Washington - The Soldiers' Home And Washington Monument
( Originally Published 1900 )
The city of Washington, with progressing years, is becoming more and more the popular residential city of the country. It is one of the most beautiful and attractive, the admirable plan, with the wide asphalted streets, lined with trees, opening up vista views of grand public buildings, statues, monuments or leafy parks, making it specially popular. The northern and northwestern sections, on the higher grounds, have consequently spread far beyond the Executive Mansion, being filled with rows of elaborate and costly residences, the homes of leading public men. The streets are kept scrupulously clean, while at the intersections are circles," triangles and little squares, which are availed of for pretty parks, and usually contain statues of distinguished Americans. Among the noted residence streets are Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut Avenues and K Street and Sixteenth Street, all in the northwestern district. Among the many statues adorning the small parks and " circles " are those of Washington, Farragut, Scott, Thomas, McPherson, Dupont, Logan, Franklin, Hancock, Grant, Rawlins and Martin Luther, the Iatter a replica of the figure in the Reformation Monument at Worms.
To the northward the suburbs rise to Columbia Heights, with an elevated plateau beyond, where there is a Government park covering nearly a square mile of rolling surface, and surrounding one of the noted rural retreats on the borders of the Capital, the
Soldiers' Home." This is an asylum and hospital for disabled and superannuated soldiers of the American regular army, containing usually about six hundred of them, and founded by General Winfield Scott, whose statue adorns the grounds. Its cottages have been favorite retiring-places of the Presidents in the warm weather. Amid lovely surroundings the veterans are comfortably housed, and in the adjacent cemetery thousands of them have been buried. Scott's statue stands upon the southern brow of the plateau, where a ridge is thrust out in a commanding situation ; and from here the old commander of the army forty and fifty years ago gazes intently over the lower ground to the city three miles away, with the lofty Capitol dome and Washington Monument rising to his level, while beyond them the broad and placid Potomac winds between its wooded shores. This is the most elevated spot near Washington, overlooking a wide landscape. In the cemetery at the Soldiers' Home sleeps General Logan, among the thousands of other veterans. To the westward the beautiful gorge of Rock Creek is cut down, -and beyond is Georgetown, with its noted University, founded by the Jesuits in 1789, and having about seven hundred students. In the Oak Hill Cemetery, at Georgetown, is the grave of John Howard Payne, the author of "Home, Sweet Home," who died in 1852. Far away over the Potomac, in the Arlington National Cemetery, are the graves of Generals Sherman and Sheridan.
Down near the Potomac, on the Mall, to the westward of the Smithsonian turrets, is the extensive brick and brownstone building representing the dominant industry of the United States, which gives the politicians so much anxiety in catering for votes—the Agricultural Department. Here are spacious gardens and greenhouses, an arboretum and herbarium, the adjacent buildings also containing an agricultural museum. As over three-fifths of the men in the United States are farmers and farm-workers, and many others are in the adjunct industries, it has be-come a popular saying in Washington that if you wish to scare Congress you need only shake a cow's tail at it. This department has grown into an enormous distributing office for seeds and cuttings, crop reports and farming information. Among its curiosities is the " Sequoia Tree Tower," formed of a section of a Sequoia or Big Tree of California, which was three hundred feet high and twenty-six feet in diameter at the base.
Behind the Agricultural Department, and rising almost at the river bank, and in front of the Executive Mansion, is the noted Washington Monument, its pointed apex elevated five hundred and fifty-five feet. This is a square and gradually tapering shaft, constructed of white Maryland marble, the walls fifteen feet thick at the base and eighteen inches at the top, the pyramidal apex being fifty-five feet high and capped with a piece of aluminum. Its construction was begun in 1848, abandoned in 1855, resumed in 1877 and finished in 1884, at a total cost of $1,300,000. The lower walls contain stones contributed by public corporations and organizations, many being sent by States and foreign nations, and bearing suit-able inscriptions in memory of Washington. A fatiguing stairway of nine hundred steps leads to the top, and there is also a slow-moving elevator. From the little square windows, just below the apex, there is a grand view over the surrounding country. Afar off to the northwest is seen the long hazy wall of the Blue Ridge or Kittatinny Mountain range, its prominent peak, the Sugar Loaf, being fifty miles distant. To the eastward is the Capitol and its surmounting dome, over a mile away, while the city spreads all around the view below, like a toy town, its streets crossing as on a chess-board, and cut into - gores and triangles by the broad, diagonal avenues lined with trees, the houses being interspersed with many foliage-covered spaces. Coming from the northwest the Potomac passes nearly at the foot of the monument, with Arlington Heights over on the distant Virginia shore, and the broad river channel flowing away to the southwest until lost among the winding forest-clad shores below Alexandria. From this elevated perch can be got an excellent idea of the peculiarities of the town, its vast plan and long intervals of space, so that there is quite plainly shown why the practical Yankee race calls it the " City of Magnificent Distances."