One Last Climb Before Giant's Big Move

By V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 17, 2008

On May 14, 1994, Matthew Jones and Julie Allen-Jones were married in a furtive ceremony in front of "The Awakening" sculpture at Hains Point in Southwest Washington. They didn't have permission from the National Park Service, Jones said, "and we were afraid the police were going to kick us off."

Yesterday, the Alexandria couple returned to reminisce about their wedding day and to say goodbye to the silver-colored giant -- its leg, foot, hand and bearded face seeming to burst from the ground. The sculpture will be moved Wednesday from its home of nearly 28 years at East Potomac Park to a spot in Prince George's County.

Like many others visiting the site, the Joneses expressed sorrow that the work by J. Seward Johnson Jr. will no longer grace the picturesque park on the Potomac River but said they were glad it isn't going too far.

The two pointed to where they stood on their wedding day, near the leg. "The judge played the violin," recalled Jones, 42. Forty-five guests were gathered. "I remembered the cops coming over. . . . I had heart flutter. He just let us go."

"It was such a beautiful day," said Allen-Jones, 37. "We haven't been here in 14 years."

"We'll have to visit it," Jones said.

Last year, the owner of the sculpture sold it to the developers of National Harbor, a glitzy convention center complex slated to open in April farther south along the Potomac in Prince George's. The sculpture will be reinstalled there Wednesday. According to the Park Service, it had been for sale the duration of its time at Hains Point.

The sculpture is 17 feet tall at its highest point -- the fingers of the right arm -- and 70 feet across. The five-piece creation is the largest work by Johnson, known for statues of people doing day-to-day activities. "The Awakening" has drawn thousands of visitors since it was installed in June 1980.

Yesterday, Frank and Kelli Pilewski of Vienna took pictures of their children, Paige, 7, and Owen, 10, climbing on the giant's leg.

"I think it's cool the way the leg is smooth from all the kids climbing on it," said Frank Pilewski, 42.

"It's pretty," said Kelli Pilewski, 40. "You see the city all around you."

Dan Hoke, 54, of Northern Virginia said he often admired the sculpture while riding his bike around Hains Point. He said the spot won't be the same without the giant.

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