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Mark David Richards
District of Columbia Service in World War One and the DC World War Memorial
May 26, 2002




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District of Columbia Service in World War One and the DC World War Memorial

by Mark David Richards

with a special thank you to Olivia Walling of the Washingtoniana Room of the DC Public Library. Most information for this paper was drawn from articles published in the Star in the 1920s and 1930s. Articles were assembled in a 1930s scrapbook at the Washingtonian Room, "Memorials and Monuments, Washington, DC," +9859w M513 R-Y, v.5).

Memorial Day 2002

DC World War Memorial

Washington, DC residents built a Temple to memorialize local heroes who served the nation in World War One. It was completed in 1931. It is located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It was the first memorial on the Mall to list women and African Americans with white men.

The District of Columbia War Memorial

  • An Act of Congress authorized the District of Columbia War Memorial on June 7, 1924.
  • A memorial commission, formed of Washington citizens, was established to organize a campaign for popular subscriptions (nearly $200,000) to build a white marble Doric temple to honor DC citizens who served in World War I.
  • The Fine Arts Commission chose the site of the memorial on marshy land in a grove of trees in West Potomac Park.
  • The memorial was designed as a marble bandstand, 40 feet in diameter, large enough to accommodate the entire membership of the Marine Band, to honor the living and the dead.
  • The Noyes family took the lead in two campaigns—the campaign to build this memorial and the campaign to pass a Constitutional amendment. Frank led the campaign to build the District of Columbia World War Memorial, described in this paper.
  • By that time, Theodore Noyes had published a series arguing for a Constitutional amendment to give D.C. citizens representation in Congress and members in the presidential Electoral College. Theodore led the Citizens’ Joint Committee on National Representation for the District of Columbia, composed of about 30 local organizations, established in 1916. World War One slowed the Amendment campaign. An Amendment was eventually passed in 1961 to grant DC residents the right to vote for three electors for President, equal to the number granted to the least populated state. His dream of equal rights has not yet been realized. Mr. Noyes left the income from a $25,000 trust bequeathed to the cause of DC suffrage. He wrote, "I create this trust in order to continue to participate in a small way even after my death in the campaign for District national representation, because I am convinced no other legislation is so essential to the welfare of the men and women of my home community." Theodore Noyes was a founding member and early president of the Board of Trade. He died July 4, 1946.
  • Frank B. Noyes, the son of Crosby S. Noyes, was chairman of the memorial commission. Frank Noyes was President of The Evening Star Newspaper Co., a Washington, DC newspaper purchased in part by his father. He was also president of the Associated Press.
  • Other members of the memorial commission included Col. E. Lester Jones, secretary; John Poole, treasurer and chairman of the campaign committee; Charles A. Baker, Gist Blair, Edward F. Colladay, John Joy Edson, Mrs. William Corcoran Eustis, Isaac Gans, John M. Gleissner, Edward B. McLean, J.R. McDonald, G. Logan Payne, Julius I. Peyser, and Anton Stephan.
  • The memorial campaign headquarters was located in the Gridiron room of the New Willard Hotel.
  • Janet T. Noyes, Frank’s wife, headed the women’s committee of the Memorial Commission. Mrs. William Corcoran Eustis, vice chairman; Mrs. James F. Curtis, executive secretary; Mrs. John Philip Hill, chairman of personnel, Miss Eppes Hawes, vice chairman of personnel, with Mrs. Wallach Meriam directed women’s activities in the campaign to build the memorial.
  • Newbold Noyes, the son of Frank Noyes, was chairman of the campaign; John Poole, treasurer; and Edmund F. Jewell, publisher of The Washington Times and The Washington Herald, secretary.
  • The architect of the memorial was Frederick H. Booke, with Nathan Wyeth and Horace W. Peaslee associated.
  • Harry King, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said, "Construction of the war memorial by out-of-town agencies would violate the principle and do injustice ot the people of our city." A local construction company was chosen: James Baird Co., contractors.
  • A model of the memorial was placed in the corner window at Woodward & Lothrop, 11th and F Streets NW. A placard explaining the memorial read, "Model of a memorial to the armed forces of the Untied States from the District of Columbia, who served their country in the great war [sic] to be erected by popular subscription in Potomac Park and used for military concerts. The names of the District’s heroic dead will be inscribed on the inner face of the dome." [Note—the design was changed to inscribe the names around the base.]
