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Adams Memorial, Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington DC
 

Foundations of America

QU201 Prof. Scott Leone

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Home Stony Creek Granite Sites Monuments & Parks Adams Memorial, Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington DC

Adams Memorial, Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington DC

Rock Creek Cemetery, also known as Rock Creek Church Yard and Cemetery, is about eighty-six acres located at the intersection of Rock Creek Church Road and Webster Street in Washington, DC.  It is also very close to the well-known Soldiers’ Home and the Soldiers’ Home Cemetery.  The area was originally designed to be both a cemetery and a public park in 1719.    The cemetery is a part of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Rock Creek Parish.  In 1977, the Rock Creek Cemetery and its bordering church grounds were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Although the cemetery has an abundance of well known monuments including the Frederic Keep Monument, the Heurich, the Kauffman Monument and the Thompson-Harding Monument, its most well known is the Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Stanford White’s Adams Memorial.  The Memorial can be found in Section E on the East side of St. Paul’s Church where it is hidden by shrubbery that with a radius of about ten feet.  This monument is a bronze sculpture of a person of indistinguishable sex who is seated upon a granite setting which marks the graves of Henry and Marian Adams.

 

Adams Memorial, also known as “Grief” or “Peace of God that Passeth Understanding”, is a monument in Rock Creek Cemetery located in Washington, DC.  It was constructed by the architectural firm of White of McKim, Mead & White: with Stanford White as the leading designer of the setting that cost an estimated $10,730.  The monument, which is part of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, took about five years and was finished in 1891.  Henry Adams comes from an extremely well known family.  Both his paternal grandfather, John  Quincy Adams, and great grandfather, John Adams, one of the most prominent among the Founding Fathers, had been Presidents of the United States, his maternal grandfather was a millionaire, and another great grandfather, Nathaniel Gorham, signed the Constitution.  It was custom-built for the historian Henry Adams for his wife’s grave; Marian Hooper “Clover” Adams (considered the inspiration for writer Henry James’s Daisy Miller and The Portrait of a Lady), committed suicide in 1885 after her father, Robert William Hooper’s, death at the age of 42 by swallowing the chemicals she used to develop her photographs.  Her father was a physician and they became very close after her mother’s death when she was five.  The bronze figure sits five feet and ten inches high and is set on top of a Stony Creek granite base, recognized for its distinct pink hue.  The figure is very unique and interesting because the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens combined both male and female characteristics as well as a blend of both Eastern and Western visual references after Adams proposed that he study images and symbolic representations from Buddhism and Christian religions and cultures, with a particular focus on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Sibyls.

The sculpture was modeled after a male but the face was made in the image of a female, giving it an androgynous quality.  The statue is constructed entirely out of bronze and depicts a person sitting down with the right arm bent and the fingers are curled slightly resting just under, but not touching, the cheek.  The other arm goes across the body ending with the hand in a fist just in front of the elbow of the right arm.  The figure has a shawl draped over it so that only the face and arms are visible.  The legs and arms have a manly quality to them while the face appears to be more feminine.  Her face is set back beneath the hood which adds a sort of mystery, which most see as a sense of contemplation and meditation, to the sculpture.  Despite the androgynous quality, many feel as though the statue idealizes the image of a woman in grief.  The figure sits upon a bench and platform made completely out of Stony Creek Granite.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens, considered to be one of the greatest American sculptors and monument builders of the late nineteenth to early twentieth century, was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1848.  He moved to New York before he was even a year old, when he turned thirteen he left school in order to apprentice with a cameo cutter, taking classes at Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design.  At nineteen he moved back to Europe to continue his classical art and architecture studies in Paris and Rome.  He returned to America for his first big commission in New York City for “Admiral Farragut” which was finished in 1881 and is located in Madison Square Park.  This bronze statue captures both the complexity and grandeur of the American heroes portrayed.  He became a member of rising artists and architects including Stanford White and Charles McKim, explaining why he worked with the firm so often.  He often took on students at the same time as his projects, which took close to ten years to complete.  The actual bronze statue at the entrance of New York’s Central Park of General Sherman took over eleven years to complete.  Arguably his most famous piece of work is the bronze sculpture he had created for Adams Memorial (which sits on a granite base built by Stanford White) in the Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington DC.  He moved to his summer home in Cornish, New Hampshire by 1900 and died seven years later on August 3.

Stanford White, who trained under Henry Hobson Richardson, known for the “Richardson Romanesque” (Trinity Church complete 1877) style, was a very influential American architect and founded the architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White in 1880.  For the first seven years the architects focused on designing large country and seaside mansions in “Shingle” style. White brought to the firm a talent for beautiful Italian Renaissance style (seen in the Vanderbilt family residence, 1905) which helped to establish McKim, Mead and White as one of the most well-known firms at the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century.  White, and in some cases the entire firm, designed a wide variety of building whether public, institutional, or religious, which include Washington Square Arch which still stands today 110 years later, the original Madison Square Garden, the Vanderbilt family residence, and the New York Herald Building.  White also is notorious for his affair with Evelyn Nesbit whose husband, Henry Thaw, shot White in June of 1906 while attending the opening of Madison Square Garden’s roof show.

