Archive for July, 2014

Horace and Dickie's

Horace and Dickie’s

For July’s end-of-the-month restaurant review I chose to ride to another local eatery that is so small it is a carryout only business.  Horace and Dickie’s, located in Northeast D.C. at 809 12th Street (MAP) in the H Street Coridor of the Atlas District, is not a restaurant known for its size or its decor.  In fact, it distinctly lacks in both of those areas.  But it is a local landmark nonethless because of its delicious food.  And after all, isn’t that the most important thing to look for in a restaurant anyway?

Beginning in 1990, the hunger-inducing aroma of fried fish has been wafting out from this pint-sized dive.  Although they also serve equally-delicious fried chicken, shrimp and crabcakes, I almost always opt for the fried fish sandwich.  Given the amount of fish involved, however, calling it a fish sandwich is a little misleading.  It’s basically a couple of slices of bread buried underneath a heaping mound of four hot and crispy, lightly-breaded fresh fillets of whiting.  And that’s just the regular sandwich, not “The Jumbo.”  Along with an order of fries, some cole slaw and a soda, my end-of-the-month reward was complete,  Actually, I think a beer would have been better, but since I was only out for a lunchtime bike ride and my employer frowns on consuming alcohol during the workday, I opted against getting my preferred beverage.

There’s no reserved parking, but parking on the street is an option.  Riding a bike as I did is an even better option.  And since Horace and Dickie’s does not offer eat-in dining, a bike also offers a quick means for getting to whatever nearby venue you chose for your dining experience.  I took my lunch up the street to Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill, where I found an empty bench in the sunshine on which to enjoy my meal, and do a little people-watching.

Don’t let the occasional lines that go out the door onto the sidewalk deter you.  It would be worth the wait even if the line did not move incredibly fast.  But it does.  So make sure you have your order ready before you get to the front so you don’t hold it up.  And the value and service are right up there too.  They’re not as good as the food, but I’m okay with that.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

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The Three Soldiers

The Three Soldiers


The Three Soldiers, also known as The Three Servicemen, is a bronze sculpture created by Frederick Hart.  It is located in Constitution Gardens adjacent to the National Mall near The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall (MAP).  Along with the Memorial Wall and The Vietnam Women’s Memorial, The Three Soldiers statue is part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial complex.  Created to complement and bring a more traditional component to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the soldiers depicted by the statue appear to be looking at the Memorial Wall containing the names of more than 58,000 of their fallen and missing comrades.  Dedicated in 1984, it was added as part of the Memorial two years after completion of the Wall.  But like most things in D.C., the installation of statue was not without disagreement and controversy.    

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was designed by Maya Lin, who won a national competition held to select a design for the memorial.  However, despite the selection of Lin’s design and its many supporters, her design also met with many negative reactions.  Several Congressmen complained, and Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt refused to issue a building permit so that construction of the Memorial could begin.  Also, Vietnam veterans were divided in their opinions about the memorial’s design, much like the country itself was during the war.

The Three Soldiers sculpture was commissioned to stand beside the wall in as a compromise, an attempt to appease those who wanted a more traditional memorial.  The designer of the Memorial Wall, Maya Lin, was so displeased with the addition to her design, that even after the decision was made to place the statue a distance away from the Wall so as to minimize the impact on her design, she still refused to attend the dedication of the sculpture when it was unveiled on Veterans Day in 1984.

Controversy continued when it was discovered that Hart, who had placed third in the original memorial design competition, was paid four times as much for The Three Soldiers statue as Maya Lin had received for the prize-winning design of the Memorial Wall.

Today, most visitors to the memorial complex are unaware of the controversy that went into it.  Along with the Memorial Wall, the sculpture now serves as a symbol of our nation’s honor and recognition of those who served and sacrificed during the Vietnam War.

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The Godey Lime Kilns

On previous bike rides I had seen a marker mounted on a small boulder on the other side of the busy traffic on Canal Drive, at 27th and L streets NW, just a few yards from Rock Creek Parkway under the K Street overpass (MAP), in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of D.C. I had never made my way over to see what it is though. So, on this ride I rode back there to finally check it out. I found out that the marker commemorates the site where the Godey Lime Kilns once stood.

