Return of the sandstone pylons
Apr. 11, 2001
Myra Mensh Patner
Staff Writer

Laurie DeWitt/The Gazette

Alicia Ravenel (left) and Corbin Harwood of the Garden Club of Chevy Chase would like to see two stone pylons that once stood at the Chevy Chase Circle entrance to Washington, D.C., are returned. The sandstone markers, weighing at least a ton each, have been kept in a shed of the National Park Service in Rock Creek Park.

Chevy Chase woman lobbies for markers

Alicia Ravenel is determined to see that two stone pylons that once stood at the Chevy Chase Circle entrance to Washington, D.C. are returned.

She just doesn't know exactly where to place them.

"It's history," said Ravenel, who lives in Section 3. "They're no real work of art, but they are history."

The sandstone markers, weighing at least a ton each, were initially installed in 1933 to mark the bicentennial of the birth of George Washington, Ravenel said.

The markers' dedication took place during a ceremony that also dedicated the Newlands Memorial Fountain in Chevy Chase Circle to the memory of Sen. Francis G. Newlands, who developed much of Chevy Chase and whose descendants still own the Chevy Chase Land Co., she said.

The Garden Club of America thought of the idea of installing the bicentennial markers, putting six sets at key entrances to the District in the 1930s. The markers were modeled from the design of the historic Mason-Dixon Line markers installed in 1761 along the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland, Ravenel said.

Two sets of the original Garden Club markers can still be viewed, one set in Westmoreland Circle and the other set on Wisconsin Avenue near Western Avenue in Chevy Chase. But the markers that once stood in Chevy Chase Circle are damaged, and have been kept in a shed of the National Park Service in Rock Creek Park.

One marker was once standing in the median strip on the District side of Chevy Chase Circle, but it was hit by a car and damaged last year. The Park Service carried it to the shed, where it sits in need of repair.

Someone stole the second Chevy Chase Circle marker decades ago, and for years no government official knew where it was. Then the National Park Service learned the marker was sitting in the backyard garden of a District resident, said Benny Goodman, facility manager at Rock Creek Park.

Goodman said he believes a previous homeowner took the marker and placed it in the yard.

Ravenel learned of the missing marker about five years ago while working with Friends of Chevy Chase Circle, which was beautifying Chevy Chase Circle by raising money to restore the dormant fountain and landscaping.

Ravenel began pressing the National Park Service officials to return the markers.

She said it bothered her that the marker was in the hands of a private person. "The marker just didn't belong in that person's backyard," said Ravenel, who is a former president of the Garden Club of Chevy Chase.

Last summer, Goodman of the Park Service sent workers to retrieve the marker from the private backyard and put it in the shed.

Now Ravenel wants the markers repaired and re-installed, but she faces two problems.

One is raising the $8,000 needed for the job. The Washington National Monument Society has donated $4,700.

The other task is persuading the Park Service to decide where the markers should go.

Ravenel, who researched files from the Garden Club of America, newspapers, Chevy Chase Land Co., and the National Archives, said the original sites for the two markers were probably within the Connecticut Avenue median strips on both sides of the circle.

But Ravenel and Goodman both said they fear the markers would simply be hit by cars if they are put back in the median strips or in Chevy Chase Circle.

"Chevy Chase Circle is a very scary place," Goodman said.

Goodman said he expects the National Park Service to make a decision soon, but he doesn't know when.

Anyone who wishes to contribute to the marker project should send a check (tax-deductible) to the Garden Club of Chevy Chase, c/o Mrs. J. Michael McGarry III, 5910 Cedar Parkway, Chevy Chase, MD 20815.