D.c.'s Most-Missed Monuments (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Transcripts

D.C.'s Most-Missed Monuments

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:14:25
So we've established that D.C. is chock-a-block with cool places to visit. I mean, really, pardon me while I boast, but we have parks, we have green space. We have more museums than you can shake a stick at. And if you're a sucker for monuments, memorials and historic sites, we have hundreds, including, of course, the usual suspects, right? Popular favorites like the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, but if you look closely right near each of these biggies, there's at least one historical spot most people miss. Emily Friedman takes us on a tour to check out several of these small fish in a big site-seeing pond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1

13:15:05
And if you look to the left of the Jefferson Memorial, you see the Washington Monument.

MS. EMILY FRIEDMAN

13:15:10
When touring around D.C., you have to try not to see the Washington Monument. It's the tallest building in the District right in the middle of the National Mall. And when it comes to attracting tourists, it turns out size does matter, in this case, height.

MS. CAROLYN CROUCH

13:15:25
We are standing by a comparatively shorter, not an obelisk, but a stone shaft, which is known as the Zero Milestone.

FRIEDMAN

13:15:35
And comparatively shorter, how short is it?

CROUCH

13:15:38
Well, the Washington Monument is 555 feet tall. This little guy must be maybe three and half feet, four feet tall.

FRIEDMAN

13:15:45
Carolyn Crouch is the founder of Washington Walks.

CROUCH

13:15:49
It's a D.C.-based walking tour company.

FRIEDMAN

13:15:51
She's helping me track down three of the most-missed monuments in D.C. First stop, the Zero Milestone. It's on the Ellipse, about halfway between the White House and the Washington Monument. And because it's so close to these marquee destinations a lot of people pass by. But do they know what it is?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 1

13:16:06
Absolutely not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE 2

13:16:08
Nope.

1

13:16:10
I thought it might be a water fountain or something from first glance.

FRIEDMAN

13:16:13
So what is the Zero Milestone? According to Pierre Charles L'Enfant, original city planner, this was the official starting point from which all distances in the country would be measured. And while that plan didn't quite pan out, Carolyn Crouch says, there is one road that did start here.

CROUCH

13:16:29
Well, it was the starting point of a transcontinental highway known as the Lee Highway. It's in honor of a very well-known Virginia-born military man, Robert E. Lee and it stretches across the Southern part of the United States and it goes to San Diego.

FRIEDMAN

13:16:46
Before we move on to our next stop, one quick fact about the Zero Milestone. So if you google map Washington D.C., not a certain place here, just the name of the city, the little marker shows up on the Zero Milestone, a little trivia for you. Moving on to stop number two, about 100 feet from the White House, the Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain.

CROUCH

13:17:05
We're looking at what should be a working fountain, but it's actually a memorial to two men.

FRIEDMAN

13:17:12
Now, 100 feet from the White House is pretty close. You'd think, well, they must be really important people and they were, about 100 years ago.

CROUCH

13:17:20
And if you came here now, you wouldn't really know much about who these two men are.

FRIEDMAN

13:17:25
So you have to do a little detective work. Take a look at the figures on the fountain.

CROUCH

13:17:30
One is a military figure and the other is a figure holding a paint brush and a palette. And that gives us a clue as to who these men were.

FRIEDMAN

13:17:39
Military man and an artist, that's what we have to work with. Good thing we have a tour guide.

CROUCH

13:17:44
One was named Francis Davis Millet and he was the one who was an artist. He was very good friends with Archibald Butt who was from Georgia and had a career in the U.S. military.

FRIEDMAN

13:17:58
Butt and Millet were key advisors and friends of the Roosevelt and Taft administrations. They both happened to be in Europe at the same time in the spring of 1912. So they decided to sail back to Washington together on a brand new ocean liner called "The Titanic."

CROUCH

13:18:11
And then this tragedy strikes and they were both last seen giving their life preservers to women as the ship was sinking.

FRIEDMAN

13:18:19
Within a month, their friends had raised enough money to build a memorial.

CROUCH

13:18:21
But sadly, I think they've pretty much been forgotten.

FRIEDMAN

13:18:27
For the record, how many people are also viewing the fountain with us right now?

CROUCH

13:18:31
We are the only people viewing this fountain right now.

FRIEDMAN

13:18:35
If there's one spot that gets fewer visitors than the Butt-Millet Fountain or the Zero Milestone, it's this place, our third and final stop, Signers' Island. You cross over a wooden bridge to access the island where you'll find a memorial for the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

CROUCH

13:18:54
You have 56 different pieces of stone on which is engraved the actual signature of each of the signers.

FRIEDMAN

13:19:03
Crouch says seeing the engraved signatures reminds visitors how signing the Declaration of Independence was a serious decision.

CROUCH

13:19:10
Because this was an act of treason, this could have meant for them a death sentence or imprisonment. It wasn't the same sort of fireworks, joyous, how we acknowledge it today. It was, well, here we go, now what?

FRIEDMAN

13:19:23
Although the site celebrates the very foundation of our country, it is not well known.

CROUCH

13:19:30
A lot of people, if they've gone over there, they might think of it as goose guano island because a lot of Canadian geese hang out there. They're very territorial about that place.

FRIEDMAN

13:19:39
Crouch understands how these geese feel. Signers' Island is a special place for her, too.

CROUCH

13:19:44
This is where my husband proposed to me. I don't see any benches, but I know I was sitting down and I'm afraid I might have been sitting on one of the signers' stones. I don't know. But there was no one else here appropriately. He brought a little candle, lit it, got down on his knee and I was engaged to be married.

FRIEDMAN

13:20:07
Just one of the benefits of knowing Washington D.C.'s most-missed monuments, I'm Emily Friedman.

SHEIR

13:20:14
You can find photos and a map of some of D.C.'s most-missed monuments on our website, metroconnection.org And if you have some favorite missed monuments of your own, we want to hear about them. Send us an e-mail at metro@wamu.org. You can also visit us on Facebook. That's facebook.com/metroconnection.org
Transcripts of WAMU programs are available for personal use. Transcripts are provided "As Is" without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. WAMU does not warrant that the transcript is error-free. For all WAMU programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version. Transcripts are owned by WAMU 88.5 FM American University Radio and are protected by laws in both the United States and international law. You may not sell or modify transcripts or reproduce, display, distribute, or otherwise use the transcript, in whole or in part, in any way for any public or commercial purpose without the express written permission of WAMU. All requests for uses beyond personal and noncommercial use should be referred to (202) 885-1200.