  • The Star (July 27, 1926) reported that the commission’s statement said, "The memorial is now the privilege of Washington to signalize the honor and love and remembrance in which we hold those, the dead and living, who represented us in the defense of our national ideals and security. The memorial, which, as the great bridge across the Potomac shall speak a Nation’s remembrance for her defenders shall speak our own more intimate gratitude to those more intimately bound to us; is to be built by subscription from the people of Washington. … [I]t will stand through the years as the expression of a city’s pride in the men who fought in its behalf."
  • Captain Paul J. McGahan, American Legion executive committeeman for the DC, criticized DC residents and Congress for not having acted sooner to build a memorial. He said, "Washington lags behind every State in the Union in expressing its appreciation of the services of its sons and daughters who ‘went to war’." He said, "Native Washingtonians have been hiding behind the cloak of Congress and Congress has not localized its treatment of veterans in the District of Columbia to the extent that is their due because of its paternal legislative relationship to the disenfranchised Capital City."
  • Numerous local civic organizations and men and women were involved in distributing pledge cards and raising funds, including the street car and bus companies, the two radio broadcasting companies, the motion picture theaters and vaudeville houses, hotels, banks, large stores, the Boy and Girl Scouts, the police and fire departments, and women’s clubs and organizations. Women’s clubs held luncheons and set up about 40 booths in government buildings and places of business. Men and women organized into teams, with captains, members, and individual workers.
  • Dr. Frank W. Ballou, superintendent of schools, and members of the Board of Education, made preparations to involve the 70,000 school children by asking each one to contribute 5 cents. All children who contributed 5 cents were given buttons with the number "535" representing DC’s war dead, and a sketch of the Doric temple. While The Star reported that "While contribution from school children usually are discouraged, it is pointed out by school officials that in this case the school children should be acquainted with the purposes of the memorial as a part of their education as future citizens of the nation. In years to come they will remember their participation in a movement which has for its purpose, it was point out, the perpetual commemoration of patriotic men and women who gave their lives for their country."
  • At the direction of President Calvin Coolidge, his cabinet, chief clerks of all federal departments and establishments were authorized to receive subscriptions to fund the memorial. President Coolidge called the memorial "an exceedingly worthy proposal" and enclosed a contribution with a note to Frank Noyes on March 13, 1926.
  • The chief engineer of the Army’s Office of Public Buildings and Grounds was responsible for parks and buildings until 1925. The Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital, headed by an army engineer officer, succeeded that organization. It was reorganized in 1933. The National Capital Parks-Central (NCPP) was established in 1965 to administer the National Park Service units in the memorial core of Washington, DC capital, and is responsible for the DC World War Memorial. http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/mackintosh1/sts2b.htm.
  • Organized labor threw its support behind the memorial, sending the building fund over the top by October 1, 1927. The Central Labor Union held an Exposition and Fair to benefit the memorial. They awarded prizes to attendees.
  • Newbold Noyes donated two silver cups that were awarded to the police precinct and the fire station turning in the largest contributions to the memorial fund. The Detective Bureau of the Police Department and No. 8 Engine Company of the Fire Department won the competition.
  • The white marble for the memorial was purchased from the Vermont Marble Co., from the Danby quarry at Danby, Vermont. Two months were required to quarry and finish the stone.
  • The foundation for the temple was laid on piles that were driven into the soft subsoil, to the solid rock far below.
  • A special committee was established to compile a complete list of names of those who died. The committee was composed of Maj. Gen. Anton Stephan, Maj. Gist Blair, Frederick H. Brooke, DR. B.C. MacNeil, and Col. Nevitt, secretary. The Star published the committee’s list as it was made (see "The District’s Honor Roll," published September 20, 1931).
  • A memorial grove of fine hardwood native trees was planted around the memorial. A number of large elms were planted about 50 feet around the temple. Large tulip trees were planted at a greater distance, and oaks, beech, and elms were planted irregularly in between the two types of trees. James L. Greenleaf, a distinguished landscape architect and former member of the Fine Arts Commission, approved the memorial grove design.
  • On September 30, 1931, Abner L. Roe placed the keystone in position using the same trowel used to lay the corner stone of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Two days before the memorial was dedicated, The Star (November 9, 1931) published an editorial, "The War Memorial."

