Archive for April, 2015

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The Capitol City Brewing Company

The Capitol City Brewing Company (CCBC) opened its doors in 1992, and that’s about how long I’ve been going there. And I haven’t had a bad experience yet. So for this bike ride, as well as my traditional end-of-the-month restaurant review for April, I decided to ride there and have lunch. I patronized the original location, at 1100 New York Avenue (MAP), near the corner of 11th and H Streets in northwest D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood. But the CCBC has become so popular that it has expanded to a second location across the river in Virginia, which is just off of the pedestrian promenade of the village in the Shirlington area of Arlington.

When it started just 23 years ago, CCBC became the first brewery in our nation’s capitol since prohibition ended in 1933. The current brew master is Kristi Matthews Griner, who is one of only a few female brew masters in the area. She is also a member of The Pink Boots Society, an 800-member-strong organization of women beer professionals. After completed the Draft Master Program at the Siebel Institute of Technology, Kristi got her experience at Hops Grill and Brewery in Alexandria, and Vintage 50 in Leesburg before moving to CCBC.

Kristi currently oversees the brewing of a number of great ales, lagers and pilsners, and ensures that CCBC always has at least seven or eight brews on tap. The four award-winning signature brews consist of a classic German-style blonde ale named Capitol Kolsch; an American-style Amber ale with a lovely red hue and citrusy aroma named Amber Waves; an American pale ale named Pale Rider, and; Prohibition Porter Traditional, an English style ruby-brown ale with a pronounced chocolate malt character. In addition to the signature brews, there are also a variety of seasonal choices which bring English, Belgian, and German style brews to the line-up. I’ve enjoyed a number of their different brews over the years but, of course, since my employee has a strict policy about alcohol consumption while on duty, never on a day like today when I was returning to work.

Luckily for me, the food at CCBC makes it a worthwhile destination with or without an accompanying libation. Starting right off the bat are their free hot pretzels with horseradish mustard. I must confess that I am a sucker for a hot pretzel, and it’s a perfect appetizer to start out a meal at CCBC. And yes, you read that correctly. They’re free. So you can’t beat the price. There are other appetizers available as well, including many of the pub standards such as wings, nachos, and beer-battered onion rings. I recommend the BBQ Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp. But if you can’t make up your mind, they have a sampler platter too. Other appetizers aren’t really necessary though, because the hot pretzels are not to be missed.

Many of the entrees on their fairly expansive menu were developed specifically with their beer in mind, and some actually utilize their brews in the preparation of the dishes. Menu offerings include everything from sandwiches and burgers to pizza and more formal entrees, with a focus on regional cuisine using fresh ingredients cultivated in the Mid-Atlantic area and delivered daily.

With so many good pizza places in the city, I have to confess that I’ve never tried their pizza. And I’m not much of a salad guy, and haven’t gone with the salad option their either. Since I most frequently go at lunchtime, I don’t usually go for the full-on meal from the entrée selection. However, I have tried the Prohibition Porter Bratwurst, which is excellent. I usually have a sandwich or a burger. The Hickory Burger is one of my favorites because it’s very flavorful, with just the right tang from the chipotle barbeque sauce. But the Steakhouse Burger with the porter-infused A1 sauce is excellent as well, as is the simple Brew Master Burger. If you are looking for something lighter, I recommend the Grilled Fish Tacos or the Grilled Chicken Wrap. And for vegetarians, or anyone else, they also have a Black Bean Burger which I’ve heard is excellent.

My usual, go-to meal at CCBC, however, is the Amber Chicken Sandwich.  First, they take a bonelss chicken breast and marinate it in their fresh-brewed Amber Waves Ale.  Then they grill it just long enough to cook it through but not too long so it looses it juiciness.  Then they top it with melted Swiss cheese, thick-cut bacon, lettuce, tomato and red onion, and serve it on a fresh-baked brioche bun.  It’s the sandwich I had the first time I went to CCBC and it got me going back.  And it’s the sandwich I had today.

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Kilroy Was Here

Graffiti is defined as “writings or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface, often in a public place.”  It goes back to ancient times and has been found in the ruins of Pompeii, in the Catacombs of Rome, and on walls in ancient Egypt.  In is usually considered to be defacement and vandalism, and is often a crime.

