A huge, baroque-like statue of Civil War general George Gordon Meade, consigned to a government warehouse 13 years ago when it got in the way of some construction on the Mall, has suddenly become a sought-after objet d'art.
First, the commander of Fort Meade in nearby Maryland wrote and asked National Park Service officials to give him the statue of the fort's namesake, which has been seen by few people other than caretakers since it disappeared from its place in front of the Capitol.
But the Interior Department balked at this seemingly modest request. The statue, park service officials wrote back, was theirs, and in fact they were just making plans to put it back up . . . somewhere.
More to the point, park service officials replied, the original replied, the original 1915 legislation authorizing the construction of the 18-foot-high, $85,000 statue specified that it be located within the District of Columbia.
Confronted with this rejection, Fort Meade's commanding officer, Col. Thomas E. Fitspatrick turned to Rep. Marjorie S. Holt (R-Md.) for help.
On March 15, Holt introduced legislation superseding the 1915 law, and allowing the statue of the stalwart union leader at the Battle of Gettysburg to be moved to the fort named in his honor.
"It seemed like a reasonable request from a military post in our district," said Holt's aide, Mike Owen.
However, park service officials are preparing to counter this legislative move with one of their own.
According to park service spokesman George Berklacy, park officials have drafted a measure that would give the secretary of the Interior the right to select a site for the Meade statue.
Exactly where the park service wants to put it, however, remains unclear.
Owen was told that the statue might be placed in front of the Air and Space Museum on the Mall. Noting that Meade's campaigns were generally conducted on horseback, Owen said dryly, "I could think of somer better location."
Berklacy said yesterday that the park service was leaning toward placing the statue somewhere along Pennsylvania Avenue. His reasoning: the statue was originally donated by Meade's home state of Pennysylvania.
However, Berklacy also noted that other sites on Independence and Constitution avenues were also being considered, and that a final decision would probably be left to the Interior Departments's joint committee on landmarks.
With all the debate over where the statue should go, park service officials reached yesterday could not say precisely where it is now.
The huge monument, which weighs several tons and depicts Meade accompanied by figures symbolizing energy, military courage, fame, progress, chivalry and loyalty, is probably in a federal government warehouse in Maryland, Berklacy said yesterday afternoon.
Later, he said he believed the statue of Meade and his allegorical cohorts was being kept in a District government warehouse.
In any case, said legislative aide Owen, "until recently, they've shown no burnig desire to use it . . . but when we asked for it, the attitude (I) picked up on the phone was, 'Hey, man, it's ours.'" CAPTION: Picture, The statue in dispute shows Gen. Meade, right, surrounded by graceful, nude, allegorical figures. The Washington Post