Tuesday, December 20, 2011

No L

On a short stretch of 16th St. NW there are two statues of bishops. About Irving there is an equestrian statue of Francis Asbury, a pioneering Methodist bishop in this country. At Park Road there is a statue of James Cardinal Gibbons, whose dates of birth and death are about 100 years after Asbury's. I think Asbury's statue much the better, on the grounds that a horse and plain clothes make for a better sculpture than ecclesiastical robes and a chair.

On the other hand, the makers of Gibbons's statue took the trouble to cut the inscription into the base of the statue, and after 80 years the letters show no particular wear. The lettering for Asbury's statue is metal, affixed to the base. For at least a month he has been "THE PROPHET OF THE  ONG ROAD", an "L" having disappeared. I trust that somebody--the Park Service? the Methodists?--will fix this, eventually.

In Washington, Asbury is remembered also by the Asbury Dwellings at 7th St. and Rhode Island Ave. NW, and by the Asbury United Methodist Church at 11th and K Streets NW. Gibbons has a hall named after him at Catholic University on Michigan Ave. NE, but after that I suppose one must go to Baltimore, where there is a high school named after him, and another statue.

(December 21: Asbury's title is missing the "P" also, which I believe must be a fairly recent loss. There is in fact incised lettering on the base of the statue; however, it is at ground level and so visible only if one enters the horseshoe-shaped hedge that surrounds it.)


  1. I'm not optimistic about the maintenance and restoration of those statues. Joan of Arc up there atop Meridian Hill Park has been without her sword for decades. (Thanks for pointing out the Gibbons statue, which I'd never connected to one of the more architecturally interesting buildings at CUA.)

  2. The Gibbons statue is not conspicuous, sitting as it does in a small triangular park bordered by trees. It is a shame to see these statues deteriorate. Quite recently the statues on the corners of Lafayette Square have had work done--amounting to what I didn't see, and the Sherman monument south of the Treasury had work done before that. I suppose they may have some official status that other statues lack.