Healing time has softened in some degree the sharp pain of those blows that severed heart strings thirteen years ago as casualty lists brought home grim tidings of how the battles fared. Harsh grief has given way to the sweet memory and thought of those who died no longer is obscured by the dust and turmoil of angry battle, but shines white and clear, like the first star of a calm Summer evening. Some of this purity and dignity of death for a cause has been expressed by the skillful artisans who conceived and fashioned the District of Columbia War Memorial, dedicated by the President of the United States on this the thirteenth anniversary of the signing of the armistice.

The exercises today crown the efforts of those thousands of Washingtonians who, through generous subscription and unselfish service, have made the memorial possible. More than any of the splendid monuments in this city of monuments, its erection represents the achievement of Washingtonians. Carved in the solid stone of its base are the honored names of those sons and daughters of this city who lost their lives in the war. Inclosed [sic] in the firm foundations, sealed against the ravages of age and decay, are the names of those who answered the call of duty sounded by the war. And the completed work itself, standing in a grove of friendly trees in West Potomac Park is testimony of the success of the members of our Washington community who labored to build this memorial.

Not so long ago the ground upon which now stands this memorial was treacherous marsh. Now it is solid and firm underfoot. We build, and leave the still unfinished work for those who follow us to accomplish. It is a pleasing thought to believe that when many, many years have rolled over the hill and the children of our children pause a moment over the names carved on this memorial they can look about them at the things that men have sought to do and say, "They built well."

The shrine was dedicated on Armistice day. Informal invitations to the services were issued to the public through the press. The colors of official military units of the Government and of the military organization of the World War were draped and flown around the memorial for the event.

John Philip Sousa came to Washington to lead the United States Marine Band—crowds applauded warmly when the 77-year-old Washingtonian rose to lead the Marine Band in "The Stars and Stripes Forever," but listened in silence during the performance. Sousa dressed his rank, wearing the uniform of a lieutenant commander of the Navy.

A Gold Star Mother of one of the war dead laid a wreath upon the memorial.

Frank Noyes officially introduced and presented the memorial to the United States, "In fulfillment of the trust confided to it, the commission offers, Mr. President, this memorial for acceptance and dedication." During his introduction, Noyes described the memorial as a testimonial to the community’s gratitude and pride. He said, "We feel that this memorial fittingly typifies the pride and love in which we hold the 26,000 men and women from the District who served their country in the armed forces of the Great War and more especially of the 499 of Washington’s sons and daughters who gave their lives in that service.

The inscription on the memorial reads, "The names of the men and women from the District of Columbia who gave their lives in the World War are here inscribed as a perpetual record of their patriotic service to their country. Those who fell and those who survived have given to this and to future generations an example of high idealism, courageous sacrifice and gallant achievement."

President Herbert Hoover dedicated the memorial in an address at 11 am. That was the same hour—the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month—the war ended. General John J. Pershing also spoke at the event. The entire proceedings were broadcast throughout the nation on Columbia Broadcasting system and the National Broadcasting system. President Hoover appealed for world peace at the memorial’s dedication.

