At Georgetown Park last night, history was served up between drinks and the cake.
As the standard shoes-and-shirts shopping crowd circulated through the posh mall, about 90 people gathered in its center to celebrate the Francis Scott Key Park. The park, still in planning stages, is being developed by the Francis Scott Key Park Foundation Inc., a nonprofit organization formed in January by local business leaders. The park will be developed on the site of Key's home, next to the C&O Canal near the intersection of Key Bridge and M Street.
The park design is to be a sort of "re-creation of the flagpole and the flag at Fort McHenry . . . We're trying to open up the site . . . It's been a haven for street people . . . and we're going to gently try to dissuade them from continuing their habitation there," said Michael Wheeler, a young architect at Vello Oinas' firm in Alexandria. Oinas' firm was selected to design the park after Oinas showed a special interest in the foundation's dream.
"Most of what you see there," said Oinas, pointing with his glass to the encased miniature park, "is depicting what was happening at that time."
"It's almost fate that the site has remained empty for all these years," said Randy Roffman, the foundation's president, gazing at the model. He said there was no firm estimate of what the park will cost.
From balconies and terraces, shoppers and diners peered over railings to take in the scene, as cameras clicked and speeches were made. One of the guests, Edith Claude Jarvis of Chevy Chase, is the great-great-granddaughter of the park's namesake.
Staring up at a bronze bust of her ancestor, Jarvis, 82, said, "I think it's an excellent resemblance." Pausing, she described hand-me-down memories of Key: "He did so many important things, such as negotiating a treaty with the Indians in Alabama . . . and he was one of the founders of the Episcopal seminary in Alexandria. And he had 11 children!"
Betty Dunston, the sculptor of the Francis Scott Key bust waiting for its home in the park, described herself as "a Georgetowner, I've been doing historic figures . . . this is the greatest place in the world to do historic figures." Nodding at her work, she added, "He was a really romantic-looking type."
The reception was a visual feast: Lined up by a shoe boutique were fifers and drummers, dressed in Colonial garb complete with tricornered hats, waiting for their debut.
A 17-by-25-foot flag, a replica of one of the flags that flew over Fort McHenry, hung over one of the top-floor railings.
A Ridgewell's cake was placed temptingly in the middle of the reception area. It was described by one of the speakers as being "very patriotic" on the outside and "a gustatory gourmet experience on the inside." It was filled with caviar and salmon.
The evening's finale was a rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" (lyrics by Key), which was marked by guests pledging allegiance to the flag with their right hands, and to their cocktails with their left.