POOR SHEPHERD. For a century he stood in front of the District Building looking grandly out over the city-first in person, subsequently in the form of a fine green statue. The triangle on which he stood is to be refurbished, and Mr. Shepherd was hauled off the other day to a sort of storage yard that the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation maintains on John Marshall Place. There he stands, off his pedestal, looking gloomily out at the street through a wire fence. It is a poignant sight. Like many before him, he's been redeveloped out. He's the victim of public improvement.
There's irony in that. Boss Shepher's career was a wild sucession of ups and downs. He was a spoilsman, a speculator and a political boss in the classic style. You are indebted to him for the radical and adventurous decision to pave Washington's streets. You are also indebted to him for most of the early sewers and water mains.
After a slow start as a gas fitter's assistant, Alexander Shepherd got rich in real estate and became a great fried of President Grant. When the territorial government was set up in the District of Columbia in 1871, Mr. Shepherd quickly became its dominant figure.He started construction projects all over town on the calculation that, if the scale of the undertaking was big enough, Congress would have no choice but to let him proceed. He put hundreds of pals and supporters on the public payrolls, borrowed endlessly and raised taxes sharply. There were shrieks of protest. But Pennsylvania Avenue was no longer left knee-deep by thunderstorms, and the new water mains had enabled several neighborhoods to abandon the publci wells in the squares.
Alarmed by the chaos and corruption in the city's finances, Congress investigated and discovered that Mr. Shepherd-by now governor of the District-had driven the city's debts to twice the legal limit. Congress promptly abolished the territorial system and, with it, any elected government for the next century. Mr. Hepherd departed for Mexico, followed by the execrations of propertyowners who were evidently more offended by the high taxes than the lost ballot.
But as time passed, people ahd second thoughts. Visitors complimented them on the town's progress. When Mr. Shepherd returned for a visit a decade later, his reputation was up again. He was greeted with fireworks and a parade-there's a description of it in Constance Green's splendie history of the city-and a contingent of 500 marched in boots and overalls, representing the city's streets department. Paraders carried transparencies celebrating, as one of them put it, "the city which he plucked from the mire and set as a jewel in the sight of men."
When he died, an enthusiastic public subscription paid for the statue. But it show him with one hand behind him-as the old joke has it, always reaching for the payoff. Now he's been banished again.
The Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation is going to spend the next year tearing up and rebuilding the avenue from 13th Street to the White House grounds. There are to be more trees, less traffic, a small restaurant, a pool and much else of a grand and aesthetic character. There ought to be a place in it for Boss Shepherd. CAPTION: Picture, no caption, By Joe Heiberger-The Washington Post