Archive for October, 2014

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken

I recently had a craving for a doughnut. But I was not looking for the kind of generic, mass-produced doughnut that you usually get in a supermarket, a convenience store, or even one of the national doughnut shop chains. I wanted a fresh specialty gourmet doughnut. The kind you can only get in a local bakery or restaurant. During its recent “Dozen Weeks of Doughnuts Contest,” The Washington Post named the Crème Brûlée doughnut, the signature treat at Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, the best in the city.  Astro actually had two of the top three doughnuts in D.C., with its Peanut Butter and Jelly version coming in third place. So with two of the top three doughnuts in the city, Astro seemed like the place to go to satisfy my craving. It also seemed like a good choice for my traditional end-of-the-month restaurant review for the month of October.

Part of Metro Center in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood, Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken is conveniently located at 1308 G Street (MAP), across the street from the Church of the Epiphany, and just a little over a block away from the White House. Opened just last year by longtime friends and native Washingtonians Elliot Spaisman and Jeff Halpern, they were inspired to open the shop by their longstanding tradition of enjoying a doughnut after playing hockey together.

Halpern went on to become a professional hockey player, and was the first native Washingtonian to play for the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League (NHL). Currently an unrestricted free agent, Halpern has also played in the NHL for the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and most recently, the Phoenix Coyotes. However, despite a successful career in sports, he may be better known in the long run for doughnuts if the ones I’ve tried are an indicator.

The creative force behind the doughnuts at Astro is Chef Jason Gehring, who has cooked in kitchens ranging from D.C.’s own Fiola and Poste to Baltimore’s Charleston and New York City’s famous Payard Bakery. Utilizing seasonal fruit and produce from local farmers, and high-end ingredients, the standard flavors each day include the Crème Brûlée and PB&J, along with Maple Bacon and Vanilla Bean Glaze. There are also various flavors that rotate onto the menu, depending on the season and availability of fresh ingredients. They include Piña Colada, Carrot Cake, Pink Grapefruit, Creamsicle, Banana Nut, Applesauce, Coconut Cake, Passionfruit Berry, Salted Caramel, Pistachio, Pumpkin Latte, and one called Brooklyn Blackout, which is devil’s food cake with chocolate glaze and cookie crumbs.

My favorite by far, however, is the one I had on this bike ride, the Key Lime Pie doughnut. It was actually the best doughnut I’ve ever eaten. Dense and moist, it was deliciously tart, with a strip of candied lime to top it off. The taste was spot on to the legendary dessert, making it easy to imagine being transported to southern Florida and having breakfast with the Key West locals, or as they’re called there, “conchs.”

And the chicken at Astro is almost as good as the doughnuts, which is saying a lot. The classic fried chicken is tender, succulent and flavorful, with just the right amount of crunchiness and seasoning.  They also offer a variety of flavors and different kinds of chicken, from the Sriracha or spicy garlic chicken wings, to the Old Bay or Buffalo chicken sandwiches, they are all good enough to cause making a decision to be difficult.

Like several other restaurants I have reviewed here on this blog in the past, Astro has no seating and are a business only. And if I had to come up with a criticism of Astro, it would be that different doughnuts and kinds of chicken are only available on certain days.  Also, there is a potential for them to run out of certain menu items, particularly the most popular choices. But these are first-world problems which are easily remedied if you follow my advice, which is, “Definitely go there, know what you want, and the earlier you get there the better.”

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

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Candy Car

The Candy Car

While on my bike ride I recently came across this tiny car parked in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of D.C..  Although the car would stand out at any time of the year,  the candy-themed vehicle seems particularly relevant during this week leading up to Halloween. The car belongs to The National Confectioners Association, a trade group representing candy manufacturing companies.  Founded in 1884, the National Confectioners Association is one of the oldest trade associations in the world, with a mission to advance, protect and promote the industry.

As I stopped to look at the car and take a photograph, the woman driving it walked up to get in.  She said hello, and from her demeanor I imagine she is used to the attention the car receives.  I jokingly replied, “Trick or treat.”  And based on what she did next, she is apparently also used to the car eliciting this type of response.  She popped open the trunk, and reached in and grabbed a handful of candy which she then gave to me.  It was the first time I have been trick-or-treating in a very long time.

