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Lost Capitol Hill: The Plaque at Providence Park
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Lost Capitol Hill: The Plaque at Providence Park

February 20th, 2012 by Robert Pohl · 6 Comments · Capitol Hill

EutureOne of the ways I try to keep my tour groups’ eyes open is to have them search for something in a monument or memorial we are visiting. My personal favorite is the – repaired — error on the engraving of the Second Inaugural Address of the Lincoln Memorial, which can see in the picture on the left. Some people notice it right away, others need a bit of help. With a little luck, this can lead into a discussion about how such an error can come to be, and thus get the students to think a bit about how such a memorial comes to be built. And, of course, the question about how to repair the damage. More recently, this has become a major question dogging the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, but it is not just a question for major memorials on the Mall, either.

Closer to home, the plaque at the north side of Providence Park has shown itself to be in need for some repair, as well. As long as I can remember (which, admittedly, is not that long by Capitol Hill standards) a granite marker with a bronze plaque has reminded visitors to this green and leafy park of its bloody history as the location of one of DC’s earliest hospitals.

Sadly, the original bronze plaque consisted of two parts, with a picture of the hospital on a smaller plaque glued to the larger one. This proved irresistible to some light-fingered passer-by, and thus the smaller plaque has been lost for quite some time.

The old plaque, with its missing picture (RSP)

Finally, then, the Architect of the Capitol, who is responsible for this park, decided to do something about it, and had a new plaque, with the picture now a permanent part of it, cast and, earlier this year, had it affixed to the marker.

The new plaque (RSP)

Unfortunately, as you can see on the lower picture — which was taken on February 1 of this year — there was a mistake in the text. An especially embarrassing mistake in that the text from the older plaque was taken over entirely unchanged. And the fact that it is both internally inconsistent — there’s no way a hospital can move a year before it is founded — and historically inaccurate: The new building was indeed begun in 1866, but the move did not occur until the building was finished in 1872.

As of right now, the plaque has once again been removed, and a note from the Architect of the Capitol explains that the new, correct, plaque will soon be restored to its rightful position.

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  • Anonymous

    How much is this costing taxpayers, including preparation and removal of an incorrect plaque?

    • http://twitter.com/darsal Dave Salovesh

      On the other side of the same coin, what’s the value in properly marking and remembering a historic site? What’s lost by keeping an old and damaged marker, or by having no marker at all?

      If we’re only going to look at the dollars and cents, only at the bottom line, don’t we deserve to know the full balance of these accounts?

    • http://twitter.com/darsal Dave Salovesh

      On the other side of the same coin, what’s the value in properly marking and remembering a historic site? What’s lost by keeping an old and damaged marker, or by having no marker at all?

      If we’re only going to look at the dollars and cents, only at the bottom line, don’t we deserve to know the full balance of these accounts?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=506547673 Kristin Franke Monaco

    This is wonderful – thank you Robert! We live just a block over, so anything we see about Providence Hospital is always so interesting. Do you lead tours around Capitol Hill?

  • Brian Williams

    The new plaque also refers to “war causalities” … rather than casualties.

    • http://www.dclikealocal.com Tim Krepp

      Looks like both plaques refer to war casualties.