Designed by Edward Donn and funded by the Garden Club of America, the rectangular markers might not look like much at first; however, their designs symbolize the progression of the United States since Geroge Washington’s birth, the beauty of the nation’s capital, and the states that border it. On one of its faces, the markers feature the seal of Washington, DC: George Washington stands on a pedestal with a woman representing Lady Justice below, holding a laurel wreath representing victory in her hands, with the U.S. Capitol Building in the background and an eagle perched at the forefront. The Maryland or Virginia seal adorned the opposite face, depending on which state the marker bordered. Originally standing at five-to-six-feet tall, many of the markers no longer stand at this height, or even at their original locations. The markers’ troubled histories can be traced all the way back to their original proposal and design, both of which coincided with the bicentennial birthday of George Washington.
In 1932, an Act of Congress declaring celebrations for the bicentennial birthday of George Washington stirred up numerous projects meant to recognize and honor the founding father. Coincidentally, with all of the other commemorative projects taking place in the Washington, DC region, President Hoover’s wish to create grand entrances to DC from Maryland and Virginia sparked a long and somewhat successful partnership with the Garden Club of America. Designed to adorn some of the major thoroughfares into DC from Maryland and Virginia, the Garden Club Entrance Markers were meant to present the nation’s capital with beautiful architecture and landscaping.
In reality, the markers would undergo major design changes. Originally, National Capital Parks and Planning (NCPC) officials had proposed recycling 16-foot tall columns from the Roosevelt Executive Building for each entrance, but this idea was denied. Then, a proposal to create similarly tall columns with eagles placed on top was scrapped despite being approved by the Commission of Fine Arts. As a result, the NCPC and Garden Club of America pivoted to the markers in existence today. Much smaller and less grand than those previously proposed, the new plans greatly scaled down the grand entrances once imagined, as well as the budget allocated to their construction.
With all of the delays and changes, only one set of markers was actually erected during Washington’s bicentennial celebratory period. The rest were completed and erected in 1933, and soon after, caretakers realized that the locations made it difficult to maintain the gardens surrounding the markers. Over the years, many of the markers would be damaged by vehicles hitting them, removed due to road expansion and construction, or relocated due to some combination of these factors. Today, only three of the six original pairs remain: pairs at Westmoreland Circle, Chevy Chase Circle, and Friendship Heights; individual markers at Georgia Avenue and on the Virginia side of Key Bridge also survived. Many of these markers have damage, stand much smaller than their original heights, and no longer show the reliefs carved into them from wear. Despite their arduous journeys, the markers do their best to commemorate and recognize George Washington as the first president and the most famous Founding Father.
DC Inventory: May 24, 2007
National Register: April 29, 2008 (Chevy Chase, Westmoreland, and Georgia) and May 12, 2008 (Wisconsin and Western)