The text of President Hoover’s address at the dedication of the District of Columbia War Memorial, as reported by The Star on November 11, 1931, follows:

Great shrines in our National Capital mark reverent remembrance of those who have given sacrifice and glory to the Nation. Marble and bronze, in their eloquence of silence and beauty, tell the deathless story of heroic deeds done for our country.

We gather here today to dedicate a new shrine to those residents of the District of Columbia who served in the World War. This temple will recall for all time their services and sacrifices.

It is particularly fitting that these services should be held on Armistice day, when, throughout the Nation, our citizens pause to honor all those who gave their lives in the greatest conflict which has ever engulfed the world.

Thirteen years to the day and hour have passed since the guns ceased their destruction of life and nations began their march back to peace and reconstruction. That day was a day of rejoicing in victory, a day of pride in the valor of our Army and Navy, a day of hope for peace in a better world. With each succeeding year Armistice day has come to be a day to pay tribute to the millions who valiantly bore arms in a worthy cause and to renew resolves that the peace for which these men sacrificed themselves shall be maintained.

However great our desire for peace, we must not assume that the peace for which these men died has become assured to the world or that the obligations which they left to us, the living, have been discharged. The minds of many races still are stirred by memories of centuries of injustice; in others there is ever present the fear of invasion and domination; many peoples are filled with hopes of liberty and independence. The boundaries of many nations are but zones of age-old contention. The growth of population and economic striving press against the borders of others. World-wide expansion of commerce and industry, with its vast interchange of citizens, brings the daily obligation of self-respecting nations to see that their nationals abroad in pacific pursuits shll not be unjustly imperiled as to life and property. In every country men can secure public attention and even a living by stirring malignant forces of fear and hate of their neighbors. As a result of these forces the world is more heavily armed than ever before the great war.

All of these dangers present to statesmen a world where peace cannot be had by resolution and injunction alone. Peace is the product of preparedness for defense, the patient settlement of controversy and the dynamic development of the forces of good will. It is the result of the delicate balance of that realism born of human experience and of idealism born of the highest of human aspirations for international justice.

The backwash of forces loosened by the great war has grown until during the past two years the stability of many nations has been greatly shaken. This, with their fears and discouragement for the future, weakened confidence throughout the whole financial and economic world. That loss of confidence added enormously to unemployment, to the distress of agriculture and business everywhere. From it all we have been passing through an emergency second only to the great war.

But the emergency has brought a realization that the outstanding problem of statesmanship today in every country and in every part of the world is to re-establish confidence, not alone each nation in its own institutions, but among nations. And no greater contribution can be made to economic relief than day-to-day conclusive demonstration that progress is being made in relieving stress and strain which now so oppress the atmosphere of the family of nations.

Such action requires no treaties, no documents and no commitments. It requires only that each nation realize the situation that exists; that it contribute in its own policies and within its own best interest to the building of good will and the rebuilding of confidence.

That progress is being made. It has been made by frank, sincere and direction personal conferences on mutual problems between heads of states throughout the world. It has been made by similar action among the financial, industrial and social institutions of the world. In these discussions have developed common action and have increased good will and confidence. These consistent efforts are providing new avenues of relief and are assuredly turning the tide for a greatly suffering world.

It is by building good will and constructive effort among nations that we can best honor the memory of the men who died that the world should have peace. This monument stands for the men who fought not alone for their country, but to establish the principles of justice and peace. We pay tribute here to their valor. We honor them for their sacrifice. We respect their memory by renewing our obligations to the purposes and ideals for which they fought."

The first park band program was inaugurated the following year, on June 2, 1932. The 77-member United States Marine Band opened with "Heroes All" to an audience of 2,000 who sat on the grass in around the Doric temple. Capt. Taylor Branson led the band. The band also performed "Les Preludes." There was a cornet solo of "Fantasie Capriccioso" and a saxophone solo of "Beautiful Colorado."

