Rock Creek Park

A Forgotten Fight? Kicking Bear and the Dumbarton Bridge

Kicking Bear Bust on Dumbarton Bridge

Dumbarton Bridge is nestled between Georgetown and Dupont Circle. Bronze Buffalo guard the approaches and fifty six identical sculptures of a Native American man line the base of the bridge’s second tier of arches. Chosen to provide a distinctly “American character,” these design features are reflective of an artistic movement that idealized European settlement and western expansion. Ironically, the man depicted by the replicate busts spent his entire life fighting European settlement.

Jean Jules Jusserand, the French ambassador, bonded with Teddy Roosevelt through hiking. Credit: Library of Congress

The French Ambassador was Teddy Roosevelt's Hiking Buddy

In Rock Creek Park, there's a granite bench on the trail near Beach Drive, just south of Peirce Mill, that bears a curious inscription: "Jusserand: Personal tribute of esteem and effection."

It's a safe bet that most of the people who pass by the odd little 78-year-old memorial don't realize that it commemorates one of President Theodore Roosevelt's close friends, French ambassador Jean Jules Jusserand (1855-1932), who spent numerous afternoons hiking with the 26th President in Rock Creek Park. Historian Scott Einberger notes that the Gallic diplomat reportedly was one of few people in Washington who could keep up with Teddy on a hike, but as Jusserand himself admitted in his memoirs, that was no easy feat: "What the President called a walk was a run: No stop, no breathing time, no slacking of speed, but a continuous race, careless of mud, thorns and the rest."