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Town Center Park

The Southwest Duck Pond, also known as Town Center West Park

For this lunchtime bike ride, I rode to D.C.’s Southwest neighborhood to go to the Southwest Duck Pond, also known more formally as Town Center West Park. Located at the corner of Sixth and I Streets (MAP) and just a couple short blocks from D.C.’s Southwest Waterfront, the park functions as a green counterpoint to its urban surroundings by filling up a square block with greenery and a pond meant to attract wildlife.

The park was originally designed by William Roberts of Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd for the National Park Service as part of the early 1970’s urban renewal projects in the Southwest Washington Redevelopment Area. Completed in 1972, the park served as an urban retreat, providing a quiet spot among the city’s hustle and bustle for local residents, office workers, and students of an adjacent school for exceptional children, and was part of a larger effort to enhance and increase recreational space in the neighborhood.

For the next few decades the park was generally well-maintained by the National Park Service in conjunction with the National Mall and Potomac Park. Then, in 2007, after ownership and responsibility for the park was transferred to the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, the park began to fall into disrepair. Eventually, overgrown landscaping caused the grounds to appear unkept, the brick retaining walls showed significant deterioration, and even the water circulation pumps and the fountains in the pond stopped working. The park was in such bad shape that a case of West Nile Virus was thought to be caused by the stagnant water in the park, which because of the lack of circulation in the pond caused mosquitoes to breed in the area and spread disease.

After efforts by the city and private developers failed to result in improvement, some local residents formed an organization called Neighbors of Town Center West Park to care for the park and serve as an advocacy group. The group of volunteers began by picking up trash and doing other maintenance at the park. Over time, the group was designated by the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission as the official community representative for the park. With this designation, the group now participates in the city’s Park Partners program.

Today, the condition of the park stands in stark contrast to its recent history as it has been returned to it’s earlier days’ prominence. The pond’s water circulation and four fountains have been replaced. The pond’s naturalistic shoreline, broken by three promontories edged with river rocks, is surrounded with native riparian plants. The interior of the park is planted with large shade trees, and lined by repaired or replaced low brick retaining walls which give it a sense of enclosure. And a circulating walkway connects each of these areas. New park benches line the paths, along with new sidewalks, streetlights, and even some bike racks.

Additionally, the Neighbors of Town Center West Park group, which recently changed its name to Neighbors of Southwest Duck Pond, hosts activities in the park, including The Little Farm Stand farmers market, community open houses, ice cream socials, holiday parties, and neighborhood happy hours. The park is now more than a place just for nearby neighbors, it has become a destination location for everyone.

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McPherson Square

McPherson Square

This month marks three years since a disillusioned band of protesters first pitched tents in a park in lower Manhattan, sparking a movement against corporate greed known as Occupy Wall Street. The New York protest initially garnered a significant amount of media attention and public awareness, thanks mainly to the involvement of the Canadian anti-consumerist magazine named Adbusters, which originally came up with the idea for the occupation. Adbusters began to promote the occupation, and then enlisted help from the Manhattan-based public relations firm Workhouse, who was well known for its successful work on client brands including Mercedes and Saks Fifth Avenue. It was their efforts that lead to media awareness, inspiring the initiation of other Occupy protests and movements around the world, including here in D.C.

Occupy D.C. was a protest in McPherson Square in D.C., and was connected to the other Occupy movements that were springing up across the U.S. in the fall of 2011. The group began occupying McPherson Square in October of that year. As a result of an inability to resolve internal differences and disputes, a number of protestors broke off from the original group, and began an occupation of Freedom Plaza several days later. That group called itself Occupy Washington. This squabble was an early indicator to me that the movement was destined to fade into obscurity.

The main issues raised by the Occupy movement were social and economic inequality, greed, corruption and the perceived undue influence of corporations on government – particularly from the financial services sector. The Occupy slogan, “We are the 99%”, referred to income inequality and wealth distribution in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population. However, without designated leaders or specific demands, Occupy eventually turned into an amorphous protest against everything that anyone perceived to be wrong in the world.

