Friday, June 13, 2008

Roosevelt Island: Teddy

Monument to Theodore Roosevelt, naturalist, conservationist,
and 26th President of the United States.

America's 26th President was Theodore Roosevelt. A visionary, Roosevelt quickly understood that natural resources were not self-sustaining and would require great care, respect, and conservation. Thus it was that Roosevelt created the National Bird Preserve (precursor to the Wildlife Refuge system); signed the Antiquities Act of 1906 which protects historic sites and lands from development, mining, and logging; created the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service; and secured a deal that brought the Panama Canal under U.S. control for nearly a century.

L: Close-up of Roosevelt's memorial.
R: One of two fountains in the plaza with the memorial to Teddy Roosevelt.

Roosevelt Island lies to the west of the city, across from the Kennedy Center, in the Potomac River. The only access to the island is either by boat (outboard, kayak, or canoe) or by a footbridge on the Virginia side of the river along the George Washington Parkway. Originally inhabited by Native Americans who called it Analostan, the island eventually fell into the hands of one Capt. Randolph Brandt. He left it to his daughter in his will upon his death in 1698. She, in turn, sold it to George Mason in 1724. His son, John, inherited it in 1792 and built a home on the island. Known to be cool and shaded, many Washingtonians of prominence would escape the summer heat by visiting "Mason's Island." Mason owned the island until 1833 and lived on it until 1831, when a causeway was built which lead to stagnant waters making the island undesirable and uninhabitable. Eventually, Washington Gas & Light Company bought the island and let the foliage grow unchecked. A fire destroyed the Mason mansion and only a few foundation stones remain.

One-quarter of the circular fountains and
raised walkways surrounding the monument.

In 1931, the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association bought the island and proposed a memorial to our 26th president. Congress authorized the memorial in 1932, but it wasn't until 1967 that they appropriated the money for the project. The memorial features a 17-foot statue by sculptor Paul Manship, two fountains, four granite pillars etched with Roosevelt's philosophical beliefs, and a series of staircases and a circular waterway set among trees. It's an odd location for a monument to the man who created the means for America to preserve and protect its historic buildings, battlefields, and natural wonders. It's also an odd statue in that Roosevelt strikes what can only be described as a very Socialist pose. In fact, I jokingly refer to this statue as "Roosevelt Lenin"!

Roosevelt Lenin, as I call him,
apropos his rather Socialist pose reminiscent
of Soviet statues of Lenin and Stalin.

There are three miles of walking trails, including a groomed path through swamp and marsh land that allows for excellent bird watching. Bikes are not allowed on the island, but plenty of people come out here to walk and run the trails.

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 6/08


lacochran said...

I see what you mean. He does look like he could have a hammer and sickle on a banner draped behind him, nyet? :)

USelaine said...

On my one trip to the D.C. area, for a week of "new hire" orientation back around 1987, a naturalist took us on a little field trip to this island. It was the first time I heard of the importance of the "fall line" to eastern settlement patterns. And all the plants and birds were unfamiliar as well. It felt like such a special discovery for a lifelong Californian.

American Fork said...

Love these photos and the information.

D.C. Confidential said...

Lacochran: I'm glad it isn't just me!

USElaine: There are so many "who knew?" kind of places like this in the D.C. area, it almost makes living here bearable!

American Fork: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed these.

lindson said...

I find Rosevelt Island to be kinda sad. It's a great little retreet in theory, but you can hear the freeways from any point in the park, and most of the trails give you a great view of the freeway overpasses too :(

I'm doing some research on Teddy Roosevelt and came across some pretty fun blog. Who knew Teddy Roosevelt was so popular. Did you know about the Nationals team mascot - Teddy Roosevelt - who always loses?! How funny. Why would you have a mascot who loses? Anyway, here's whyere I found out about it:

D.C. Confidential said...

Lindson: What I find sad about Roosevelt Island is how overgrown it is. It's awfully ironic, given its current namesake.

I love the Presidential Races at the Nats games! I didn't realize Teddy always lost. That's too bad, too, because he was a very popular president who accomplished a number of positive changes in domestic and foreign policy. He probably could have won a third term, if he hadn't promised voters he wouldn't run beyond his second term.