However, some graffiti rises above the rest in its aesthetic quality, the message it conveys or other unique characteristics, leading it to gain public acceptance. The graffito commonly known as “Kilroy Was Here” is an example of this. In fact, it gained such acceptance and popularity that it is the only example of graffiti which has been officially memorialized in one of D.C.’s national monuments or memorials. And it was this memorialized graffiti that was the destination for this lunchtime bike ride.

There are two examples of “Kilroy Was Here” on the outside of The National World War II Memorial, which is located on the National Mall between The Lincoln Memorial and The Washington Monument in Downtown D.C. However, most people do not know of the graffiti’s existence or location, which makes it all the more interesting to me. So while I was visiting the memorial, I watched as hundreds of visitors mulled around the arches and state pillars which are arranged around the granite memorial’s grand plaza and fountain, but not one person made their way to the back of the memorial behind the wall of stars. It is there, near the backs of the Pennsylvania and Delaware pillars, behind gold-toned gates, in grated areas designed for service and maintenance access, that the Kilroys reside.

The origin of Kilroy is open to discussion or argument, and much has been written about the beginning and proliferation of the now-famous cartoon depiction of a man with a bald head peering over a fence that hides everything except his eyes, his long U-shaped nose, and often his fingers gripping the top of the fence, accompanied by the proclamation, “Kilroy Was Here.” But perhaps the most credible story is the one which was detailed in a 1946 article in the New York Times.

As reported by The Times, an American shipyard inspector named James J. Kilroy was most likely the man behind the signature. As he inspected the riveting in newly constructed ships, he chalked the words on bulkheads to show that he had been there and performed his inspection. To the troops in those ships, however, it was a complete mystery. They didn’t know who Kilroy was or why he had marked their ships. All they knew about him was that he had “been there first.”  So as a joke, they began placing the graffiti wherever they and other U.S. forces went, then claiming it was already there when they arrived.  Kilroy became America’s super service member who always got there first. The tradition continued in every U.S. military theater of operations throughout World War II, and it became a challenge to place the logo in the most unlikely places.  The marking gained momentum throughout the war, and spread to the civilian population.  Following the war, both service members and civilians continued to scrawl versions of the graffito throughout the world.  But the mania had peaked during the war.  It lingered for a while, but the joke eventually died out as memories of the war faded.

Although Kilroy Was Here is quite possibly the most prolific and well-known graffito in history, it surpassed being relegated to the category of mere graffiti. Over the years he has become part of popular culture. Examples of Kilroy may be found in movies such as “Kelly’s Heroes” and “On Our Merry Way,” and in television shows like “M*A*S*H,” “Home Improvement” and “Seinfeld.” Kilroy has even been the subject of poems, novels, and songs. And there have reportedly been sightings of him on the Statue of Liberty, the Arch de Triomphe in Paris, the Marco Polo Bridge in China, huts in Polynesia, at the top of Mt. Everest, and scrawled in the dust on the moon.

Kilroy can be seen in thousands and thousands of places. However, he is apparently difficult to find at the National World War II Memorial. But now that you know how to track him down, I recommend that you make the effort to find him the next time you visit the memorial.

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Blair House

On this lunch time bike ride I stopped by a late-Federal style, buff-colored limestone townhouse known as “Blair House.” Located across from the White House at 1651–1653 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C., it is directly opposite the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and near the southwest corner of Lafayette Park.

The original townhouse at 1651 Pennsylvania Avenue was built in 1824 as the private residence of Dr. Joseph Lovell, who was a member of the Continental Congress and the first Surgeon General of the United States.  After Dr. Lovell’s death in 1836, the house was sold for $6,500.  It was purchased by Francis Blair, who had previously moved to the nation’s capitol at the urging of President Andrew Jackson. It soon became known as Blair House, and has retained the moniker ever since.

