Yet another chapter in the saga of Arlington National Cemetery has hit the airways. This time it’s concern over the fate of the 9-foot tall decorative marble urns that for decades flanked the stage of Arlington’s Memorial Amphitheater.
The urns, now owned by an antiques dealer, will be put up for sale at the Potomack Company, an auction house in Alexandria, Virginia.
Preservationists are justifiably outraged since they are, after all, part of our national legacy.
How the urns landed in private hands is a mystery and, according to preservationists, under the strict procedures of the federal government, the urns should have been restored or put in a museum and not put on the open market.
The urns are currently owned by DHS Designs, in Queenstown, Maryland. The owner Darryl Savage is closing his store and auctioning off his inventory, which also includes 14 marble balusters that were part of the railing that rings the amphitheatre.
Savage acquired the urns from another dealer and declined to identify whom, but did say that the dealer in question acquired them from the company (Omni Construction, which later merged with Clark Construction) that was hired to renovate the amphitheater in the mid-1990s. They were apparently given permission to remove the originals.
The Department of the Army, who learned about the sale of the urns from “The Washington Post”, has not been able to find the contract and, therefore, couldn’t provide details on how the urns or the balusters were to be disposed of.
Missing paperwork has been a continuing problem because of management issues at the cemetery and the Army is currently investigating how the urns ended up in private hands. On Friday the auction house was asked to “halt the sale pending additional research to determine rightful ownership and disposition”.
Because of the historical nature of the urns, the National Trust also asked that the sale be canceled and the artifacts returned to the cemetery.
The owner of The Potomack Company auction firm Elizabeth Wainstein, said that she contacted the Pentagon when she received the consignment and was assured that the artifacts had been removed in accordance with the renovation contract. Wainstein said that the current owner has clear title and full right to sell them at auction.
Here’s the rub. The cemetery is not listed at the National Trust as a National Landmark on the National Register of Historic Place. This would clearly document the cemetery’s historic monuments.
Carol Shull, the chief of Heritage Education Services for the National Park Service, which oversees the National Register, assumed that the cemetery had been listed and was astounded that it was not.
Thanks to Christian Davenport of “The Washington Post”, the public is being kept up-to-date with the ongoing saga of Arlington.
Click on the link if you’d like to read The Washington Post writer Christian Davenport’s entire article.
If you view the pictures on The Washington Post website it will reinforce the significance of the current situation.