UW News

January 7, 2010

Who is that caped man? New plaque tells the story

Who is that figure on the pedestal below Red Square, looking west to the Olympic Mountains?

It’s George Washington, of course. Everybody knows that. Or do they? For 100 years, ever since the statue was donated to the University by the Rainier chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution with additional contributions by Washington state school children, nothing on its plaque has told a casual visitor who the figure is and why he matters. Nor did the plaque say who created the statue.

So, in the statue’s centennial year, the University decided to remedy the omissions. Thanks to a generous donation once again from the DAR, the statue has a new plaque that reads:

“This statue of George Washington, first president of the United States (1789-1797) and commander in chief of the colonial armies during the American Revolution (1775-1783), was created in 1909 by the eminent American sculptor Lorado Taft (1860-1936) at the request of Professor Edmond S. Meany specifically for the University of Washington campus.”

But do people really not recognize the iconic figure of Washington? Well, there are many international visitors to campus, said Linda Hanlon, director of the UW Information and Visitors Center, and they don’t necessarily recognize Washington. Moreover, it’s hard for anyone to recognize him when gathered at the statue’s base. He’s designed for a more distant view.

“So because 2009 was his 100th anniversary year, we knew we had to work to get that new plaque,” Hanlon said.

She approached Antoinette Wills, associate director of development in Arts and Sciences, and Judith Feeney, president of the Greater Seattle DAR Regents’ Council, about the financing. Feeney turned to her members for donations, and with some University matching funds, the $3,500 to have the plaque made and installed was obtained. The old plaque was retained as well for historical reasons.

“I’m glad we could work with the University on this because the statue is part of the community as well as the campus,” Feeney said.