The marker reads: “Godey’s Lime Kilns, 1833 – 1908, These kilns were used as late as 1908 supplying Washington with a fine grade of lime. The limestone was brought from quarries just beyond Seneca, Maryland over the C&O Canal. United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service – in Washington, D.C.” The site is now an historical industrial building ruin which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

On the site, strategically located on the east bank of Rock Creek at the terminus of the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal, William H. Godey founded the Godey Lime Kiln Company in 1864. The Godey Company’s facilities originally included four wood-fired ovens that were used to make lime and plaster, using limestone from Maryland quarries and brought to the kilns via the C&O Canal.

Godey made a fortune from the lime business because the growing national capital city had a nearly insatiable need for building materials. By May 1906, however, its fortunes had declined, and Godey’s was running ads to rent out its property. The kilns were taken over by John Dodson in 1897, and operated until 1907 when they were abandoned. Godey’s business closed the following year.

Only two of the original four ovens remain, and these two were half buried before the National Park Service and District of Columbia Highway Department combined efforts to excavate and restore them to the condition in which I was able to see them during this bike ride.

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GodeyLimeKilns03     GodeysLimeKiln01a
[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]

Gravesite of Leonard Matlovich

Gravesite of Leonard Matlovich

On this bike ride I stopped by the gravesite of Sergeant Leonard Matlovich.  A vietnam era veteran, Matlovich was eligible to be buried in the cemetery most people identify with veterans, Arlington National Cemetery.  But he chose Historic Congressional Cemetery instead.  Located at 1801 E Street (MAP) in Southeast D.C., he discovered the cemetery on one of his frequent walks near his then Capitol Hill home.

Sergeant Leonard Matlovich was the first gay service member to purposely out himself as a homosexual in an attempt to fight their ban on gays serving openly in the military.  He did so by hand-delivering a letter to his Langley Air Force Base commanding officer in March of 1975.  His challenge became public knowledge a couple of months later, on Memorial Day, through an article on the front page of The New York Times, and in a story that evening on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.  During his fight to stay in the military, his case became a cause célèbre within the gay community, and resulted in numerous articles in newspapers and magazines throughout the country, television interviews, and a made-for-television movie.  Matlovich also appeared in his Air Force uniform on the cover of Time magazine above the headline “I Am a Homosexual.”

Despite his exemplary military record, tours of duty in Vietnam, and high performance evaluations, Matlovich was subsequently given a “General,” or Less than Honorable, discharge in 1975 by the U.S. Air Force.  He continued his fight after being separated and won a much-publicized case against the Air Force in 1979, which ordered him reinstated into the Air Force and promoted. The Air Force offered Matlovich a financial settlement instead, which he accepted, and his discharge was upgraded to “Honorable.”

After being discharged, he moved from Virginia to D.C., then to San Francisco, and then Guerneville, California. After then moving to Europe for a few months, he returned briefly to D.C., before moving back to San Francisco again.  He remained active in the gay rights movement throughout the rest of his life.  On June 22, 1988, less than a month before his 45th birthday, Matlovich died in Los Angeles of complications from HIV/AIDS.

Matlovich personally designed his internationally known tombstone, incorporating the same kind of reflective black granite that was used in the construction of The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.  It is inset with his famous quote, which reads, “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”  The headstone also incorporates pink triangles in reference to the emblem used to mark gays in Nazi concentration camps.  What the headstone does not include, however, is his name.  That is because he meant to be a memorial to all gay veterans.  His last name inscribed at the foot of a granite grave border is the only indication that the grave is his.

Matlovich chose historic Congressional Cemetery because he loved its variety of individual stones versus Arlington’s hundreds of thousands of identical markers. He also was amazed to learn that Peter Doyle, Walt Whitman’s great love, is buried there.  He also couldn’t resist the last laugh of being buried in the same row with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s gravesite, and Hoover’s associate director, longtime best friend, heir, and some believe romantic partner Clyde Tolson.  Hoover was staunchly anti-gay, although speculation and rumors had circulated beginning approximately 30 years before his death that Hoover was homosexual.  Tolson’s grave, marked by a pink granite stone, is just five plots to the right of Matlovich’s, and the Hoover family plot is a few yards further down.

In a tribute no one anticipated, a growing number of other out gays, including veterans and couples, have since chosen to be buried in the same once obscure graveyard such as gay rights pioneers Randy Wicker, Barbara Gittings and Kay Lahusen, and others.  Members of American Veterans for Equal Rights have purchased eight nearby adjoining plots to create a LGBT veterans memorial. And at his graveside every Veterans Day, there’s a gay veterans memorial service.  His gravesite has also been the scene of protests, vigils and ceremonies for LGBT rights activists, and even a same-sex wedding.

