Washington Monument (1897)

by Rudolf Siemering (1835 - 1905)

Photo Caption: Photo Caitlin Martin © 2010 for the Association for Public Art
Benjamin Franklin Parkway at Eakins Oval
1897

Gift of the Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania to the City of Philadelphia

Owned by the City of Philadelphia


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At A Glance

  • Part of the Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO program

  • The Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania, founded to commemorate those who had fought together during the War of Independence, commissioned the Washington Monument

  • George Washington served as president of the Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania

  • The monument was unveiled in 1897 in Fairmount Park, and was relocated in 1928 following the completion of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway

The Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania was founded at the City Tavern in Philadelphia on October 4, 1783, to commemorate those who had fought together during the War of Independence. On Independence Day in 1810, the society resolved to create a memorial to General George Washington, who had served as president of the organization from its founding until his death in 1799.

The monument is constructed in three zones or levels, each representing a different concept

Funds for the monument accumulated slowly, and in 1824 a second Washington Monument Fund was formed by a group of citizens. This group selected a site on Washington Square for the installation and hoped that the Society of the Cincinnati would cooperate. Instead, in 1880 the trusteeship of the Washington Monument Fund was handed over to the Society of the Cincinnati, enabling a final contract to be signed in 1881 with Professor Rudolf Siemering of Berlin.

Washington Monument - detail
Photo Caitlin Martin © 2010 for the Association for Public Art

For this commission, Siemering was particularly concerned that the figures be represented accurately in features and dress. He modeled Washington’s face from a copy of a mask made during the general’s life and asked to be provided with photographs and prints. The monument is constructed in three zones or levels, each representing a different concept: Washington (the hero) sits at the top; allegorical figures depicting his time are on the middle level; and on the lowest level are the flora and fauna of his country with representative human figures.

Following extended negotiation concerning the final siting of the work and the artist’s wish to have the sculpture gilded (a suggestion that was ultimately rejected), the monument was unveiled on May 5, 1897, at the Green Street entrance to Fairmount Park. The long-awaited event was celebrated nationally, and President McKinley presided over the dedication ceremony. Following the completion of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 1928, the monument was moved to the terminus of the thoroughfare in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992).

 

RESOURCES

Museum Without Walls logo: a program of the Association for Public Art

 

Voices heard in the program:

Anna O. Marley is Curator of Historical American Art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Robert Harris Sproat is a member of the State Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania.

Segment Producer: Lu Olkowski

A program of the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association), Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is an innovative and accessible outdoor sculpture audio program for Philadelphia’s preeminent collection of public art.

User calls Museum Without Walls Audio for Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture
Photo Albert Yee © 2010 for the Association for Public Art

A “multi-platform” interactive audio experience – available for free by cell phone, mobile app, audio download, or on the web – Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO offers the unique histories that are not typically expressed on outdoor permanent signage.

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This artwork is part of the Along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway tour, and the Around the Philadelphia Museum of Art tour.

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