Wilson Bay Pays Tribute to President

Article excerpt

The dirty, cream-colored limestone sarcophogus of President Woodrow Wilson is built between two columns, separating the nave aisle from the outer aisle in the Washington National Cathedral's Wilson Bay.

You could walk right by it if you were in a hurry, but there it is, topped by a sculpted sword and in simple script: "Woodrow Wilson 1856 - 1924." There's no mention of his being the 28th president of the United States anywhere.

Now, there're a few clues in the bay, which is part of the south aisle of the cathedral nave.

Wilson probably would've been happy to have been buried here. He was born to the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Staunton, Va. While president he suffered a stroke in October 1919. For therapy, he often took rides with his wife, Edith, to see the cathedral being built. (Wilson's grandson, the Very Rev. Francis B. Sayre Jr., was cathedral dean from 1951 to 1978.) The Wilsons moved from the White House in 1921 to a house on 2340 S St. NW, a few blocks below the cathedral.

When he died, Wilson was buried in the cathedral's Bethlehem Chapel. (The funeral on Feb. 6, 1924, was one of the first church services to be delivered on radio.) Bethlehem Chapel - the only part of the cathedral that was completed - was meant to be a temporary resting place. In fact, the tomb was in a sub-crypt, meaning it wasn't even under the cenotaph.

It wasn't until Dec. …