"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Alexander Robey Shepherd

This 1905 statue of Alexander Robey Shepherd, by Ulric Stonewall Jackson Dunbar, Sc., stands in front of the John Wilson office building at  1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC. It was ceremoniously unveiled in 1909. 

U.S.J. Dunbar Sc. Wash. D.C.

The 2005 bronze plaque reads: 

Alexander Robey Shepherd
Governor, Territory of the District of Columbia (1873-1874)
born Washington, D.C. January 31, 1835
died Batopilas, Mexico, September 12, 1902
buried Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
Civil War Union veteran, entrepreneur, civil leader
advanced L'Enfant's plan through public works
Introduced modern silver mining in Mexico
statue dedicated 1909, removed 1979, returned 2005
Plaque placed by

This tribute appeared in the Washington Star in a report of Shepherd's funeral in May of 1903, which included a poem by Percy F. Montgomery

Photo by Rice

SIRIS says this of Alexander “Boss” Shepherd:
Alexander Robey Shepherd (1835-1902), later known as Boss Shepherd, was born and educated in Washington, D.C. where he became one of the city's biggest land developers. Shepherd first headed the Citizens Reform Association which demanded a governor for the city. President Grant and Congress agreed, but opposition to Shepherd prevented him from being named governor and Grant instead appointed him to a seat on the Board of Public Works in 1871. At Public Works, Shepherd made many improvements to the city, some of them controversial, and many with the help of his business associates. In 1872, citizens asked Congress to investigate the Board of Public Works, but Shepherd was not charged with any wrong doing. In 1873 Grant appointed him governor, but by this time it was discovered that the Board of Public Works had over spent, and he himself was in financial straights, and he soon fell out of favor with the citizens. In 1880 he moved to Mexico where he was to regained his fortune.

 They describe the statue's movement around the city over the years.

The sculpture was originally installed at the entrance to the District of Columbia Building. It remained there until 1931 when, due to construction of the Federal Triangle, it was moved to the plaza across the street from the District Building at 14th and Pennsylvania Avenue. In 1979, the sculpture again had to be moved due to construction. It was boxed up and placed in storage for three years, possibly at the Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant, and in 2005 was installed outside the District Building, renamed the John A. Wilson Building in 1994. 

The Wilson Building was the first of the Beaux Arts buildings in the Federal Triangle. 

The Wilson Building

Although is was completed in 1908,  the date over the front door is 1904.


This photo of Alexander R. Shepherd appeared in the Washington Times on May 03, 1909 with the title "His Statue Unveiled."

The American Flag was pulled from the Shepherd's statue by his grandson, Alexander Robey Shepherd III. 

Boss Shepherd is shown  holding a map of the District of Columbia in his right hand.

His left hand is clenched behind him.

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