Francis Preston Blair, Sr. was born in April of 1792 in Abingdon, Virginia. In 1811, after graduating from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, he moved to nearby Frankfort, where he worked as a circuit court clerk and a journalist who frequently contributed articles and editorials to a local newspaper. Blair became an ardent follower of President Jackson, and his writings and editorials eventually garnered the attention of the President, who invited Blair to move to D.C. and take over a failing newspaper named The Globe. Blair turned the paper into a pro-administration publication, and became a successful newspaper publisher. He was also an influential advisor to President Jackson as a member of what became known as his “Kitchen Cabinet.”  Blair also continued to be an insider in the administrations of Presidents Martin van Buren and Abraham Lincoln.

Beginning in 1837, seven years after moving to D.C., Blair and his wife Eliza and their three children took up residence in the townhouse, which would remain in the family for over a century. In 1859, Blair built a red brick townhouse next door, to the left of to Blair House, at 1653 Pennsylvania Avenue, for his daughter, Elizabeth Blair Lee, and her husband, Samuel Phillips Lee, a third cousin of Robert E. Lee. In 1942, after being purchased by the U.S. government, the houses were combined, along with two other adjacent townhouses. The complex is sometimes referred to as the Blair-Lee House, though Blair House remains the official name.

Blair House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is now managed by the U.S. State Department and serves as the President of the United State;s official guest house.  However, one President, Harry Truman, actually resided there during an extensive renovation of the White House.  As a side note, during President Truman’s time in residence at Blair House it was also the scene of an assassination attempt in which the first Secret Service Officer killed in the line of duty, and to date the only Secret Service member to be killed while defending the President, occurred.

Today Blair House is primarily used to house foreign heads of state and their delegations, and flies their countries’ flags when foreign leaders stay there. It is also occasionally used for domestic guests, which has included several presidents-elect and their families prior to their initial inauguration.

During the 1980s, Blair House underwent significant restorations, with a new wing added on the north. The combined square footage of the entire complex now exceeds 70,000 square feet, making it more massive than its famous neighbor, The White House, which is approximately 55,000 square feet. And what started as a simple private residence has now expanded to consist of 110 rooms, including several conference rooms and sitting rooms, 23 bedrooms, 35 bathrooms, and 4 dining rooms, as well as several kitchens, laundry and dry cleaning facilities, and an exercise room. It even has a hair salon and a florist shop.

As I visited this house that has long been associated with important events in American history, and in recent times, world history, I couldn’t help but wonder what Francis Preston Blair, Sr. would think if he could see his former residence today.

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An Inuksuk

As I was riding my bike down Constitution Avenue on this lunchtime ride, I saw what looked like an unusual pile of rocks on the grounds of the Organization of American States, which is located at 200 17th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood.  As I stopped to explore it further, I realized that it was, in fact, a pile of rocks. However, it was not just a random pile of rocks. It was actually an inuksuk.

An inuksuk (also spelled inukshuk, plural inuksuit) is a man-made stone landmark or cairn, which can vary in shape, size and complexity. Historically, the most common type of inuksuk is a single stone positioned in an upright manner, although the appearance of some inuksuit suggest that their construction was likely the effort of many, if not an entire community. The inuksuit have their ancient roots in the Inuit culture, but they are also used by the Inupiat, Kalaallit, Yupik, and other peoples of the Arctic region of North America. This region, above the Arctic Circle, is dominated by the tundra biome and, therefore, has few natural landmarks.

The word inuksuk means “something which acts for or performs the function of a person.” The word comes from Inuk, meaning “person,” and suk, meaning “substitute.” Inuksuit are used for a variety of purposes, including a marker for travel routes, fishing places, camps, hunting grounds, holy grounds, or to mark a food cache. There are even examples of Inupiat in northern Alaska using inuksuit as drift fences to assist in the herding of caribou into contained areas for slaughter.

The inuksuk I saw on this ride serves as public art, and an Inuit cultural symbol. It was a gift from Canada to the Organization of American States to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the country’s admission to the Organization. The inuksuk was built in April 2010 by Peter Taqtu Irniq, an Inuk artist and Canadian politician.

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The Washington Monument

I most often tend to ride to and then write about the D.C. area’s lesser-known, off-the-beaten-path monuments, memorials and other attractions. But for this lunch time bike ride I chose to do the opposite. I visited one of the most well known and widely recognized monuments in not only D.C., but the entire world – the 555-foot and 5-inch obelisk known as The Washington Monument. But what I find most interesting about the monument are details about it that are not well-known. Not only did the simplistic appearance of the monument turn out significantly different than what was originally envisioned, it is not located in the place where it was originally intended. And it isn’t even the first Washington Monument in D.C.