For its first two months, authorities largely adopted a tolerant approach toward the movement, but this began to change in mid-November of 2011 when they began forcibly removing protest camps. By the end of the year authorities had cleared most of the major camps, with the last remaining high profile sites – in D.C. and London – evicted a few weeks later. The movement’s end seemed to arrive almost as suddenly as it began.

The problem with the movement was that its mission was always intentionally vague. It was deliberately leaderless. It never sought to become a political party or even a label like the Tea Party. And because it was purposely open to taking in all comers, the assembly lost its sense of purpose as various intramural squabbles emerged about the group’s end game. The Occupy encampments, which began with a small band of passionate intellectuals, had been hijacked by misfits and vagabonds looking for food and shelter. And as the USA Today newspaper described it, “It will be an asterisk in the history books, if it gets a mention at all.” Regardless of your support or opposition to the Occupy movement, I think it can be described as an interesting time that began full of idealism, but ended with unrealized potential.

I went to McPherson Square, as well as Freedom Plaza, several times back when the Occupy D.C.’s and Occupy Washington’s protests and occupations were ongoing. And to mark the third anniversary of the beginning of the Occupy movement, I rode back to the location where they began, McPherson Square.

McPherson Square is named after James B. McPherson, a major general who fought in the Union Army during the Civil War. It was identified as a park on the original 1791 design plan for the national capitol city created by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, and is a key element of the historic monumental core, along with Farragut Square and Lafayette Square.

McPherson Square is located in northwest D.C., and is bound by K Street to the north, Vermont Avenue on the East, I Street on the south, and 15th Street on the West (MAP). It is two blocks northeast of The White House, and one block from Lafayette Park. Located in the central downtown commercial and business district, today the square is frequented by area workers and street vendors during the day, and restaurant-goers and the homeless at night.

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

The Eisenhower Executive Office Building

The Eisenhower Executive Office Building

Today is the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s first post as President on The White House’s Official Facebook page. Using his iPhone, he posted a famous quote from George Washington, who once said, “The thing about quotes from the Internet is that it’s hard to verify their authenticity.”  After updating his online status, I can imagine him then going for an evening walk on a cool, crisp autumn day, much like it was today. Perhaps stopping by Saint John’s Episcopal Church across the street, and maybe even going past his memorial and taking a stroll around The Reflecting Pool on the National Mall on his way home.

Actually, today is the anniversary of the beginning of Lincoln era’s communications equivalent, the first transcontinental overland telegram.  It was sent on this day in 1861, after 112 days of construction, that Western Union completed the first transcontinental telegraph.  And the first telegram was sent to President Lincoln in D.C., from California Justice Stephen J. Field in San Francisco.  In the message, Field predicted that the new communication link would help ensure the loyalty of the western states to the Union during the Civil War.

The telegraph was received at the telegraph office within the War Department, which was located in a building to the west of the White House. It was known as the Annex, and became very important during the Civil War, with President Lincoln visiting the War Office’s telegraph room for constant updates and reports and walking back and forth to the “Residence”. The original structure was replaced in 1888 by construction of a new building of French Empire design, the “State, War, and Navy Building.” The building was later renamed to honor General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and is also commonly referred to as the Old Executive Office Building.

So on for this bike ride, I chose to ride to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is located on 17th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C., and is situated just west of the White House between Pennsylvania Avenue and New York Avenue, and West Executive Drive.

The Eisenhower Executive Office Building was designed by Alfred B. Mullett as the supervising architect, with much of the interior designed by Richard von Ezdorf. It was built between 1871 and 1888, and is now maintained by the General Services Administration. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1971. It was vacated completely in the late 1930s, and the building was nearly demolished in 1957. Then in 1981, plans to restore it began. The building is currently occupied by various agencies that compose the President’s Executive Office, such as the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Security Council. Many White House employees have their offices in the massive edifice. Its most public purpose is that of the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office, which is mainly used for special meetings and press conferences.

Interestingly, the building was the site of another telecommunications first. Dwight D. Eisenhower held the first televised Presidential news conference in the building’s Indian Treaty Room in January 1955

As I paused to take a few photos with my cell phone, I couldn’t help but reflect on both the differences and similarities between then and now in terms of communications, politics, and the world. The telegraph line immediately made the Pony Express obsolete, which officially ceased operations two days later. The overland telegraph line then operated until it was replaced a mere eight years later by a multi-line telegraph that had been constructed alongside the route of the newly-completed Transcontinental Railroad. Much like today, I guess technology changed fairly often even back then too.

