No. 12 On The Map
Connecting Pilgrim Road and South Road is the long broad stair know as the Pilgrim Steps. The Pilgrim Steps were designed by Florence Brown Bratenahl and were dedicated on May 16, 1930.
The stone for the fifty-one sandstone steps came from Virginia’s Aquia Creek quarry. Aquia Creek sandstone was used in the construction of many of D.C.’s most famous landmarks, including the White House and the U.S. Capitol building.
Mr. and Mrs. Roland Leslie Taylor of Philadelphia donated the Pilgrim Steps as well as the planting of the adjacent boxwood, yew, holly, and magnolia. Mr. Taylor was a member of the National Committee for the Cathedral. He and his wife gave the money for the Cathedral’s Children’s Chapel in memory of their infant son.
A plaque designed by Mrs. Bratenahl is located in the stone wall at the top of the Pilgrim Steps. The inscription reads: Come Let Us Go Up To The House of The Lord – These Pilgrim Steps and Their Planting Are the Gift of Roland Leslie Taylor and Anita Marjory His Wife – Who Thus Express Their Appreciation of All Those Who Have Worked for The Upbuilding of The Cathedral – Anno Domini 1930
Large yews and boxwood line the Pilgrim Steps. At the top of the steps grows an ancient magnolia tree. To create gardens appropriately scaled to a Gothic-style cathedral, mature plant material (boxwood, magnolia, yews, and wisteria) was located and moved to the Cathedral grounds.
A large Blue Atlas Cedar stands at the base of the Pilgrim Steps. This tree was planted in 2013 as a part of the larger renovation and rededication of the Bishop’s Garden. It was a gift of Benjamin Dillon in honor of his wife Annie and their sons.
During the February 3, 1939, meeting of the All Hallows Guild Executive Committee, a Board member proposed the idea of having a Flower Mart on the Pilgrim Steps. The idea for Flower Mart came from an All Hallows Guild member who spent time in Rome – often visiting the flower vendors on the Spanish Steps. The Pilgrim Steps were considered to be a similarly good location for a flower sale to benefit the Cathedral grounds. Since 1939 All Hallows Guild has continued to hold Flower Mart as a spring fundraiser for the Cathedral gardens and grounds – although after several decades this beloved community festival has outgrown the Pilgrim Steps and now surrounds the Cathedral.
At the bottom of the Pilgrim Steps turn to the west where a large weeping cherry tree grows. Nestled beneath the tree branches is a garden bed that holds the granite sculpture of the Prodigal Son.
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