The White Star liner S.S. Titanic sunk nearly 110 years ago, slipping into the Atlantic Ocean more than 2,000 miles northeast of Washington, DC in April 1912.
The DC community continues to commemorate the maritime tragedy through volunteer service in a southwest park.
That park, located at Fourth and P Streets SW near Fort McNair, is home to a granite statue created in 1931 and relocated to the site in 1968. It honors the men who gave their lives so that women and children could live.
The park is now also home to the Friends of the Titanic Memorial who work to restore and maintain its natural beauty.
Next month, the Friends of the Titanic will commemorate the 110th anniversary of the Titanic sinking. It is also the fifth anniversary of the Friend’s partnership with the National Park Service. The anniversary will be commemorated with a variety of activities, tributes and history from April 14 to 17.
On Saturday April 16, the organization will host a ticketed gala and tribute at Arena Stage (101 Sixth St. SW) to commemorate the sinking of the Titanic and the future of the park.
The event will feature a series of speakers including Superintendent of the National Mall and Memorials Parks Jeff Reinbold, ANC 6D Commissioner Andy Litsky, President of the Anacostia Watershed Society Chris Williams and President of the Potomac Riverkeeper Nancy Stoner.
A reception with Titanic-inspired hors d’oeuvres will follow.
The volunteer, nonprofit organization works in collaboration with the National Parks Service to preserve, restore and maintain the memorial park. Since their establishment in 2017, the Friends of Titanic Memorial Park have worked on projects to restore and maintain the park and build community.
It was more than six years ago when Corinne Irwin, who has now lived in the southwest waterfront for more than seven years, noticed that an outdoor park near her home needed significant repair and wanted to take action to fix it.
“You could not sit on most of (the benches) because of rotted wood and bolts going through,” Irwin said. “I contacted the [National] Park Service (NPS) and asked them to take a walk with us through the park and what we could do to help.”
Soon after, the Friends of the Titanic Memorial organization was developed, a step recommended by NPS to make it easier to support their work in the park. Since then, all of the benches in the park have been replaced and the organization has worked on other projects such as maintaining the benches by painting them annually and various gardening projects.
The Friends are planning additional work. “We’re very excited,” Irwin said. “We’re going to try to help them by raising money for things like signage and more landscaping and other things that will complement the concrete work but aren’t going to be covered in the budget that they have.”
Irwin said she is inspired by the potential of the park and what further service work can do to restore it. She said that restoring the garden was an exciting project and that she hopes to add more trees to the park as well.
“I walk the park every day with my dog, I can see it out my windows and to me, it’s just a beautiful space along the waterfront that’s been sorely neglected for years,” Irwin said. “So the inspiration is just to see the potential, see how much the park is left as it is today, but also the potential for how we could restore it and make it a little more beautiful.”
Sarah Payne is a general assignment reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at [email protected].