One hundred years ago, thousands of people filled Mt. Vernon Place as French emissaries broke ground on a statue honoring Marquis de Lafayette. On Tuesday evening, crowds will gather again to commemorate the event.
Sitting directly below the original monument to America’s first president, the statue is a symbol of the French alliance with the United States during the Revolutionary War. The groundbreaking came just as the U.S. was about to enter World War I.
In fitting fashion for a May event, flowers are at the center of the story. According to the Maryland Historical Society, the dignitaries donned shovels to break ground in a bed of pansies. Each received a flower in their buttonhole, and the rest were gathered by attendees anxious to take home a piece of history. Baltimorean Robert Weir was among them. He preserved his pansies, and they’re are now part of the Maryland Historical Society’s collection.
The Tuesday event, held at 5 p.m., will feature a memorial wreath-laying, as well as remarks from leaders like Mayor Catherine Pugh and World War I Commission Chairman Robert J. Dalessandro. France will also be represented by Michel Charbonnier, the consul general in Washington.
The Mt. Vernon Place Conservancy found footage of the original groundbreaking:
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