Allen Browne, of the blog Landmarks, snaps this photograph of a hippopotamus statue and Ingrid Bergman bust in front of the campus of George Washington University:
Legend has it that the Potomac was once home to these wondrous beasts. George & Martha Washington are even said to have watched them cavort in the river shallows from the porch of their beloved Mount Vernon on summer evenings. Credited with enhancing the fertility of the plantation, the Washingtons believed the hippopotamus brought them good luck & children on the estate often attempted to lure the creatures close enough to the shore to touch a nose for good luck.
The statue was a gift, in 1996, of the Class of 2000. Turns out there weren’t actually hippos in the Potomac, and this particular water beast is, in part, the consequence of the university president “drinking his lunch.”
But what about Ingrid? She is the work of Calder Brannock, who immortalized her in a police call box in front of Lisner Auditorium, built in 1946.
On its opening night, October 29, 1946, the famed 29 year-old actress Ingrid Bergman was starring in Joan of Lorraine. When Ms. Bergman found out that African-Americans could not attend the performance due to the city’s Jim Crow laws, she made her displeasure at segregation known to all who would listen. Unable to void her contract, she performed the play but inspired protests and picket lines outside of Lisner during her performances. As time passed, more and more people protested segregation at Lisner Auditorium and threatened to boycott all plays and other events for as long as the policy remained in effect. The GW Board of Trustees decided to reverse its policy of segregation in 1947, admitting African-Americans as patrons of Lisener.