His gravesite and the surrounding vicinity within the cemetery, and the activities that have taken place there, would certainly be pleasing to Matlovich, who once said, “I believe that we must be the same activists in our deaths that we were in our lives.”

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No Photography

No Photography

When it comes to photography, attempting to balance security concerns with the public interest can sometimes be a very difficult proposition, particularly here in our nation’s capital. I am keenly aware of this fact inasmuch as the very building in which I work strictly prohibits any form of photography within the building. Even having a personally-owned camera or any other type of recording device within the building is a security violation for which an employee could be subject to disciplinary action. And anyone who is passing by the outside of the building and pauses to take a photograph is likely to be stopped and questioned by security or law enforcement personnel. This is a scenario that routinely occurs at many buildings, locations, and on public transportation throughout the D.C. area.

Over the course of the last several years of riding a bike around the D.C. area and taking photographs along the way, there have only been a handful of occasions in which I have been questioned or challenged about what I was doing. In these circumstances, I found it best to simply explain what I was doing to the security guard or police officer. If he or she still asked me to move along, then I just left. Being calm and polite can go a long way when faced with these kinds of situations. I am unaware of any confrontation which was improved by the person with the camera resisting, or declaring something like, “My tax dollars paid for this and I have a right to be here and take photographs of it.” Even if you think you are in the right, it is unlikely you will be able to convince the security or law enforcement personnel of their wrongness.

When in the D.C. area, my best advice is to diffuse this type of situation. If there is urgency involved, you could ask to speak with a security supervisor or manager. Otherwise, you have the option of following up with whoever is in charge of where you were attempting to take photos. Then, after getting clarification about what the authorities and rules are pertaining to photography at that location, you can make a return visit at another time.

It would also be wise for anyone taking photographs in this area to take into consideration your location and what it is that you are photographing. Be aware that some places are more susceptible to confrontations and problems than others, such as The White House, the U.S. Capitol Building, FBI Headquarters, and the Pentagon, to name just a few. And as a general rule, you should avoid taking photographs of security checkpoints, employee-only entrances, bag screening locations, individual security guards or police officers, and any other safety or security procedures. This type of activity is what security personnel are training to look for, and will most likely raise the type of red flags that can lead to conflicts.

With all that being said, despite normally being the type of person who follows the rules, I could not resist the opportunity to defiantly act like a rebel and take a photograph when I saw this sign on a recent ride.

The Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial

Even if you have never been able to visit the Lincoln Memorial in person, you have most likely seen it many times. An image of the monument to the 16th President is on United States currency, appearing on both the back of the five dollar bill and the reverse side of all pennies minted prior to 2009.  With five dollars and one cent in my pocket on this ride, I rode to the Lincoln Memorial, located at the west end of the National Mall (MAP), across from The Washington Monument.

The Lincoln Memorial was designed by architect Henry Bacon after ancient Greek temples, and stands 190 feet long, is 119 feet wide and almost 100 feet high, with a cement foundation that is 60 feet deep. It is surrounded by 36 enormous columns, one for each of the states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death.  By the time the monument was completed, the Union had increased by 12 more states, so the names of all 48 states were carved on the outside of the walls of the memorial. Following the admission of Alaska and Hawaii as states, a plaque with the names of these new states was added.  The statue of the President, which was sculpted by Daniel Chester French, is 19 feet high and weighs 175 tons. The original plan was for the statue to be only ten feet high, but this was changed so that the figure of Lincoln would not be dwarfed by the size of the chamber in which it sits.  The north and south side chambers contain inscriptions of two well-known speeches by President Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address and his second presidential inauguration address in 1865, the latter of which contains a fairly well-known mistake.

Roughly two years following Lincoln’s death in 1865, the U.S. Congress appointed the Lincoln Monument Association to build a memorial to commemorate the assassinated President.  However, the site for the memorial was not chosen until 1901.  Another decade later, President William Howard Taft signed a bill to provide funding for the memorial, and construction began the following month, on February 12th, to commemorate Lincoln’s 102nd birthday.  The Presidential memorial was finally completed and opened to the public in 1922.  On May 30, 1922, Former President and then Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft and Robert Todd Lincoln, the only surviving child of Lincoln’s four children, lead the monument’s dedication ceremony.