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The Embassy of Grenada

The Embassy of Grenada

The country of Grenada is a small island nation and commonwealth realm consisting of the island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea, northeast of Venezuela. While I was out for this daily lunchtime bike ride at work, I stopped by their country’s embassy. Located at 1701 New Hampshire Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Embassy Row neighborhood, the Grenadian Embassy serves as the country of Grenada operational headquarters for its bilateral responsibilities with the United States, as well as its multilateral role representing Grenada’s interests as one of the 35 members of the Organization of American States.

Grenada gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1974. Five years later, the leftist New Jewel Movement seized power in a coup, deposed and executed Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, and suspended the country’s constitution. This led to an internal power struggle within the country. President Ronald Reagan, citing the threat posed to American nationals by that nation’s Marxist regime, then ordered the Marines to invade the island and secure the safety of Americans as well as others living there. The invasion by a U.S.-led military force began early in the morning hours, exactly 31 years ago tomorrow.

In a military operation named “Operation Urgent Fury,” U.S. military forces, along with those from Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, launched the invasion on October 25, 1983. In little more than a week, Grenada’s government was overthrown and a constitutional government was restored. The Reagan administration claimed a great victory, calling it the first rollback of communist influence since the beginning of the Cold War.

While the action enjoyed broad public support in the U.S., and received support from some sectors in Grenada from local groups who viewed the post-coup regime as illegitimate, it was criticized by the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United Nations. After the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution condemning the invasion as “a flagrant violation of international law,” President Reagan brushed it off by saying that the resolution “didn’t upset my breakfast at all.”

To commemorate the invasion, October 25th is now a national holiday in Grenada called Thanksgiving Day. Even though it bears the same name as the American version of Thanksgiving celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, the Grenadian holiday is unrelated to this country’s celebration. Regardless, I stopped on my ride back to my office and bought a roast turkey sandwich for lunch to celebrate early.  Happy Thanksgiving Day everyone.

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The Major General George B. McClellan Memorial

The Major General George B. McClellan Memorial

On this bike ride, I stopped by the Major General George B. McClellan Memorial, which is located on a median at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue, Columbia Road, and California Street (MAP), directly in front of The Washington Hilton in northwest D.C.  The statue 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. They are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

After being named General-in-Chief of the Union Army during the Civil War by President Abraham Lincoln, McClellan drew praise for his military initiatives. However, he also quickly developed a reputation for his arrogance and contempt toward the political leaders in D.C., including toward the President who had named him to the top army post. The general began openly associating with Democratic leaders in Congress and showing his disregard for the Republican administration. In a letter to his wife, McClellan wrote that Lincoln was “nothing more than a well-meaning baboon.”

During McClellan’s brief tenure as General-in-Chief, Lincoln made frequent evening visits to the general’s house to discuss strategy.  The most famous example of McClellan’s cavalier disregard for the President’s authority occurred on a day in 1861 when Lincoln, Secretary of State William Seward, and presidential secretary John Hay stopped by to see the general. McClellan was out, so the trio waited for his return. After an hour, McClellan came in and was told by a porter that the guests were waiting. McClellan headed for his room without a word, and only after Lincoln waited another half-hour was the group informed that McClellan had retired for the evening and had already gone to bed. Hay felt that the president should have been greatly offended, but Lincoln replied that it was “better at this time not to be making points of etiquette and personal dignity.”

Lincoln made no more visits to the general’s home. However, approximately four months later, the President removed McClellan as General-in-Chief of the army. How much the general’s abrasiveness played a part in his removal is open to debate. Many regarded McClellan as a poor battlefield general. Others maintain that he was a highly capable commander, whose reputation suffered unfairly at the hands of pro-Lincoln partisans who needed a scapegoat for the Union’s setbacks. His legacy therefore defies easy categorization. After the war, Ulysses S. Grant was asked to evaluate McClellan as a general. He replied, “McClellan is to me one of the mysteries of the war.” But Robert E. Lee, on being asked who was the ablest general on the Union side during the late war, replied emphatically: “McClellan, by all odds!”

