Washington Monument Baltimore

Baltimores Washington Monument, Public Art

Public Art: Washington Monument

Sculptor: © Enrico Causici

Architect: © Robert Mills

Description: If only I could have seen it under the scaffolding!! The Washington Monument was the built in honor of the first President of the United States, George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799).  The monument, which stands on the highest point of Baltimore , Mt Vernon, consists of a low ground floor marble room (now a museum) from which  a 178 feet (54 m) Cockeysville white marble Doric column rises. Atop the column stands a statue of a Roman toga wearing Washington. There are 228 climbing stairs inside the column that will lead you up and to a magnificent view of the city. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints during the time of building some of the original Mills design had to be compromised and simplified. 

Date Unveiled: 1829

Cost : $100,000

Location: The Washington Monument is located at 600 N Charles St, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Why Is George Washington Wearing A Roman Toga? :

It is quite the shock to see George Washington depicted in a toga instead of a military uniform but obviously not to sculptor Enrico Causici. Causici saw a similarity between Washington and the Roman general Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus (519 – 430 BC)  the toga-wearing soldier who refused to become emperor of Rome.

Here are the two similar events.

In 458 BC, following an invasion by rival tribes of the Aequians, Sabines, and Volscians, General Cincinnatus was called to Rome and named Dictator but two weeks later, after defeating the enemies , he resigned and went back to his farm. This action, despite having near-absolute authority, has often been cited as an example of outstanding leadership and service to the greater good.

In 1783, when Great Britain recognized the independence of the United States following the Revolutionary War,  Washington disbanded his army and then on December 23rd he resigned his commission as commander-in-chief.

But here is where Causici got it a little wrong, Washington, unlike Cincinnatus, did not turned down the offer to be king instead of the first president of the United States. That was just a myth.

One must be grateful that Causici was not influenced by sculptor Denis Foyatier's Cincinnatus statue or George Washington might just have been depicted naked, with a toga draped over his shoulder!

Things You May Not Know About Baltimore's Washington Monument: The Washington Monument in Baltimore was the first architectural monument planned  to honor George Washington, and is also the oldest surviving one. Unfortunately, it took from 1815 - 1829  to complete, making the Boonsboro tower in Maryland officially the first to be completed (1827) but has since been rebuilt twice.

In 1826 a competition was held to find a sculptor to create the George Washington statue. The winning entrant was Italian sculptor Ernrico Causici, who wanted to depict Washington resigning his commission as Commander -in-Chief of the Continental Armies in 1783. The 16ft statue was made in three parts and required rigging specialist Captain James D Woodside to excute the tricky task of hoisting it up onto the 160 foot column.

Robert Mills also designed the Washington Monument in Washington DC but the design was also later modified significantly when construction resumed following the Civil War.

In 1829  "Tradition recalls a prodigy occurring when the statue was raised to the summit of the monument - a shooting star dashed across the sky and an eagle lit on the head of the settling general." From  William Rusk's book, Art in Baltimore: Monuments and Memorials.

Before Baltimore built skyscrapers, ships entering the harbor could see the monument. In fact, The Washington Monument is mentioned in Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick , " Great Washington, too, stands high aloft on his towering main-mast in Baltimore, and like one of Hercules' pillars, his column marks that point of human granduer beyond which few mortals will go."

The monument was closed in June 2010 due to safety concerns and has yet to reopen. It is currently going through a $5million renovation which should be completed by the 4th of July, 2015. Just my luck that I could only get a scaffolding shot.

On October 30th, 2010,  a driver ran a 1997 Chrysler van through the southeast corner of the iron fence which was designed by Mills in 1838 . The van damaged about 15 feet of it.

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