Over the years, the Lincoln Memorial has been the site of a number of famous events, including protests, concerts and speeches.  Perhaps the most famous of which occurred on August 28, 1963.  The Memorial’s grounds were the site of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” which proved to be a high point of the American Civil Rights Movement.  It is estimated that over a quarter of a million people participated in the event.  It was then that Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the memorial.  The location where King delivered the speech is commemorated with an inscription carved into the steps.

Today, the Lincoln Memorial receives almost four million visitors per year.  Admission is free, and it is open to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – except Christmas Day.  The memorial is administered by the National Park Service, and provides Park Service rangers on site from 9:30 am until 11:30 pm each day it is open to address questions about the Memorial.

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Church of the Epiphany

Church of the Epiphany

Dating back to January of 1842 when an organizational meeting was held, and when the first service was conducted later that same month, the Church of the Epiphany has been steeped in history.  Construction of the church’s Gothic Revival building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, began with the laying of the cornerstone the follow year, and was completed in 1844, the same year parish status was achieved.  One of the only remaining pre-Civil War churches in the city, people have been worshipping and praying there every day for over a century and a half.  And the building has stayed much the same over those years, although the surrounding downtown neighborhood has developed considerably from the quiet, tree shaded, and residential neighborhood it was when the church began.  Today, the church’s slim shape and stone façade stand out amongst the towering, modern downtown office buildings which surround it.

Throughout its history, prominent people have always attended and been a part of the Church of the Epiphany.  Before the Civil War, a number of prominent politicians, including future Confederate President Jefferson Davis, were members of the congregation.  After the war broke out, President Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edward Stanton began attending, along with Union service members.   And in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln attended a funeral for Union Army General Frederick Lander at Epiphany.  But the Church of the Epiphany has always had ties to the common man as well.  Between July and December of1862, the building was a temporary hospital, with wooden boards laid across the tops of pews to create beds for the wounded.

During the time since the Civil War, other presidents have come to Epiphany Church as well.  A memorial services was held for slain President William McKinley in 1901, and since 1925, the church has rung its bells in honor of each newly inaugurated president.  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt also attended a service at Epiphany, at Christmas in 1942.

On today’s bike ride, I stopped by the historic Episcopal church, which is located at 1317 G Street in northwest D.C. (MAP), just two blocks from the White House.  And I was please to discover that the church is as relevant today as it has been throughout its history.  Today, the Church of the Epiphany remains an active, urban church that continues to adapt to the ever changing needs of the place where it was planted, with its small parish of about 350 diverse worshipers focused largely on serving, helping and supporting the surrounding homeless community.

Through its brightly colored and welcoming doors, the church houses “The Welcome Table” ministry to feed the hungry.  It also hosts weekly Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and has a licensed addiction counselor and an outreach ministry to assist downtown poor in obtaining information about housing, medical aid, employment and treatment facilities.  The church also operates the Epiphany Mission Center, where meetings and retreats are held.  But the church also ventures out from the building it calls home, with a “Street Church’ ministry that gathers at Franklin Square Park for worship and lunch with around 40-60 downtown poor and visitors every Tuesday.  Through these and other programs, the Church of the Epiphany ensures that it is not just part of history, but will continue to make history as well.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

General Philip Sheridan Memorial

General Philip Sheridan Memorial

The General Philip Sheridan Memorial is located in the center of Sheridan Circle, which is a traffic circle at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and 23rd Street (MAP), in the Embassy Row neighborhood of northwest D.C.  A bronze sculpture dedicated in November of1908, it depicts General Sheridan during battle on his horse.  It was sculpted by John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum, commonly referred to as Gutzon Borglum, who also produced an enormous carving of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee’s head at Stone Mountain in Georgia, and went on to create his crowning achievement, the Presidential Memorial at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.  The General Philip Sheridan Memorial is part of a group of statues entitled “The Civil War Monuments in Washington, D.C.” which are spread out through much of the central and northwest areas of the city, and are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

Philip Henry Sheridan was a career U.S. Army officer and a Union general during the Civil War.  His military career was noted for his rapid rise, but it did not start off as successfully.  He obtained an appointment to the United States Military Academy from Congressman Thomas Ritchey, but only after the congressman’s first candidate was disqualified.  While at West Point, Sheridan was suspended for a year for fighting with a classmate and threatening to run him through with a bayonet in reaction to a perceived insult.  He was allowed to return, and graduated in 1853, but was ranked 34th in his class of only 52 cadets.

