The History Hat – Dunbarton Bison Bridge

The History Hat – Dunbarton Bison Bridge


The History Hat presents’ the Bison of
Dumbarton Bridge. Hello History Hatters! Behind me is the Dunbarton Bridge, or as I like to say the Bison Bridge. It’s my favorite bridge in Washington and since 1915 it’s been connecting Georgetown to Kalorama and the Dupont Circle neighborhoods. The bridge was named after the Dunbarton House, which had to be moved a hundred feet from where it stands today. Otherwise, Q Street would have ran right into it. The Bison Bridge has four sentinel bison sculpted by renowned artist Alexander Phimister Proctor. Proctor’s 1912 model of the Bison can today be found at the National
Portrait Gallery. Earlier in 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt asked
Proctor to replace the lions on the White House’s limestone mantel in the
state dining room to bison because he considered lions symbolic of European
monarchies. Today, the original mantel can be found in Independence, Missouri at the
Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. Proctor’s bison is special for me not only because bison are majestic creatures and symbols of the American West, but bison are also the State Mammal of the Great State of Kansas, my home state. Let’s take a quick detour to the west to see another of Proctor’s works. Alexander Phimister Proctor also sculpted the McKnight Memorial Fountain in 1931 at my high
school alma mater Wichita East High School in Wichita, Kansas. The fountain presents two important symbols of the frontier West an American Indian and a fur chopper. Take notice of the exquisite detail of the moccasins and the weaponry, truly reflective of a master of bronze work. Not to mention Proctor’s exquisite rendering of the human form, and, in particular, his adept ability to present realistic musculature not only
on humans, but also on animals like the bison. The bison was a vital resource to
numerous American Indian tribes. In line with its frontier theme, the Dumbarton Bridge is lined with relief sculptures replicating the life masks of Sioux
Chief Kicking Bear, who toured with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. Designed by a secretary of the American Institute of Architects, Glenn Brown, the bridge was made in a neoclassical design, with an evident influence from ancient Roman aqueducts. As you can see, the bridge is slightly
curved to account for the fact that this side of the entry point is a hundred and
eighty-five feet south of the opposite end. The Georgetown Citizens Association
originally proposed for the Rock Creek Park gap to be turned into a culvert
whereby the river would be enclosed and a road would run on top of it. Proctor’s bison serve like sentinels watching the onlookers as they come by,
ready to charge. These bison statues in the middle of Washington, DC are a reminder of the American Bison’s legendary impact on the history of our
country. Don’t forget Marc, Bison our North
America’s largest land animals. Subscribe today to not miss out on more of the History Hat.

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