Monument Madness: 15 statues (and one obelisk) in a very Washington tournament

Welcome to Monument Madness, The Washington Post’s challenge to see which one of the region’s monuments stands above the rest. (Figuratively, at least; the Washington Monument would clearly win a height contest.)

(David Saracino/For The Washington Post)
(David Saracino/For The Washington Post)

The Monument Madness selection committee (okay, three Weekend staffers) settled on four categories — our version of the NCAA's regions — for the 32-monument bracket: presidents and Founding Fathers, war and peace, arts and sciences and a grab-bag category called “What the heck is that?” The field proved extremely difficult to narrow down, but the committee settled on three ground rules: The memorial must be outdoors; it must be honorary, not just a sculpture; and it can’t be in a cemetery. 

The selection committee determined the winners in the round of 32, and we’ve already witnessed some tremendous upsets: Who could have predicted the Maine Lobsterman sneaking past labor union leader Samuel Gompers

The matchups that follow are the tournament’s Sweet 16. Polls are live through Tuesday; the Elite 8 begins Wednesday. We’ll crown a champion based on your votes on April 1. 

This post has been updated with vote tallies for the round of 16. Voting for this round has closed. Go vote now for the Final Four.

On to the bracket! [Click to expand]

Region: Presidents and Founding Fathers

Washington Monument

The obelisk honoring the father of our country is the tallest and most distinctive structure in the capital city that bears his name. And even though he’s playing injured, with scaffolding still surrounding the base of the monument, Washington’s a proven winner. (See: the American Revolution and the first two presidential elections.)
Age: Dedicated 1885
Home: 15th Street and Constitution Avenue NW
Designer: Robert Mills
Key stat: At 555 feet, 5 1/8 inches, the monument was for a few years the tallest structure in the world.

Ulysses S. Grant Memorial

Grant’s distinctive perch overlooking the Mall belies his status as one of the more underappreciated American heroes. A true tournament sleeper, the Union general has stats that compare favorably with Washington’s: victories in the Civil War and two presidential elections.
Age: Dedicated 1922
Home: Union Square, in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool, First Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Sculptor: Henry Merwin Shrady
Key stat: At 44 feet, the Grant memorial is one of the tallest equestrian statues in the world.

 

wash-v-grant

(Photos: left, Rich Lipski/The Washington Post; John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Lincoln Memorial

A late bloomer as a politician, the Railsplitter made the most of his all-too-brief time in office by uniting the nation and putting an end to slavery. The self-made man and successful lawyer has size on his side and a unique ability to change his approach — or the rules — to ensure victory.
Age: Dedicated 1922
Home: West end of the Mall at 23rd Street NW
Sculptor: Daniel Chester French
Key stat: Lincoln looms large in the Greek-style temple; his seated statue is 19 feet tall and weighs 175 tons.

Theodore Roosevelt Memorial

Whether leading the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill or defending natural parks from commercial development, Teddy Roosevelt can always be found in the midst of the action. His big-game hunting experience and his clever nature allow him to “bully” any adversary.
Age: Dedicated 1967
Home: Roosevelt Island, accessible via northbound George Washington Parkway
Sculptor: Paul Manship
Key stat: Roosevelt and his companions killed or trapped 11,400 animals on a 1909 safari sponsored by the Smithsonian.

 

lincoln-v-teddy

(Photos: left, Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post; John Kelly/The Washington Post)

Region: War and peace

U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial

(This text has been updated) Five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman raised a large American flag atop Mount Suribachi on the tiny island of Iwo Jima, where three of those men later died. The bloody monthlong battle was the only fight in which U.S. Marine casualties outnumbered Japan’s.

Correction: The previous version of this post said that the men depicted in the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial survived the battle there. Three of the six later died on Iwo Jima.

Age: Dedicated 1954
Home: N. Meade Street, Arlington
Sculptor: Felix de Weldon
Key stat: The flag pole stands 60 feet and flies Old Glory constantly, by order of President John F. Kennedy in 1961.

Joan of Arc statue

For many years, Joan of Arc was unarmed in Meridian Hill Park. But now that her gleaming sword has been restored, the Maid of Orleans can again fight for God and France, charging forward with her blade raised as she glances toward the heavens. You’d be a fool to bet against her.
Age: Dedicated 1922
Home: In the center of Meridian Hill Park above the cascading fountain
Sculptor: Paul Dubois
Key stat: This is the only equestrian statue of a woman in the District.

 

marines-v-joan

(Photos: left, Rich Lipski/The Washington Post; Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

Nelson Mandela statue

As the rookie monument in the tournament, the former South African president will be looking to duplicate the victorious, bronze-plated pose struck here, which captures the moment in February 1990 when he was released from prison after 27 years.
Age: Dedicated 2013
Home: South African Embassy, 3051 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Sculptor: Jean Doyle
Key stat: More than 4,000 anti-apartheid activists were arrested outside the South African embassy from 1984-86, where the Mandela statue now stands.

National Seabee Memorial

If you need a tough job done, the Seabees are your guys: The Navy’s Construction Battalions (CBs) have built causeways under fire, leveled a mountain to create an air strip and constructed a nuclear reactor in Antarctica. And look at that guy: Totally ripped, rifle slung across his back. Think the Seabees can win this tournament? As the memorial says, “Can do.”
Age: Dedicated 1974
Home: Memorial Avenue, Arlington, between the Memorial Bridge and Arlington National Cemetery
Sculptor: Felix de Weldon
Key stat: The Seabees have fought in every major U.S. military conflict since World War II.

