Monument Monday: Alexander Robey Shepherd

By April 25, 2011Monument Monday

Alexander Robey Shepherd

Wandering over to the D.C. Council Building on Friday to see what the small rally/protest was — anti-bullying — we stop to examine a monument on a high-traffic spot in the city — the northwest corner of the building at 14th and Pennsylvania Ave., NW.

It’s Alexander Robey Shepherd, the Territorial Governor of the District of Columbia from 1873 to 1874, who was responsible for many of the district’s infrastructure improvements and had a post-government career helping Mexico develop its silver mining industry.  He began his career in business, working his way up from an apprentice to become owner of the J.W. Thompson plumbing establishment, Washington’s largest. As territorial governor he took control of the Office of Public Works and brought much of Pierre L’Enfant’s vision for the city to reality. But his term was controversial, allegations of fraud and corruption rampant, and Congress soon took over direct administration of the district.

For manufacturers, his post-political work is fascinating. As the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of DC summarizes:

Determined to recoup his lost fortune and return to Washington in triumph, Shepherd organized an ambitious silver-mining operation in Mexico with large-scale financing from New York businessmen. He moved his family to remote Batopilas, Chihuahua State in 1880. Despite early promise, Shepherd’s hopes for the mining venture never met expectations. A combination of exaggerated ore estimates; over-investment in aqueducts, tunnels, and equipment; and the United States’ decision to remain on the gold standard doomed the project. Years later, Shepherd’s estate was still unable to make good on promissory notes so confidently given at the time of his 1876 bankruptcy.

The Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation exiled the statue in 1979 to a spot near the Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant but a campaign by the association returned him to the District Building in 2005.

Monday is always a tough day for blog content, so we’re going to try to post a photo of a monument relevant to manufacturers every week. There are many monuments in D.C.

Leave a Reply