Interestingly, McClellan later ran as the Democrat party’s nominee for the 1864 presidential election against Lincoln. He was soundly trounced in the election, obtaining only 21 electoral votes to Lincoln’s 212 electoral votes. McClellan subsequently held several positions, including governor of New Jersey, before retiring to spend his final years traveling and writing his memoirs.

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The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

On this day in 1957, U.S. military personnel suffered their first casualties of the Vietnam War when 13 Americans were wounded in three terrorist bombings of Military Assistance Advisory Group and U.S. Information Service installations in Saigon. The rising tide of guerrilla activity in South Vietnam reached an estimated 30 terrorist incidents by the end of the year and at least 75 local officials were assassinated or kidnapped in the last quarter of 1957. Unfortunately, this was just the beginning for the U.S. By the end of the war in 1975, estimates for the total U.S. casualties during the Vietnam War are 58,286 killed in action or non-combat deaths (including the missing and deaths in captivity), 153,303 wounded in action, and 1,645 missing in action.

In addition to U.S. casualties, estimates place the number of deaths for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Viet Cong at 1.1 million, while 220,357 were killed in action from the Republic of Vietnam. It is also estimated that 4,407 from the Republic of Korea, 487 from Australia. 351 from Thailand, 37 New Zealanders, and 30,000 Laotian Meo/Hmong were killed.  Additionally, estimates place the number of civilian deaths between 195,000-430,000 in South Vietnam, and 50,000-65,000 in North Vietnam.

In remembrance of the events of this day and in honor of those who served and sacrificed, on this lunchtime bike ride I rode to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Located in Constitution Gardens adjacent to the National Mall, just northeast of the Lincoln Memorial (MAP), the Memorial Wall is the best-known part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial complex, which also includes The Three Soldiers Statue and The Vietnam Women’s Memorial.

The Memorial Wall is comprised of two gabbro walls which total 246 feet 9 inches in length. The walls are sunk into the ground, with the earth behind them.  At the apex where they meet which is the highest point, they are 10.1 feet high. They taper to a height of only 8 inches at either end. One wall points toward The Washington Monument, the other in the direction of the Lincoln Memorial, and they meet in the middle. Each wall has 72 inscribed panels, with the two very small blank panels at the extremities remaining blank.

Inscribed on the panels are the names of servicemen who were either confirmed to be killed in action or remained classified as missing in action when the walls were constructed. The 58,272 names, which includes 8 women, are listed in chronological order. The names include approximately 1,200 who are listed as missing. The names of the missing are denoted with a cross. If they return alive, although this has thus far never occurred, the cross would be circumscribed by a circle. If their death is confirmed, a diamond will be superimposed over the cross.

The wall is made from highly reflective stone so that when a visitor looks upon it, his or her reflection can be seen simultaneously with the engraved names. This is meant to symbolically bring the past and present together. However, if you are unable to experience and see the Wall in person, there is a half size replica called The Moving Wall, which periodically visit hundreds of small towns and cities throughout the country from April through November, spending five or six days at each site. Veterans groups have subsequently created additional traveling replicas, which include The Traveling Wall created by the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall by Vietnam and All Veterans of Brevard, Inc, and The Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall by Dignity Memorial. Fixed replicas have also been built in Wildwood, New Jersey and Winfield, Kansas.

There are also other resources and virtual versions of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall that can be found online, including The Virtual Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial , The Wall of Faces  and The Wall – USA.  These sites are intended to “bring the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to your home to help remember the sacrifices of the fallen and their families.” 

So take a few minutes to visit D.C.’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, or one of the travelling or virtual walls, and remember the 58,272 individuals who are honored, including the ten different people on the wall who were killed on this day during the war.  They are John Dominick Arquillo (age 21), William Olen Austin (19), John Thomas Baker (20), Alexander Beard (28), John David Belles (20), Guy Lester Bellew (35), Gary Lee Binder (20), Murray Lyman Borden (25), Robert White Boyd (23), and John Wesley Brooks (19).

