meridian hill park

joan of arc in meridian hill park; photo by salem pearce

I took the day off from work today and decided to take photos en route to my massage appointment at Mint (yeah, my life is tough, I know). Since “Mint Dupont” is actually in Adams Morgan, I choose Meridian Hill Park, where I’ve only been once before, and that was really early in the morning during boot camp. Under those conditions, it was hard to appreciate the design and flora.

I find Meridian Hill Park a little wacky. First of all, the park reminds me of both of Morningside Park in New York and of the gardens around the Villa Borghese in Rome. I’m not wrong about the latter: Apparently the architect meant to design a “grand urban park modeled on parks found in European capitals.”

Secondly, its name is rather abstruse. The National Park Service website explains that John Porter built a mansion on the hill and so named it “because it was on the exact longitude of the original District of Columbia milestone marker.” This line is apparently one of the “Washington meridians” — but three pages into Wikipedia, and I still don’t really know what those are, except that there are markers for them all over the district.

Next, its nickname is Malcolm X Park . . . for no reason. That’s just what people call it. And the statues are no help: They consist of a U.S. president, an Italian poet, a French warrior, and a bare-breasted representation of “Serenity” — the whitest statue in the world.

Finally, the building material, concrete aggregrate, experimental (and groundbreaking?) for the early 20th century, doesn’t really stand the test of time. The material is now employed almost exclusively for utilitarian, not decorative, projects. Basically, it looks like design by sidewalk.

With all of those caveats, I do find the park charming and relaxing — despite the disturbing number of people running stairs there in the middle of a summer day. It’s certainly an under-appreciated part of D.C.

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