BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s a celebration 100 years in the making. One of the statues near the Washington Monument is getting all the attention today.
Marcus Washington at the ceremony marking the centennial groundbreaking near the Washington Monument.
That statue is of Marquis de Lafayette, a Frenchman who helped General George Washington during the revolutionary.
On Tuesday, many people are in Mt. Vernon to celebrate the groundbreaking of the statue, which also comes with an interesting story.
For nearly 100 years it has stood strong in Mt. Vernon place, honoring Frenchman, Marquis de Lafayette.
“He’s always been somebody who has been revered in American history,” says Lance Humphries, Executive Director of Mt. Vernon Place Conservancy.
Lafayette came to the United States to help General Washington win the Revolutionary War.
Nearly a century after his death, the U.S. was entering World War I, and French delegation was set to be in the Baltimore area.
Then-Mayor James Preston wanted to honor the Frenchmen, but a visit was denied until Preston had an idea.
“And he said, well while you’re here we will break ground of a statue of Marquis de Lafayette, and they were like, ok, we’ll stop,” says Humphries.
And with days’ notice, thousands of people showed up to honor the Frenchmen’s visit and groundbreaking for the Marquis de Lafayette statue.
The original groundbreaking took place here on the east side of the square, but after the ceremony, officials thought Lafayette was too important to sit here along St. Paul street.
So they moved Lafayette to the center of it all so visitors could see the statue as they came down North Charles St.
A century later, it’s a celebration of what happened here 100 years ago, paving the way for the unveiling of the statue that only came about to honor a union during World War I.
“It also turned it into a World War 1 memorial, because it really is about marking that moment in time,” says Humphries.
“So, there are these several layers of history that it commemorates by having the addition of Lafayette in 1917,” he says.
The American and French flags flew high over Mt. Vernon, with Mayor Pugh, the chairman of the National WWI Centennial Commission, and French Council in Washington were in attendance.
The Lafayette statue was actually completed in 1924.