Thursday, December 29, 2016

December 29



Weekend with the frat boys:

You gotta have art...

Polo Players at Fort Myer
Auriel Bessemer 1940

Auriel Bessemer (1909-1986) painted seven murals to adorn the main post office in Arlington, VA. They depicted local scenes of northern Virginia, such as apple picking and picnicking at Great Falls. Bessemer’s work was funded by a U.S. government New Deal arts project that ran from 1933 to 1942, in which out-of-work artists were paid to provide high quality art to adorn newly-built public buildings, such as libraries and post offices (thank you, FDR). Bessemer, a local artist, was paid $800 for the murals, which were completed in 1940.

But what about those polo players? As many as 1,500 horses were stabled at Fort Myer from 1887 to 1949, and Army horsemanship became an important part of Washington's official and social life. Until his retirement to his estate in Leesburg, VA, General George C. Marshall (1880-1959) rode horses at Fort Myer for pleasure.

Today two dozen horses are still stabled at Fort Myer to pull caissons for burials at Arlington National Cemetery, which adjoins the fort. Fort Myer is situated on the Virginia shore of the Potomac River, and its high elevation provides a commanding view of our nation’s capital.

Trivia: Fort Myer’s Pedigree
The Virginia estate owned by the family of Mary Anna Randolph was called Arlington Heights. She was the granddaughter of George Washington Parke Custis, who was the grandson of Martha Washington. GWP Custis, George Washington’s adopted step-grandson, had been raised at Mt. Vernon and lived in NYC with the “first family” when George Washington was president. In 1831 Mary Anna Randolph married Robert E. Lee at her family’s Arlington Heights mansion, which had been built by her grandfather (GWP Custis) over a 16-year period, from1802 to 1818. Lee subsequently helped rescue the estate from financial difficulties in 1859. When the Lees were unable to pay their personal property taxes in person in 1861, the federal government confiscated the estate for military purposes. Fort Whipple was built on the property to defend the Union capital across the river. In 1867 this fort was renamed Fort Myer in honor of Brigadier General Albert J. Myer, commander of the fort. The Custis-Lee mansion has been restored and is now open to the public. Today Fort Myer is also home to Pershing’s Own (U.S. Army Band) and the U.S. Army Chorus.

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