Washington DC – Corcoran Gallery of Art

ONE of the institutions of Washington which attracts a great deal of attention is the Corcoran Gallery of Art, presented to the people of the United States by Mr. William W. Corcoran. It was deeded to trustees on May 10, 1869, and a year later was incorporated by act of Congress, the building and grounds being forever exempted from taxation. In his deed of gift Mr. Corcoran stated that the institution was designed for ” the perpetual establishment and encouragement of painting, sculpture, and the fine arts generally,” and the condition was imposed that it should be open to the public without charge on certain days of the week, and on other days at moderate and reasonable charges, to be applied to the current expenses of procuring and keeping in order the building and its contents.” The hope was expressed that it would provide ” not only a pure and refined pleasure for residents and visitors at the national capital,” but that it would be useful in the development of American genius.

The gallery is situated on the northeast corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventeenth Street, directly opposite the State, War, and Navy Building. It has a frontage of one hundred and six feet, and a depth of one hundred and twenty-five feet. It is constructed of fine pressed brick, with brown-stone facings and ornaments, and is of the renaissance order of architecture. Ten feet above the ordinary roof rises a mansard roof, with a central pavilion, and two smaller ones. The building is two stories in height, and the front is divided into recesses by pilasters with capitals representing Indian corn, and has four niches in which are statues of Phidias, Raphael, Michael Angelo, and Albert Durer, portraying sculpture, painting, architecture, and engraving. On the front are fine carvings, the Corcoran monogram, and the inscription, Dedicated to Art.” On the Seventeenth Street side are niches containing the statues of Titian, Da Vinci, Rubens, and Rembrandt, and it is the intention to add those of Murillo, Canova, and Crawford. The statues are of Carrara marble, seven feet high, and were executed by M. Ezekiel, an American sculptor residing in Rome. The building was designed by James Renwick, of New York, and erected at a cost of $250,000. It is very attractive in appearance. The gallery was opened to the public in December, 1874.

Mr. Corcoran gave to it his private collection of paintings and statuary, valued at S100,000, and an endowment fund of $900,000. One of the trustees visited Europe and made extensive purchases of art works, being very successful in procuring a large number of not-able productions. Many American works of great value were also obtained. The gallery is open daily, and on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays is free; on other (lays there is an admission fee of twenty-five cents. Under certain regulations persons are allowed to draw from the casts and to copy the paintings. The annual income is nearly $80,000, the larger portion of which is used in the purchase of pictures and statues.

The lower story of the building is entirely devoted to the exhibition of sculpture, bronzes, and ceramic ware. In spacious halls are magnificent collections of casts of antique marbles, representing the best works of the great Greek sculptors. There are also many original examples of modern sculpture, including a number of celebrated works. The collections of bronzes and ceramic ware are very extensive and noteworthy.

In the second story are four galleries of paintings, the main one being ninety-five feet by forty-four and one-half feet, and thirty-eight feet high, with a richly frescoed ceiling. These galleries contain several hundred paintings carefully selected to furnish good examples of modern art, with something of the ancient. Many well-known American and European painters are represented on the walls, and most of the canvases are very valuable originals. The gallery ranks among the finest in the country, and in some particulars has no equal.

With its large income to be devoted to acquiring the best art works, it must in time possess extraordinary collections.

Mr. Corcoran, the venerable philanthropist, who has given this superb gallery to the public, and whose long life has been rich in good works, is a native of Georgetown, but for many years he has been a resident of Washington. He began his business career as an auctioneer, and afterward established a banking-house, which he con-ducted very successfully for an extended period. By his financial operations, and by early investments in city lands which greatly in-creased in value when Washington developed into a thriving city, he became a millionaire. The princely fortune he possesses is constantly being used for the benefit of worthy objects.

In 1871 Mr. Corcoran founded the Louise Home, an institution designed for impoverished gentlewomen who may need the shelter of a friendly roof. It was named after his deceased wife and daughter.

It has an endowment fund of $250,000, and is managed by a board of lady trustees. The building is situated on Massachusetts Avenue, between Fifteenth and Sixteenth streets, and cost $200,000. It is a beautiful brick structure, four stories high, surmounted by a mansard roof, with a central pavilion, and stands within a spacious enclosure of lawn and garden, a conspicuous object in the fashion-able West End. The interior is elegant in its appointments. The doors of this noble institution are always open to women of refinement and education who require assistance. Visitors are admitted every weekday afternoon.

WASHINGTON, it may be said, can safely dispute with Brooklyn the title of ” The City of Churches,” as there are at present within its borders no less than one hundred and ninety churches, most of them apparently in a flourishing condition. There are fifty-nine Methodist churches, forty-six Baptist, twenty-two Episcopal, seven-teen Presbyterian, thirteen Catholic, ten Lutheran, and a variety of other denominations. Many of the church structures are large and handsome, and some of them are remarkable for graceful, pleasing architecture.

