One 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.
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.
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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