 

mandela-v-seabees

(Photos: left: Luis M. Alvarez/AP; Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

Region: Arts and sciences

Albert Einstein Memorial

You won’t find a smarter or more accessible statue in the District: Just look at the people climbing on Einstein’s lap for photos. And although his knowledge of nuclear fission spurred the U.S. development of atomic weapons, this scientist also was a pacifist — not the best trait in a tournament, even for a fan favorite.
Age: Dedicated 1979
Home: National Academy of Sciences, 2101 Constitution Ave. NW
Sculptor: Robert Berks
Key stat: More than 2,700 metal studs in the map at the statue’s base represent stars, planets and other objects in the universe.

Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog statue

This formidable, dual-species tag-team combines the opposable thumbs and creativity of a homo sapien with the elusiveness (and, in this very specific case, vocal ability) of an amphibian. The Stockton-and-Malone of the Monument Madness tournament.
Age: Dedicated 2003
Home: Stamp Student Union, University of Maryland-College Park
Sculptor: Jay Hall Carpenter
Key stat: Henson is a 1960 graduate of the University of Maryland; Kermit made his television debut in 1955, 14 years before the debut of "Sesame Street."

 

einstein-v-kermit

(Photos: left, Evan Vucci/AP; John T. Consoli/University of Maryland)

Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial

Few of our contenders were more prolific than “Roots” author Alex Haley, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and eventual screenplay became a landmark eight-part, 9½-hour television miniseries in 1977. Thanks to his meticulous research skills, Haley knows his tournament opponents inside and out.
Age: Dedicated 2002
Home: Annapolis City Dock, 1 Dock St., Annapolis
Sculptor: Ed Dwight
Key stat: The memorial, which includes a plaque commemorating Kunta Kinte’s 1767 arrival in Annapolis and a statue of Haley reading to children, took 23 years to complete.

Dante Alighieri statue

Some people think they’ve seen hell. Dante Alighieri has been to hell — and back. Now this Italian Stallion is ready to consign all challengers to Limbo.
Age: Dedicated 1921
Home: Meridian Hill Park near 15th and Belmont streets NW
Sculptor: Ettore Ximenes
Key stat: Dante has a crowd on his side: The statue was a gift on behalf of all "Italians in the United States."

 

haley-v-dante

(Photos: left, Dwight Blackshear; John Kelly/The Washington Post)

Region: What the heck is that?

Second Division Memorial

If you make bracket picks based on colors or a mascot, the golden flaming sword of the Second Division Memorial is a total lock. The memorial honors the 17,660 members of the Second Division of the United States Army who died serving in World War I, World War II and Korea.
Age: Dedicated 1936; rededicated 1962
Home: President’s Park, facing Constitution Avenue between 16th and 17th streets NW
Sculptor: James Earle Fraser
Key stat: The sword is meant to symbolically block the German advance on Paris during World War I.

Maine Lobsterman Memorial

There are no lobsters in the Potomac River, which makes this memorial’s waterfront placement somewhat puzzling. Underestimate it at your own peril, though: Mainers are hardy folk who regularly engage in dangerous work, and this fellow — modeled on a lobsterman named H. Elroy Johnson — looks pretty handy while pegging that lobster’s claw.
Age: Dedicated 1983
Home: Southwest Waterfront, Water and Sixth streets SW
Sculptor: Victor Kahill
Key stat: The statue was given to the District by a Camp Fire troop from Cundy’s Harbor, Maine.

 

sword-v-lobster

(Photos: left, Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post; The Washington Post)

Roscoe the Rooster statue

Only in Takoma Park could an itinerant rooster, who spent 10 years clucking at locals and crowing at dawn, be immortalized in bronze. During his roost, the wily Roscoe did outwit all manner of threats, from fellow animals to county ordinance enforcers, so look for his defensive attributes to be his primary asset.
Age: Dedicated 2000
Home: Carroll and Laurel avenues, Takoma Park
Sculptor: Normon Greene
Key stat: “He looks portly, prosperous, expensively dressed,” The Post wrote of the real-life Roscoe in 1995. “He could be impersonating a U.S. senator — or maybe those guys are only impersonating Roscoe.”

National Fire Dog Monument

Fighting for truth, justice and lower insurance premiums, this detailed statue of a firefighter and his crime-solving black Lab combines a youthful vigor with the experience of working on hundreds of cases together. Don’t be fooled by her cuddly appearance: This dog is always sniffing out danger and finding a way to win.
Age: Dedicated 2013
Home: Fifth and F streets NW
Sculptor: Austin Weishel
Key stat: K-9 agent Sadie, who served as a model for the statue, was named the 2011 Law Enforcement/Arson Dog of the Year.

 

roscoe-v-dog

(Photos: left, Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post; Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

 

Alex Baldinger is editor of the Going Out Guide blog, which covers food, drink, arts, music, events and other curiosities in the D.C. area. He is forever in search of a great sandwich.
Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.
John Taylor is an editor for Weekend and the Going Out Guide.
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