His physical stature and appearance most likely did not enhance his career either.  Fully grown, he reached only 5 feet 5 inches tall, a diminutive stature that led to the nickname, “Little Phil.”  And he was even described by Abraham Lincoln as “A brown, chunky little chap, with a long body, short legs, not enough neck to hang him, and such long arms that if his ankles itch he can scratch them without stooping.”

But despite his physical appearance and his career’s less than stellar beginnings, Sheridan went on to achieve great success in his military career.  He demonstrated his capacity for command during assignments on the U.S. frontier and in early Civil War operations.  Sheridan’s successful Shenandoah Valley Campaign in 1864 crushed Confederate General Jubal Early’s cavalry while destroying much of the South’s food supply.  Sheridan was also instrumental in General Robert E. Lee’s withdrawal from Petersburg, Virginia, after which Lee would soon surrender to Grant in April of 1865 to end the war.  Many contend that his career was also the result of help from influential friends, including his close association with Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant.  Sheridan eventually became the Commanding General of the U.S. Army in November of 1883, and just before his death in June of 1888, he was promoted to General of the Army of the United States – the same rank achieved by Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman.

Sheridan also enjoyed a number of other somewhat unusual successes during and after his military career.  In 1871, Sheridan was present in Chicago during the Great Chicago Fire and coordinated military relief efforts.  The mayor, Roswell B. Mason, to calm the panic, placed the city under martial law, and issued a proclamation putting Sheridan in charge.  Sheridan also played an important role in the establishment and protection of Yellowstone National Park, which was officially created in 1872.  Mount Sheridan, which rises more than 10,000 feet and is located within the national park, was named after him.  Sheridan served as the ninth president of the National Rifle Association as well.

On a personal note, in 1875 Sheridan married Irene Rucker, a daughter of Army Quartermaster General Daniel H. Rucker. She was 22 at the time, and he was 44. They had four children.  After the wedding, Sheridan and his wife moved to D.C., where they lived in a house given to them by Chicago citizens in appreciation for Sheridan’s protection of the city during the Great Chicago Fire.  In 1888, at the age of 57, Sheridan suffered a series of debilitating heart attacks.  Knowing that his end was near, Congress promoted him to General of the Army on June 1, 1888.  Sheridan died on August 5, 1888.  He was survived by his wife Irene, who never remarried, saying, “I would rather be the widow of Phil Sheridan than the wife of any man living.”

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Franklin Square Park

Franklin Square Park

Franklin Square is a park in northwest D.C., which is bounded by K Street to the north, 13th Street on the east, I Street on the south, and 14th Street on the west (MAP).  The downtown park slopes uphill from I Street to K Street, and is partially terraced.  Franklin Square Park also contains sufficient old growth trees to provide ample shade to visitors, a geometric system of concrete pathways for traversing the park in almost any direction, and a flagstone plaza with a large fountain in its middle.

The 4.79-acre park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is maintained by the National Park Service.  And while it is often assumed that it was named after Benjamin Franklin, there are no records or definitive proof to establish this.  However, Franklin Square is surrounded by a rich history, regardless of the origin of its name.  Across 13th Street on the east side of the square is the historic Franklin School, a National Historic Landmark, which was the scene of Alexander Graham Bell’s first wireless message.  On June 3, 1880, Bell sent a message over a beam of light to a window in a building at 1325 L Street using his newly invented Photophone.   Also, Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross maintained a residence adjacent to the park at 1326 I Street, where she held the first official meeting of the relief organization in May of 1881.

Today the park is located in a lively and bustling area of downtown, and often hosts a nearly overflow crowd of employees taking a short break from their responsibilities, or enjoying a lunch obtained from one of the nearby eateries or the many food trucks that surround the park during the middle of the day.  The eclectic crowd utilizing the park can also include anyone or anything, from tourists who have strayed off their usual path, to older people practicing tai chi, and even a service for the homeless and others by the Church of the Epiphany every Tuesday.  There are also the many pigeons who will flock to anyone who purposefully, or sometimes unwillingly, feed them.  The entertainment value of the park makes it a good destination for a bike ride, and an ideal location for a mid-day respite.