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

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Sol LeWitt’s “Four-Sided Pyramid”

The definition of public art is art in any media that has been planned and executed with the intention of being staged in the physical public domain, usually outside and accessible to all.  The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, which exhibits several pieces from the museum’s contemporary sculpture collection in an outdoor setting, is an excellent example of public art. Located on the National Mall between the National Gallery’s West Building and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (MAP), the Sculpture Garden, and more specifically an exhibit there entitled “Four Sided Pyramid,” was the destination for this ride.

Four-Sided Pyramid consists of concrete blocks precisely stacked to form a stark, eye-catching terraced pyramid. In bright sunlight, the white blocks and shadows play visual tricks on the eye as you view the structure from different angles. From some angles the exhibit can appear to be a simple pile of cubes. But from other angles, the contrasting white blocks and dark shadows can also create a isometric optical illusion, where it isn’t clear whether a given vertex is an inside or outside corner. It was installed at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in 1999 by a team of engineers and stone masons, according to a plan designed by the artist, whose approach was to come up with a concept for each structure often presented as a set of instructions which assistants then used to construct the object.

Four Sided Pyramid was designed by an American artist named Solomon “Sol” LeWitt. He came to fame in the late 1960s with his wall drawings and modular, quasi-architectural forms he called “structures,” a term he preferred instead of “sculptures.” LeWitt was prolific in a wide range of media including drawing, printmaking, photography, and painting, and was from the early 1960s until his death in 2007 he was considered at the forefront of various movements, including Conceptual Art and Minimalism, of which he is regarded as the founder.

LeWitt has been the subject of hundreds of solo exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world for almost half a century. And his works continue to be represented here in the Sculpture Garden, as well as important museum collections throughout the world, including the Tate Modern Museum in London, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, the National Museum of Serbia in Belgrade, and the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury Building

The U.S. Department of the Treasury Building

The Treasury Building in D.C. is a National Historic Landmark which was built over a period of 33 years between 1836 and 1869. Composed of five stories on five acres of landscaped gardens, the Neoclassical-style building is located at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP), next door to the White House in northwest D.C. This building, which serves as the headquarters of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, was the destination for this lunchtime bike ride.

The Department of the Treasury, a U.S. Cabinet department, was established by an Act of Congress in 1789 to manage government revenue. The Treasury Department prints and mints all U.S. paper currency and coins through the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the United States Mint. The Department of the Treasury also collects all federal taxes through the Internal Revenue Service, and manages U.S. government debt instruments.

The initial portions of the Treasury Building, the east side and central wing, were designed by architect Robert Mills, and built between 1836 and 1842. The South Wing of the building was designed by Ammi B. Young and Alexander H. Bowman, and continued the basic Mills scheme. Construction of the South Wing occurred between 1855 and 1861. Isaiah Rogers designed the West Wing, which was built between 1862 and 1864. And the North Wing, designed by Alfred B. Mullett, was built between 1867 and 1869, completing the building.  It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

The Treasury Building is the third oldest federally occupied building in D.C., after the U.S. Capitol Building and the White House. It would have been the oldest, but the original building and subsequent restorations were destroyed by fire on several occasions, including an accidental fire in 1801, an attack by British troops during the War of 1812, and arson on the night of March 30, 1833. The fire of 1833 was set by Richard H. White, a former clerk, in an attempt to destroy fraudulent pension papers. Although destruction of documents was kept to a minimum, the fire completely destroyed the building. The fire might have been contained if it had been discovered earlier. But at that time, the building had only one night watchman, who was allowed to sleep after making a round of the building at ten o’clock. After four separate trials, however, White was not convicted because the statute of limitations had expired.

The origins of the current Treasury Building has an interesting history. In the early days of the national capital city, the White House and the Capitol Building faced each other at opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. However, President Andrew Jackson’s relationship with the Congress were so contentious that it was rumored that he had the Treasury Building placed in its present location so it would block his view of the Capitol. After a prolonged fight with Congress over the location of the new Treasury Building, President Jackson is said to have walked to the site on 15th Street near where the former building had been, drove his cane into the ground, and commanded, “Put the damned thing right here.”

If you’re unable to visit the actual  Treasury Building in D.C., you can see an image of the building any time you want inasmuch as it is featured on the back of the ten-dollar bill.  A portrait of the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, is on the front of the bill. 

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