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Dante, Pushkin, Longfellow, Neruda: D.C.'s Favorite Writers?

We've got politicians popping up on street corners and in traffic circles, and of course generals galore, and we even have especially well-done tributes to Gandhi and Einstein, but a far less noticed category of statuary in Washington is authors.

Kim Roberts, editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, has come up with an impressive list of the writers who are immortalized in statues around the District, and the roster includes not only Francis Scott Key and the greats depicted on the exterior of the Library of Congress, but also Pushkin at GW, Dante (twice!) in Malcolm X Park and at the Casa Italiana in the old downtown, Longfellow at Connecticut and M (who knew?), and not only Neruda but a number of other prominent Latin American writers at the Organization of American States building near the Mall.

So, her challenge, which I hereby pick up, is for folks to find other writers (and other artists, if you'd like to expand the category) who are captured in public statuary in the city. A more expansive list of honors for poets and authors--including not just statues, but museums, monuments and parks--is here.

But if you know of other statues depicting writers and artists--not necessarily outdoors, but at least accessible to the general public and not including works in museums--come ahead.

By Marc Fisher |  March 16, 2007; 6:09 AM ET
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There is a statue of the 18th century British philosopher and author Edmund Burke at Massachusetts and 11th. It looks like a DC lawyer trying to hail a taxi.

Posted by: Ed Rorie | March 16, 2007 7:44 AM

Dante in Malcolm X Park? That just seems weird. The last place you'd expect to find a statue of a DWEM.

Posted by: wiredog | March 16, 2007 8:06 AM

Are you talking about literature alone? ...because if we get into political theory and philosophy, that expands the list substantially.

Posted by: Greg | March 16, 2007 8:19 AM

The Jefferson Memorial. His writing shook the world.

Posted by: gitarre | March 16, 2007 8:22 AM

Political theory and philsophy are literature, so I think it's fair game,

Posted by: bkp | March 16, 2007 10:05 AM

The gigantic statue of Teddy on Roosevelt Island. A prolific writer. His books, especially on naval history, were excellent.

Posted by: gitarre | March 16, 2007 10:07 AM

Ben Franklin in front of the Old Post Office on Penn Ave -- essayist, as well as about fifty other things.....

Posted by: Anonymous | March 16, 2007 10:27 AM

In one stretch of Mass Avenue: Winston Churchill, Kalil Gibran (an entire park) and one you might overlook: St. Jerome, who translated the bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin. His statue shows him writing.

Posted by: Jomace | March 16, 2007 10:47 AM

Stating the obvious:

Our most famous statue represents the man who wrote the Gettysburg Address.

But also, obviously:

We have one of the few representations of Mohammed in the Supreme Court building.

And tangentially:

We have the grave and (true)monument to F Scott Fitzgerald in the cemetary across from Marlo Furniture in Rockville.

And if Baltimore is included in our area we have numerous others including a plethora(conspiracy, unkindness, constable???) of Poes.

Posted by: Chris | March 16, 2007 11:34 AM

On Scott Circle, [Mass Ave and 16th,] there is a statue of and memorial to Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, writer, physician, scientist, and pioneer of homeopathic medicine.

Posted by: gitarre | March 16, 2007 11:41 AM

Although it's in Annapolis, there's a statue of Alex Haley reading to children at City Dock.

Posted by: Ike | March 16, 2007 11:50 AM

This is great! I'm writing a book on the statues of DC with photos. Guess I've got some shutter snapping to do!

Posted by: Cathie | March 16, 2007 12:27 PM

Ukrainian poet Shevechenko is at 22nd and P St NW.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 16, 2007 12:30 PM

I wonder how Francis Scott Key would feel about having such an ignominious gravesite. "Across from Marlo Furniture in Rockville" isn't exactly the swankiest of locations!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 16, 2007 12:48 PM

Those immortalized in statues in DC seem to be a random lot, and not one particularly representative of DC people. For example(s):

Why no statue of Robert, of Roberts Rules of Order Fame? It's the seat of government, and he lived here...

And why no statue of John Philip Sousa of "Stars and Stripes Forever" fame? He's a native son.

Oh, and I'll bet a buck the Dantes went into MX park when it was Meridian Hill Park. Perhaps there are statues in Florence of DC natives that we could trade them for?

Posted by: Mark | March 16, 2007 1:47 PM

There is a statuary group dedicated to Ulysses S. Grant and his troops. The group of three by sculptor Henry Shrady is just behind the reflecting pool on the west front of the U.S. Capitol Building.

In its entirety, the work is over 250 feet long, and consists of three major parts or groupings.

From Wikipedia, the story behind Grant's memoirs:

"Grant learned at the same time that he was suffering from throat cancer. Grant and his family were left destitute; at the time retired U.S. Presidents were not given pensions, and Grant had forfeited his military pension when he assumed the office of President. Grant first wrote several articles on his Civil War campaigns for The Century Magazine, which were warmly received. Mark Twain offered Grant a generous contract for the publication of his memoirs, including 75% of the book's sales as royalties.

Terminally ill, Grant finished the book just a few days before his death. The memoirs sold over 300,000 copies, earning the Grant family over $450,000. Twain promoted the book as "the most remarkable work of its kind since the Commentaries of Julius Caesar," and Grant's memoirs are widely regarded as among the finest ever written."

Posted by: PM | March 16, 2007 3:21 PM

Coolidge's vice-president, Charles G. Dawes, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925 for his efforts to resolve the German reparations crisis. His hobbies were writing and songs. He wrote three books, and composed a song titled "It's all in the game." ("Many a tear has to fall, but it's all, in the game.") The song was a number one hit in 1958, for Tommy Edwards and has since become a pop standard recorded hundreds of times by artists including The Four Tops, Van Morrison, Cliff Richard, Brook Benton, Elton John, Barry Manilow, and Keith Jarrett. His bust is somewhere in the Senate.

Posted by: PM | March 16, 2007 3:30 PM

Mark brought up the composer and band leader John Philip Sousa. From the Marine Band website:

"His music was not the only memorial to John Philip Sousa. In his native city on December 9, 1939, the new Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge across the Anacostia River was dedicated to the memory of the great American composer and bandmaster. More recently, Sousa was enshrined in the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1976."

In a fitting tribute to its 17th Leader, in 1974 the Marine Band rededicated its historic band hall at Marine Barracks as "John Philip Sousa Band Hall." The bell from the S.S. John Philip Sousa, a World War II Liberty ship, is there.
Senator Jim Webb is a prolific author. There are many monuments on the national mall in Washington, D.C., but only one statue of a black man. That statue is there because Jim Webb fought to have it included in the Viet Nam memorial. Indeed, the boots on that statue were molded directly from Jim Webb's own combat boots. So, Jim Webb's boots, at least, are in a statue.

Posted by: PM | March 16, 2007 3:40 PM

Statue of Edmund Burke at 11th & Mass (

Statue of Martin Luther north of Thomas Circle (

Photo of previously-mentioned Taras Shevchenko at

Posted by: Michael | March 16, 2007 4:14 PM

Thanks, PM.

Posted by: Mark | March 17, 2007 2:46 PM

Bless Kim Roberts and Beltway Poetry Quarterly.

If Washington's literary (and "sub-literary") past if of interest, look for:

David Cutler's Literary Washington: A Complete Guide to the Literary Life in the Capital, Second Edition

Mystery Reader's Walking Guide, Washington, D.C by Alzina Stone Dale

Posted by: Mike Licht | March 19, 2007 8:56 AM

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