The oldest Episcopal churches in the city are Christ Church, erected on G Street, near the navy yard, in 1795 ; and St. John’s Church on H Street, near the White House, which dates from 1816. The distinguished Latrobe designed St. John’s, which is of brick, covered with stucco, and in the form of a Latin cross. One of its pews is set apart for the Presidents of the United States, many of whom, from the time of President Madison, have worshiped in the venerable edifice. Other prominent Episcopal churches are the Ascension, corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Twelfth Street; the Epiphany, on G Street, between Thirteenth and Fourteenth streets northwest ; the Incarnation, on N Street, corner of Twelfth north-west ; St. Andrew’s, corner of Fourteenth and Corcoran streets north-west ; the Holy Cross, on Massachusetts Avenue, corner of Eighteenth Street ; and Trinity, corner of Third and C streets northwest.

About four miles from Washington is the oldest Episcopal church in the District of Columbia—St. Paul’s Church, of Rock Creek Parish. It is situated adjacent to the Soldier’s Home, on land given by the colonial worthy, John Bradford, in 1719, to be held in perpetuity for church purposes. St. Paul’s was erected in 1719, of brick imported from England, and although it has been remodeled, the original walls remain, with every appearance of enduring for a number of years longer. An extensive burial-ground surrounds the church, in which many of the first residents of Washington are buried, some of the grave-stones bearing dates of the past century.

The New York Avenue Church is the most prominent of the Presbyterian churches. It has a large membership, and is attended by many Presbyterians sojourning in the capital during the winter. The First Church, on Four and One-half Street ; the Central Church, corner of Third and I streets northwest; the Fourth Church, on Ninth Street northwest, and the Metropolitan Church, on Fourth Street, corner of B southwest, are to be ranked among the prominent houses of worship.

The First Baptist Church, on Thirteenth Street northwest, began existence in 1803, and the Second Baptist Church, on Virginia Avenue, in 1810. These were the first of the numerous churches of this denomination. Calvary Church, corner of Eighth and H streets northwest ; the E Street Church ; the Metropolitan Church, corner of A and Sixth streets northeast, and the North Baptist Church, on Fourteenth Street northwest, are leading churches. The largest of the colored Baptist church organizations is the Nineteenth Street Church, which has a fine edifice in the West End.

There is only one Unitarian church in Washington, the All Souls Church, corner of Fourteenth and L streets northwest. This church is attended by a fashionable and distinguished congregation, comprising many persons of high official position, and of prominence in society.

Meetings of Methodists were held in Washington as early as 1805, and in 1815 the Foundry Church (where President Hayes worshiped) was established. Methodism flourishes, there being at present more churches of this denomination in the city than of any other. The principal churches are the Metropolitan Church, on Four and One-half Street ; the Foundry Church, corner of Fourteenth and G streets northwest ; the McKendree Church, on Massachusetts Avenue ; the Hamline Church, corner of Ninth and P streets northwest, and the Fourth Street Church. The Asbury Church, corner of Eleventh and K streets northwest, has a large and influential colored congregation.

There is but one Universalist church in the city—the Church of Our Father, corner of Thirteenth and L streets northwest. The church was erected in 1883, at a cost of about $30,000. For some years the society worshiped in the Masonic Temple.

The Congregational churches are the First Church, corner of Tenth and G streets northwest, and the Tabernacle of the Congregation, on Ninth Street, between B Street and Virginia Avenue southwest. There are also two mission churches.

The Lutheran churches are divided into English and German, there being more of the latter than the former. The Memorial Church, on Thomas Circle, at the intersection of Fourteenth Street and Vermont Avenue, and St. Paul’s Church, corner of Eleventh and H streets northwest, are the principal English ones.

On Vermont Avenue, between N and 0 streets, is the Church of the Christian Disciples, generally known as the Garfield Memorial Church. It is the leading church of the Christian faith in the United States. In the small chapel which formerly stood on the site of this church President Garfield worshiped for many years, and the pew he occupied has been placed in the new church. It is draped in black, and bears a silver tablet on which is the name of the lamented President.

There are two Friends’ Meeting-Houses in the city; one, the Hicksite, on I Street northwest; and the other, the Orthodox, on Thirteenth Street northwest.

The principal Catholic churches are St. Patrick’s, on G Street northwest; St. Peter’s, on Capitol Hill; St. Dominick’s, corner of Sixth and E streets southwest; St. Matthew’s, corner of Fifteenth and H streets northwest; St. Aloysius, corner of North Capitol and I streets northwest; the Immaculate Conception, corner of Eighth and N streets northwest; and St. Stephen’s, corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Twenty-fifth Street northwest. The oldest is St. Patrick’s, which was established in 1804. There are two German Catholic churches: St. Mary’s, on Fifth Street northwest; and St. Joseph’s, on Second Street northeast; and one church designed for colored people, St. Augustine’s, on Fifteenth Street, northwest.

Two Hebrew synagogues have a large attendance. They are the Congregation Adas Israel (orthodox), corner of Sixth and G streets northwest; and the Washington Hebrew Congregation, on Eighth Street northwest.