridge over Rock Creek Park. Often called the "Perry Lions" they were creations of Roland Hinton Perry in 1906 and were designed in cast concrete like the bridge itself. That presented a problem in latter years. The lions decayed beyond the point of repair and they had to be replaced in 2000 using molds based upon the original designs. Therefore any modern images represented reproductions, not originals.

Another interesting architectural detail was the set of iron lampposts crowned by eagles designed by Ernest Bairstow.

Streets of Washington’s The Million-Dollar Bridge (where I lifted the postcard image) featured a more complete history.

(Map) (Street View – Lion, Eagle)

Piney Branch Bridge

Lazo by Daquella manera, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

I couldn’t find that the 16th Street bridge over Piney Branch had an official name although Bridge Hunter called it Piney Branch Parkway Bridge so let’s go with that. I also didn’t realize it had sculptures so thanks to dcMemorials.com for including these tigers within their index, where I found them. They were another creation of A. Phimister Proctor circa 1906-1910.

Someday I’ll need to visit the Alexander Phimister Proctor Museum in the other Washington, outside of Seattle in Hansville.

(Map) (Street View)

Woodrow Wilson Bridge

Cool Feature on the New Woodrow Wilson Bridge
Cool Feature on the New Woodrow Wilson Bridge by sisterbeer, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

No, the image above wasn’t a sculpture. The new Woodrow Wilson Bridge opened in 2008 to carry Washington’s eastern side of the Beltway across the Potomac River featured a drawbridge just like the older one. The control room for raising and lowering the span was built in a tiny wedge of District territory clipped by the bridge. The old tower on the old bridge used to have a bas-relief sculpture bust of Woodrow Wilson, and I think that same one may have been moved to a pylon albeit no longer technically within the Washington, DC boundaries. The sculptor appeared to be Carl Paul Jennewein circa 1961.

(Map) (Street View)

New York Avenue Bridge

View Larger Map

The newest bridge sculpture will be completed soon. It’s being installed by the Kent Bloomer Studio and it will look like wing-shaped arches to those traveling on New York Avenue where it crosses above the Union Station rail yard.

I can’t guarantee that’s the complete set of DC bridges with sculptures. It should get the list started though.

On October 27, 2013 · 1 Comments

One Response to “District Bridge Sculptures”

  1. TB says:

    Somehow, after hearing as a kid that Wilson was the only president interred in Washington DC, I thought for years that tower was his final resting place.

    Later, I heard he was buried in National Cathedral and though to myself, Oh yes, that does make more sense.

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