Capt. Branson told The Star, "Washington never before has had so ideal a place for our park concerts. The acoustics are all that could be desired and the setting is superb." Concerts were moved from the Sylvan Theater to the new memorial. Lieutenant Butler also expressed pleasure with the monument: "We were delighted to find that the music carried perfectly to a considerable distance from the temple. Traffic and other extraneous noises were at a minimum. The audience seemed pleased with the beauty and convenience of the place. There is unlimited parking space for automobiles and plenty of room on the grass for those who wish to sit together."

John Clagett Proctor, LLD, was a historian, poet, genealogist, and writer who was born, lived, and wrote extensively about DC at that time. Mr. Proctor wrote a number of poems that he read at Memorial Day events in D.C. (formerly known as Decoration Day). He also wrote extensively about DC's lack of representation, despite having fought in all wars beginning with the Revolution. Here is a poem he wrote about DC soldiers who fought in World War I, titled "Our Boys" (1918):

There's a time for which I yearn, 'Tis our soldier boys' return
And the day that they will march in grand review,
And I dream — I meditate — and I find it hard to wait
Just to see them marching up the Avenue.

O, but won't that be a day! Won't that be the greatest day,
When we really see them swinging into view?
Why, I wouldn't miss that sight If I had to stand all night,
Just to see our boys march up the Avenue.

Why, of all the lads that went — Of two million that were sent —
None was better — and I know it — so do you — Than our boys from Washington,
Whom we proudly call our son, Who will march in line along the Avenue.

Some left home and fireside — Some a sweetheart — some a bride —
Some a mother gray, as sweet as honey dew; And when they begin to shout
Heaven's angels will turn out — When our D.C. boys march up the Avenue.

Time has changed in but a year — Some have lost their mother dear;
Some will for the first time hear their baby coo,
And some will miss that lad Who was all the boy they had —
When those boys of ours march up the Avenue.

But we'll drive away the tears, When the D.C. boys come near,
We will bid all cares and grief a quick adieu, And we'll yell like maniacs
'Till we drop right in our tracks — When our D.C. boys march up the Avenue.

Such a welcome! Such a hand! Will drown out the loudest band —
And the whole United States will hear it, too; And if I make no mistake
There will be a big earthquake, When our D.C. boys march up the Avenue.

The year after Proctor wrote this poem when "the boys" were home, he wrote another poem titled "Everybody Up!" published in the Evening Star in 1919, entered into the Congressional Record in January 1921:

Let's get together, people, And everybody root,
That's how we whipped the Germans and The Austrians to boot —
Just with concentrated action, And no one can refute
That a lot can be accomplished Where all just follow suit.

We want a representative — On this we are agreed —
Some one to sit in Congress to Explain just what we need;
And there is hardly any doubt But that we shall succeed
If we keep the ball a-rolling Will accelerated speed.

So let us all be doing and Get right up on our toes.
For forty years we simply have Been nodding in a doze.
But now we must awaken and Eradicate our woes,
Or what may happen to this place, Why, goodness only knows.

We pay taxes to the nation, And local taxes, too;
We bought more bonds than many states From Mr. McAdoo;
We sent our boys, like other towns, To see the world's war through —
And what on earth beside that would The country have us do?

But what have we as recompense — What privileges of note?
In all this broad United States We are the human goat;
Gas rates are raised, so street car fares — We're held right by the throat,
And all because in Washington We mortals have no vote.

Four hundred thousand strong are we Within this ten-mile square,
But in the making of our laws We simply have no share;
Unrecognized and disenfranchised! Shall we this longer bear
In this great land of freedom? I so no! It isn't fair.

When Frank Noyes died, the American Legion paid tribute to him at the District of Columbia World War Memorial. They placed a wreath, sang "America," and Chairman Rankin of the House Veterans Committee, the principal speaker, called for expansion of the Air Force to prevent another war. In all, 15 wreaths were laid.

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