George Washington fights a different battle on east 51st Street

July 22, 2010


(photo by Lee Bey) 

The George Washington statue has stood on east 51st Street and King Drive near the northern end of Washington Park for 105 years.

And it looks it.

The bronze statue depicting General Washington assuming command of the troops at Cambridge on July 3 1775 is still rich with detail. The facial expression, the slight wear in his jacket, the holds of his tri-corner hat and–as I accidentally discovered–the anatomic correctness of his horse are still there, but covered with a green oxidation. Not that too many people are able to notice the monument anyway: This great piece of public art sits on an easy-to-overlook grassy spot just northwest of the intersection. You’d almost want a statue like this to stand prominently on its pedestal near the middle of 51st and King.

The city has often done a masterful restoring its older sculptures, having brought back to life crumbling works such as Lorado Tafts’s Fountain of Time on the west end of Midway Plaisance near Cottage Grove, and returning the luster to works such as The Bowman and the Spearman–muscular twin bronzes in Grant Park. Here’s hoping George gets his due.


(photo by Lee Bey)


(photo by Lee Bey)


(photo by Lee Bey)

 

The monument is the work of Daniel Chester French--the noted sculptor whose work included the Lincoln Memorial and‚  The Republicin Jackson Park--and Edward C. Potter. The donors included Clarence Buckingham, the banker and real estate mogul for whom Buckingham Fountain is named. They gave it to the city on June 5, 1905 with no fanfare. Not even a parade or a public unveiling ceremony. Maybe they jinxed it to obscurity.