A Monument To Our First President, In Baltimore
He towers over the city of Baltimore on a high hill in Mount Vernon. His arm outstretched he symbolizes The New Republic of the United States formed in 1789.
George Washington’s hand holds his Commission as Commander and Chief of the Continental Army. His dramatic choice in giving up the army in 1783 as the War of Independence ended is considered “an essential element in the transformation of the War for Independence into a true revolution.” It was a radical act at a time in which the countries of Europe were ruled by Monarchies. The figure of Washington is dressed in a Roman Toga with sandals.
Washington’s tall statue stands on a 170 foot doric column of white marble from local stone quarries. When it was raised in three sections to the top of the column in 1828, there were reports of a shooting star and an eagle landing on the General’s head. Italian sculptor Enrico Causici designed the statue and also carved reliefs for the United States Capitol building. On top of a square base with a gallery, 228 steps lead to a viewing platform at the base of the figure of President Washington.
At the time, Baltimore was the third largest city in North America. The monument was built on land owned by Revolutionary War hero Colonel John Edgar Howard, a close friend of Washington. It was placed on what was then wooded land of his estate, Belvedere. The designer Robert Mills, was inspired by the Colonne de Vendome in Paris and Trajan’s Column in Rome. Citizens living nearby were afraid the great monument would fall on their houses in a natural disaster.
The Monument cost over $100,000. Money was raised by private citizens with Maryland’s first lottery. Tickets were $20, today the equivalent of $400. M. Mills continued his work by designing the Washington DC Obelisk Washington Monument in 1848. It was completed in 1871.
At the Monument’s cornerstone laying in 1815, James Buchanan, who would be our 15th President, said it had “peculiar propriety…as the first expression of our national gratitude…”. The Battle for Fort McHenry securing our independence and winning of the War of 1812 was less than a year past.
Today Baltimore’s Washington Monument shines above Mount Vernon neighborhood. In close proximity are Tiffany’s residence, famous for his glass designs, President Wilson’s townhouse where in 1916 he tried to establish the League of Nations in order to prevent World War I, and the apartment building Mrs. Wallace-Simpson lived in with her uncle writing love letters to the Prince of Wales who after meeting her at a ball in Mount Vernon and asking her to dance, gave up being King of England to marry her. Nearby, one can also visit the eclectic Walters Art Museum from 1908 and Peabody Institute, the first musical institute in America, with its movie famous iron façade library. At Christmas time Mr. Washington’s monument shines brightly as Baltimore’s Christmas Tree.
Photos from Deposit Photos and Paul-Allan Lewis