Filling Hains Point's Commemorative Void

By John Kelly
Thursday, April 26, 2007

A reader from Adelphi called the other day with a question and a suggestion.

"Now that they're going to move 'The Awakening,' " he asked, "what are they going to put in its place?"

He was referring to the sculpture of a bearded giant bursting from Earth at Hains Point. Developer Milt Peterson recently paid about $750,000 for "The Awakening," which will be the centerpiece of his new National Harbor project.

The Park Service has been a grumbling custodian of J. Seward Johnson's statue. It was left over from a 1980 sculpture conference and wasn't meant to be permanent. But Johnson paid for its upkeep, and it became a crowd favorite.

A law passed in 1986 stipulates that sculptures on Park Service land must be commemorative in nature or be in place for just a short period. A horror-movie giant didn't meet those criteria.

So what should fill the bare spot when the giant is carted away? The Adelphi reader thinks the perfect candidate is the Titanic Memorial, at Fourth and P streets SW, near the Washington Channel. It's a statue of a partially clad man standing on a pedestal, his arms outstretched like an Acapulco cliff diver about to jump.

One of the memorial's inscriptions reads: "To the brave men who perished in the wreck of the Titanic, April 15, 1912. They gave their lives that women and children might be saved. Erected by the women of America." It was designed by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (who, incidentally, lost her brother when the Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat in 1915).

The statue has been moved once. Its original spot was on Rock Creek Parkway near New Hampshire Avenue, but it was removed in 1966, when the Kennedy Center was built, and placed in its present location a few years later.

What do you think should go at Hains Point? Move something from somewhere else or create something? Is there anything left to commemorate? Send me your suggestions: kellyj@washpost.com or 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

Or should we be saving a spot for an Iraq war memorial, in case that conflict ever ends?

Toilet Out of Order. Please Use Floor Below.

After Monday's column mentioning idiosyncratic British signs, more readers chimed in with their favorites.

The District's Daniel Pyle recalled two signs that have stuck with him since a trip to London in 1967. One was a warning posted adjacent to a London sidewalk: "The person in charge of a dog that fouls the footway is liable to a fine of five pounds." The other was a postscript to the schedule posted at a bus stop: "The London Municipal Transit Authority does not guarantee that its buses will operate in accordance with these schedules, or at all."


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