Answer Man Sleuths For Missing Sculptures

By John Kelly
Sunday, August 20, 2006

Do you have any insight into a disappearing and reappearing sculpture near the little dog park at New Hampshire Avenue and 17th Street NW? A while ago, the silver statue of an abstract woman with flowing hair at the corner disappeared. In its place is a large square with a winking eye on a triangular pedestal. Is this a rotating summer thing?

The District has dozens of tiny parks that can get lost in the focus on its big parks. Two of those are the S & T Street Parks. Long neglected, they had become trash-strewed gathering places for vagrants. In 1996, residents entered into an agreement with the city's Department of Parks and Recreation and "adopted" them. They rolled up their sleeves and went to work: resodding, planting trees and flowers, adding a brick path.

"A lot of the work was done by sweat equity and we held Saturday morning cleanups for several months," Iris Molotsky , who spearheaded the effort, wrote in an e-mail.

Robert Cole , a sculptor who lives in the neighborhood, pitched in too, offering to contribute statues. "I kind of have a revolving show space there," said the 67-year-old artist.

Two of his sculptures are there now: "Fac-Tree," a tree with limbs resembling smokestacks, and "Signpost for Humanity," a sort of Janus-faced piece.

The triangular parks are popular with dog owners. We asked Cole if it bothered him to see dogs, um, christening his hard work. "Early on it was a little disturbing to see that happen with the 'Fac-Tree,' but the neighbors saw it happening, and they solved the problem" by planting shrubs around it.

The 17th and S streets park is slated to become a full-fledged dog park. The statues will probably be repositioned to protect them from the depredations of canine critics.

It was brought to my attention that two sculptures by Carl Paul Jennewein are either endangered or missing. One of his most beautiful pieces -- the recently gilded and restored nymph -- was removed from her lovely garden fountain perch to make way for a parking lot project across from the Moultrie Courthouse. Where did she go? Also, Jennewein's medallion plaques of Woodrow Wilson are clearly endangered as the old Wilson Bridge tower on which they are fixed is set for demolition.

-- Will Fleishell, Washington

The Washington area is full of C. Paul Jennewein sculptures. Genuine Jenneweins, you might say. The Wilson Bridge medallion plaques have already been safely reinstalled on black granite columns on either side of the new span.

"That's the one part of the old bridge that's being used in the new bridge," said project spokesman John Undeland . The five-foot aluminum portrait discs are a little worse for wear and will be restored in place, he said.

As for the sculpture near Judiciary Square, it was removed for safekeeping while construction is underway. Plans are to reinstall it when the parking lot and new building entrance are complete in December 2007.

The gilded 1923 statue of a nude nymph and fawn is a memorial to respected D.C. lawyer Joseph Darlington . It is said to have drawn complaints from some of Darlington's Baptist friends. The sculptor replied that the woman was "direct from the hand of God instead of from the hands of a dressmaker."

Jennewein had a thing for nekkid chicks. It was his breast-baring statue that prompted John Ashcroft to install modesty curtains at the Justice Department in 2002.

Julia Feldmeier researched this column. Have a question about the Washington area? Send it, or write John Kelly, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company