No. 16 On The Map
West Front Oak Grove
A grove of trees with lawn, plantings, walkways, memorial plaques, and benches completes the Bishop John T. Walker Court at the west-facing entrance to the Cathedral. This park-like setting in the midst of a busy capital city captures the spirit of the original Olmsted design of the Cathedral grounds.
The curved stone walls of Bishop John T. Walker Court embrace the front of the Cathedral and lead worshipers and visitors to the Cathedral’s main entrance. A plaque in the north wall reads: “This West Portal Court Honors the Memory of John Thomas Walker Sixth Bishop of Washington 1977 – 1989”. The Walker Court was dedicated on May 5, 1990.
Many of the plants and trees here memorialize or honor individuals or groups. Among them is the Jean C. Vandemark Memorial. This garden, located near the glass elevators, is planted with boxwood, abelia, viburnum, and amsonia. The Vandemark memorial was dedicated on June 13, 1991, to honor Jean C. Vandemark – who taught music, was in the choir, and was known for her gardening. Her husband, Robert Vandemark, was treasurer of the Washington Cathedral Foundation, made the gift in his wife’s honor for a portion of the West Front planting. The bronze Vandemark plaque was moved during the construction of the Cathedral parking garage in 2006 and replaced near its original location – now near the glass garage elevators.
Between the Walker Court and Wisconsin Avenue is an oval area of lawn dotted with trees and lined with a sidewalk, benches, and memorials. Among the memorials is a bronze plaque mounted on a limestone column capital in recognition of the work of All Hallows Guild. The Oak Grove and the All Hallows Guild plaque were dedicated on November 1, 1991. The plaque is inscribed: In Recognition of the Contributions Made by Generations Of All Hallows Guild Members Since 1916 To the Gardens, Woodlands, Oak Grove, and Grounds Of Washington National Cathedral A Haven of Peace and Refreshment A Revelation of God’s Beauty And a Gateway of Paradise – 1991
On the West Front, near South Road, the bronze McFarland, Strawbridge & Walker plaque is mounted on a limestone block. It was donated in 1991 by Hugh Adams of New York. Mr. Adams was a generous benefactor of stained glass windows in the Cathedral and landscaping on the Cathedral’s West Front. Mr. McFarland and Mr. Strawbridge were friends of Mr. Adams. It is inscribed: To Glorify the Lord And Remember George Conrad McFarland – John Strawbridge, Jr. – John Thomas Walker Bishop of Washington
Near the McFarland, Strawbridge & Walker memorial, close to Wisconsin Avenue, the bronze Society of Colonial Wars plaque is mounted on a large boulder. The plaque is inscribed: This Memorial Was Erected In 1907 By The Society Of Colonial Wars In The District Of Columbia To Mark The Road Over Which On April 14, 1755 A Division Of The British Army Under General Braddock Marched On Its Way To Fort Duquesne
Wisconsin Avenue borders the West Front. Adjacent to the public sidewalk is an iron fence. Planted within the fence are spring-flowering trees and shrubs. The Cathedral’s towers rise above the plantings and reflected the late-afternoon sun.
Across South Road from the West Front Oak Grove is an octagonal building that is one of the oldest structures on the Cathedral Close. It originally served at the baptistry for the future Cathedral. It is now used as a cafe’.
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