The park-like quality of much of the Armed Services Retirement Home’s (AFRH) grounds is well known. However, with the closing of the grounds in 1968 the greater public ceased to know the the sites that the grounds afforded. This past year, with the formation of the Friends of the Soldiers’ Home and their collaboration with the residents and staff at the Home, the grounds have started to become more accessible to the greater community again. This was most evident during the July 4th celebrations held there.
The ground’s vista of the Capitol building is both well known an impressive. Yet it is one of the grounds lesser details that has caught my attention lately. This is the small granite bridge at the south end of the lakes — located on the western border of the property a little south of Park Road. Like the Anderson Cottage (aka Lincoln Cottage) and the original Scott building, it is frequently shown in illustrations of the Soldiers’ Home grounds (see 1886 image above).
When I asked members of the Home about the bridge, I was informed that it was construction ca. 1871 at the south end of the duck pond also known as Lake Nina. I was also given the following brief description of the bridge:
[The bridge was built] during a time when the west section of the campus was used as a recreational park for both residents and visitors. The Board of Commissioners in their August of 1870 meeting ordered for the construction of a second lake to “have a dam and stone bridge combined.” The three-span arch bridge is constructed of rusticated stone with a lion’s head keystone, stone voussoirs, and a brick barrel, spanning the stream that runs south from the artificial lakes.
A visitor to the grounds fortunate enough to be at the south end of the lakes can still find the bridge today — although it is less impressive now than it once was. Sometime during the past decades the bridge’s abutments, rail, and balustrade were removed leaving only the rusticated stone with a lion’s head keystone. While restoration of the bridge can not be said to be high on the list of improvements at the AFRH today, it is heartening to read that the present draft of their Master Landscape Plan proposes that “the original granite balustrade of the Granite Bridge should be reconstructed using historic photographs,” (Sec. 18.104.22.168).
Reconstruction based on historic photographs will only contain one major decision on the bridges appearance. Though largely unchanged for most of its existence, sometime between 1915 and 1918 four monumental urns were added to the each end of the bridge. These can be seen in the postcard and snap shot images below.
I have included the article accompanying the 1886 drawing of driving at the Solders’ Home after the jump. (more…)