Relations are starting to pour in from all over the country to visit us capital cousins; as faithfully as the swallows of Capistrano they arrive.
They wrote and warned us they wanted to see the Big Three: the Washington monuments that grace the covers of high school civic books from Juneau to Jefferson City. The Washington monument, Lincoln and Jefferson memorials (along with the Capitol and White House) make up an elite granite group that seems to have cornered the city's postcard souvenir market.
But you, the Washington resident -- and designated tour director -- are tired of the tourmobile syndrome. The cherry blossoms have fallen by the Tidal Basin wayside and you want to impress your visitors with your knowledge of a city that is not all marble domes and obelisks.
It's no problem, even if you just got here last week. With a little help from the National Park service, anyone can become a master of the "Statues, Monuments and Memorials in the Parks of the Nation's Capital." It's a free and comforting companion for a first-time detour from the usual tourist track. It lists over 100 items, which from pillar to post commemorate some of Washington's unsung saints and heroes; sculpture that has never graced "Travel and Leisure" nor Fodors.
If you think you might be fielding more detailed questions from the back seat, there is Smithsonian curator James M. Goode's The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, a heavyset work that leaves no historic or biographical turn untomed. A random sampling reveals a plaster-cast potpourri:
If Andrew Jackson Downing had had his way in the 1850s, the Mall today would look like a vast Lafayette Park (which he designed). He lost out to L'Enfant, but left his mark on the Mall anyway. The Andrew Jackson Downing Memorial Urn stands adjacent to the Smithsonian Castle, a four-foot reminder of a runner-up.
There is only one female equestrian statue in Washington. Joan of Arc, a copy of the original at Rheims, has been a resident of Meridian Park (at 16th and Florida NW) since 1922. Her neighbor, by the way, is a stone-faced Dante Alighieri, who has been there as long as she has.
And Thomas Jefferson designated the first federal intersection: The Jefferson Pier Marker on the south grounds of the Monument marks where the lines of the first White House and Capitol crossed.
Your visitors, although probably Triptik weary, might be interested to know that all roads in the United States (officially at least) lead to Zero Milestone, between the White House and the Ellipse.
Asphalt is a major memorial material around here, and they may have rolled over one on the way into town: George Washington Memorial Parkway (1930), Arlington Memorial Bridge (1932) or Kutz Memorial Bridge (1941).
In case anyone asks, the poets and inventors are here too. Those you've heard of, like Longfellow (Connecticut and M NW) and Marconi (16th and Lamont NW) and those you may have seen but not recognized: Taras Shevchenko, the Ukranian national poet whose 14-foot bronze figure and phrases command the triangle of 22nd, 23rd and P NW; and the inventor of the screw propellor (although John Ericsson, in West Potomac Park is best remembered as the builder of the ironclad "Monitor."
You have the idea. This list, although just a chip off a larger block, should give yoo a more concrete (marble, or granite or limestone) idea of Washington's statuary scope. The National Park Service information number is 343-4747.