McKim, Mead and White was a prominent architectural firm in the United States that was started in1872 by McKim and Mead (both of which had worked under Henry Hobson Richardson) and were later joined by White in 1879.  The three partners of the firm included Charles Follen McKim (1847), William Rutherford Mead (1846-1928), and Stanford White (1853-1906).  The firm was known for using Beaux-Arts architecture (which expressed the academic neoclassical architectural style taught at the famous Ecole des Beaux-Arts located in Paris, France).  The firm was successful mainly due the how well the three partners complemented each other’s styles: McKim was an idealist, Mead a pragmatist, and White was known as the sensualist.  Mead stuck to the universal principles, Mead was a realist, and White was eager to break the norm and use new materials and experiment with new building forms.  The firm remained active into the 1960’s under its original name and designed the National Museum of American History in Washington DC which opened in 1964 and is one of the firm’s last pieces of work.  Despite the Museum opening in 1964, in 1961 the company was succeeded by the firm Steinman, Cain, and White.  And in 1971 the firm became simply Walker O. Cain and Associates.  The firm has been known to use granite in a lot of their structures and have used granite from Stony Creek on numerous occasions.

McKim, Mead and White was a prominent architectural firm in the United States that was started in 1872 by McKim and Mead (both of which had worked under Henry Hobson Richardson) and were later joined by White in 1879.  The three partners of the firm included Charles Follen McKim (1847), William Rutherford Mead (1846-1928), and Stanford White (1853-1906).  The firm was known for using Beaux-Arts architecture (which expressed the academic neoclassical architectural style taught at the famous Ecole des Beaux-Arts located in Paris, France).  The firm was successful mainly due the how well the three partners complemented each other’s styles: McKim was an idealist, Mead a pragmatist, and White was known as the sensualist.  Mead stuck to the universal principles, Mead was a realist, and White was eager to break the norm and use new materials and experiment with new building forms.  The firm remained active into the 1960’s under its original name and designed the National Museum of American History in Washington DC which opened in 1964 and is one of the firm’s last pieces of work.  Despite the Museum opening in 1964, in 1961 the company was succeeded by the firm Steinman, Cain, and White.  And in 1971 the firm became simply Walker O. Cain and Associates.  The firm has been known to use granite in many of their structures and have used granite from Stony Creek on numerous occasions a well known building is the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of History and Technology, 1964.


Stony Creek is known for its unusual pink granite which was first quarried by Benjamin Green in 1858.  Quarries in Stony Creek include Green’s Quarry, Granite Island Quarry, Pine Orchard Quarry, Red Hill/Stony Creek Red Granite Quarry, and the Quarries at the Pines.  When the railroad was built in 1852 the industry was able to dramatically improve transportation.  The industry reached is height just prior to the strike of 1900 where about 1,800 men were employed from a variety of countries including Italy, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, England, Scotland, and Spain. There are three well documented companies that used granite from these quarries including Stony Creek Red Granite Company, Norcross Brothers, and Guilford’s Beattie Quarry.  The Beattie Company was well known for implementing the best (long-term) safety standards of the three; knowing the dangers of silicosis.  It was a lot more difficult to quarry in the 19th century since a suitable seam would have to be found and drilled by hand.  Then the holes were filled with as much as sixteen kegs of black powder to open the seam with relatively little damage (since dynamite would shatter the stone it to fragments).  The blocks (that weighed up to twentytons) would have to be lifted by derricks (as high as 127 feet tall) which could break and needed to be maintained regularly.  The Quarrymen’s Union was formed officially in 1891 when they formed contracts that allowed a pay scale for the men working.  On March 1, 1900 the workers went on strike when the company refused to increase the pay.  The strike hurt the industry immensely however; it was World War I that truly devastated the industry because black powder and man power became scarce.  Regardless of this the quarry dramatically impacted the community of Stony Creek exponentially more than the swarms of summer guests who had begun vacationing around the same time.  Since the quarry workers lived in the town year round houses, schools, and the necessary stores (including grocery, blacksmith, movie theater, pharmacy, post office, etc) had to be quickly constructed.  Today quarrying is much easier and more efficient due to the great improvements in hydraulics and explosives.  Since it is possible to cut as much stone in one month as the older quarrymen cut in three years, the orders for the granite became much larger.  When reading this one might wonder how much longer Stony Creek may last, experts have confirmed that there is enough stone to last at least another 200 years if the demands for the granite remain the same.

 

 

 

Read the Nation Register of Historical Places Inventory-Nomination Form:

http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/72001420.pdf

To read more about the five sibyls Michelangelo painted in the Sistine Chapel check out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelangelo#Sistine_Chapel_ceiling

Want to see more photos of the Adams Memorial click here: http://www.dcmemorials.com/index_indiv0000001.htm

Want a more in depth look at Stony Creek Granite? Check out Flesh and Stone!!

Look at Adams Memorial on Google Earth! 38o56'50.66"N     77o00'37.18"W  elevation 280ft

Last Updated on Monday, 29 November 2010 23:12  

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Flesh and Stone

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Uncirculated: Shrink wrapped in clear plastic from original Italian publisher, 1999. Ships with fresh samples of sparkling Stony Creek pink granite for historians, collectors, geologists and classrooms. Additional samples available upon request.