The Awakening – Oxon Hill, Maryland - Atlas Obscura

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The Awakening

National Harbor
Oxon Hill, Maryland

The 72-foot giant escaped confinement in a large patch of mulch only to be reburied in the sandy shores of the Potomac River. 


The Awakening is an aluminum statue depicting a giant man desperately struggling to emerge from the earth. Made up of five parts, the giant’s outstretched right arm towers 17 feet above the ground, and his bent left leg and knee rise above the earth, while his left hand and right foot just break the surface. His bearded face shows a look of abject terror with his mouth opening to unleash a primal scream.

This striking work of art, created by John Seward Johnson II, was originally installed at Hains Point in Washington, D.C. in 1980, and was a jarring sight from above for visitors flying into National Airport from the south. 

The statue remained in place on the tip of Hains Point in East Potomac Park for 27 years. The statue was scheduled to be sold and sent to Japan, however,  the developer of  National Harbor Peterson Companies, purchased it and moved it to National Harbor, Maryland. The current location on the Potomac River, is just 15 miles from downtown Washington, D.C. 

The sculptor, J. Seward Johnson, is an American artist best known for his trompe l’oeil painted bronze statues. He is a grandson of Robert Wood Johnson (the co-founder of Johnson & Johnson), and Colonel Thomas Melville Dill, a prominent Bermudian lawyer and soldier. Many of Seward’s works are unassuming slices of life that might go unnoticed by passers-by, but this epic work is literally larger than life.

In 2009, a copy of the statue (The Awakening II) was installed near Chesterfield Central Park in Chesterfield, Missouri in 2009.

Know Before You Go

The sculpture is located on the small beach area at the Potomac waterfront in National Harbor.  If you're looking for it specifically, it's impossible to miss, but part of the fun is watching the alarmed looks of those who are just stumbling upon it for the first time.

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