By Terry Bunton, Board of Directors, Friends of Titanic Memorial Park 

In the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, the Titanic sank in the North Atlantic. Since 1968, the Titanic Memorial has stood at 4th Street SW and P Street SW. The local community and Friends of Titanic Memorial park recognize the anniversary of the ship’s sinking each April, and this year, will share informational signs throughout the park. The posters tell about individual passengers and crew to humanize the disaster and focus on the role of class distinction in those stories from that fateful night. There will also be an information table throughout the day.

On Sunday, April 14 at 9:00 p.m., approximately the time the Titanic hit an iceberg, a brief memorial service and moment of silence will be observed at the Titanic memorial in the park.  A wreath will remain on display through April 15, the date the ship actually sank.

As many in the neighborhood know, the memorial is inscribed with a dedication to the men who gave up their seats on the Titanic’s lifeboats in order to save women and children. Harry Elkins Widener,  a Harvard graduate, was one of these men.  He was the son of a successful Philadelphia-based streetcar manufacturer. He was also a noted bibliophile. After traveling to Europe in search of rare books, his mother and father decided to join him and then travel back together.

Unfortunately, they chose to return on the Titanic. Harry and his father gave up their seats on lifeboats while his mother, Eleanor Elkins, was rescued. She approached Harvard and offered to replace their aged and outdated library with a new one commemorating Harry. According to a campus tour guide, she stipulated three conditions: 1. The library could never be touched or torn down. That also meant it couldn’t be altered, so several other Harvard libraries have been built since. 2. There was to be installed a special room in the center of the library that only the librarian and her son could enter, in the unlikely case he had actually survived. 3. That all Harvard graduates must pass a swim test in order to receive a diploma as she was convinced that Harry would have survived if he had been able to swim. This final requirement was removed with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some scholars dispute that this was actually required by Mrs. Elkins.

To learn more about the Titanic Memorial, the Friends of Titanic Memorial Park, please visit

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