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[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]

The Friendship Arch in Chinatown

The Friendship Arch in Chinatown

On this bike ride I not only rode to but also under my destination, which was the Friendship Archway located just east of the intersection of 7th and H Streets (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Chinatown neighborhood.  The finished arch, or “paifang” in Chinese, is an impressive engineering achievement, standing 47 feet tall at the top of its highest roof, spanning 75 feet of roadway, and weighing over 128 tons. The roofing alone weighs 63 tons, supported by 27 tons of steel and 38 tons of concrete. Over 7,000 glazed tiles cover its five roofs, and 35,000 separate wooden pieces are decorated with 23-karat gold.  Reminiscent of the architecture from the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Friendship Arch’s seven pagoda-style roofs have golden color symbolic of wealth and honor, and hundreds of ornately painted dragons to welcome visitors to D.C.’s historic Chinatown neighborhood.  Constructed in 1986, it was said to have been the largest Chinese archway in the world at that time, which is ironic inasmuch as it serves as a gateway to what may be the smallest Chinatown in the United States.

D.C.’s Chinatown is located between H and I Streets and 5th and 8th Streets in the northwest quadrant of the city.  It originally developed in the late 19th century around Pennsylvania Avenue near 4th Street, where John Marshall Place Park is now.  Like many immigrant populations during that time, Chinese immigrants faced discrimination and downright hostility.  The creation of Chinatowns in D.C. and in other cities around the country was in part a defense mechanism to create safe havens where new immigrants could find shelter, sustenance, and employment.  D.C’s original Chinatown was forcibly disbanded in 1931 when the land was taken over by the government for municipal projects, but a new Chinatown was soon established in the location where it remains today.

Just a half a century later, however, Chinatown seemed on the verge of extinction. By the early 1980’s, many successful neighborhood residents and businesses had departed for safer and more prosperous parts of the city, or for the suburbs in Virginia and Maryland.  Chinatown still had a small cluster of restaurants and grocery stores, but the decline of the neighborhood, and the broader downtown area as a whole, made many wonder whether commercial establishments could remain viable in the future.  Chinatown community leaders, including chairman of the Chinatown Development Corporation and local architect Alfred H. Liu, who would go on to design the arch, argued in favor of creating a visible attraction that would serve as a magnet for visitors.

Within a few years, Mayor Marion Barry and other top city officials took a trip to Beijing to promote D.C. as an international business and finance center.  The trip was also in reciprocation for Beijing Mayor Chen Xitong’s visit to D.C. the previous fall.  This led to an agreement to establish D.C. and Beijing as sister cities.  And as part of the agreement, the two cities arranged to work together on a project to build a traditional archway in D.C.’s Chinatown.  The connection to Bejing and the People’s Republic of China met with objections from some Chinatown residents and business leaders, fearing that the Friendship Arch and Chinatown would be associated with the communist regime.  The arch’s opponents had enough clout to get their city council representative, John Wilson, to introduce a resolution opposing the arch’s construction.  And for a time there was talk of constructing a second, separate arch to rival the Friendship Arch.  In the end, plans for a rival arch never materialized, and upon its completion the Friendship Arch was widely embraced and celebrated.

Within a few years of its completion, however, the arch unexpectedly began to deteriorate.  At first a few tiles fell off.  Then, in June of 1990, one of the 100-pound carved dragons fell off and landed on the roof of a truck. Some saw it has an omen.  Since such a gateway traditionally is, among other things, a manifestation of imperial splendor, some Chinese would say the fall of one of its dragons portends the emperor’s own immanent fall.  Sure enough, on that same evening Mayor Marion Barry took to the airwaves to announce that he would be stepping down when his term ended and not running again in the fall elections, as he had been planning.  Barry had been arrested at the Vista Hotel in a sting operation in January; he would be found guilty of one charge of possession of cocaine and sentenced to a 6-month prison term.  In 1993 a major renovation project was undertaken, and the restoration of the Friendship Arch was completed shortly after Marion Barry was released from prison to be elected to the city council and then re-elected mayor.

Today D.C.’s Chinatown is home to a number of Chinese restaurants, a Chinese video store, a handful of general stores, and Chinese American cultural and religious charities.  It is also home to big national chain stores and restaurants, a theater, offices and high rise condominiums, and the Verizon Center, a sports and entertainment arena for the Washington Capitals and the Washington Wizards.  Unfortunately, the revitalization of the neighborhood is also a factor that contributed to the decline of its ethnic character.  But the Friendship Archway remains an enduring and iconic symbol of Chinatown’s heritage.