Just days after Washington’s death in 1799, a Congressional committee proposed that a pyramid-shaped mausoleum be erected within the Capitol which would also serve as a monument to the nation’s first president. However, a lack of funds, disagreement over what type of memorial would best honor him, and the Washington family’s reluctance to move his body from his Mount Vernon home prevented progress on the proposed project.

Years later, on the 100th anniversary of President Washington’s 1732 birthday, the Washington National Monument Society was formed by former President James Madison and then current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall, and began accepting donations to build a monument. Four years later, a renewed interest in construction a monument resulted in a design competition being held by the Society. The winning design came from architect Robert Mills, who also designed a number of Federal buildings in D.C., including the Department of Treasury building, the U.S. Patent Office Building, and the old General Post Office. Mills’ design featured a flat topped obelisk topped, with a statue depicting a Roman-like Washington in a chariot in front of it, along with a rotunda and colonnade, all surrounded by 30 statues depicting the country’s Founding Fathers and Revolutionary War heroes. Excavation and initial construction of the monument began on July 4, 1848.

However, a lack of funding resulted in the need to redesign the monument. In 1876 the current obelisk design was proposed. It was also during that year that President Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill for the Federal government to fund completion of the monument, which had been stalled by the Civil War. The monument’s construction took place during two phases, from 1848 to 1856, and from 1876 to 1884. A horizontal line of different colored marble from Massachusetts which was used when marble from the original quarry in Maryland was not available is visible approximately 150 feet up the monument, and indicates where construction resumed in 1876.  There is actually a third, less-noticible shade of marble that was used when the builders, dissatisfied with the Massachusetts marble, switched to another quarry in Maryland for the final marble used in the monument.  Thus, there are actually three shades to the exterior of the monument.

In addition to a change in design, a change in location also occurred. Originally, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the city’s architect, had planned for the memorial to be placed due south of the President’s Mansion (now known as the White House), and directly West of the Capital Building. However, the soil at that spot proved too unstable to provide the necessary support for the massive obelisk that had been proposed. So the planned site was moved. The present day monument is 119 meters southwest of the planned site, which is marked by a stone and plaque called the Jefferson Pier.

Delays in construction of the Washington Monument were due to the halting of construction between 1854 and 1877 due to a lack of funds, infighting within the Washington National Monument Society, and the intervention of the American Civil War. It was finally completed in 1888 after more than 40 years of construction, which had begun in 1848. During the interim, however, a comparatively modest monument in the form of an equestrian statue depicting Washington riding his horse during the Battle of Princeton was constructed.  Now known as The Lieutenant General George Washington Statue, it was completed in 1860, more than a quarter of a century before the completion of the more well-known monument.

Located at 2 15th Street (MAP) near Madison Drive in downtown D.C., there are many other details and things you may not know about the monument that has become a centerpiece of the National Mall. For example, it held the title as the tallest structure in the world at the time it was completed. It lost that title in 1889 with the completion of the Eiffel Tower. However, the Washington Monument remains the world’s tallest stone structure as well as the world’s tallest obelisk. The monument stands as the tallest structure in D.C., and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future because, by law, no other building in the national capitol city is allowed to be taller than Washington Monument.

Some other interesting facts about the Washington Monument include the following.  The Masonic gavel previously used by George Washington in the laying of the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol Building in 1793 was also used in the Washington Monument’s 1848 cornerstone ceremony, that had an eclectic guest list which included three future presidents, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, as well as Dolley Madison and Alexander Hamilton’s widow, Betsey Hamilton and, of course, the then-current President, James K. Polk. Also, there are numerous items and copies of important documents contained in a zinc case in the recess of the monument’s time capsule-like cornerstone, including: the Holy Bible; copies of the Constitution of the United States Declaration of Independence; a portrait of Washington; a map of the city as it was at that time; the 1840 United States Census; all national coins then in circulation including the $10 gold eagle; an American flag; the Washington family coat of arms, and; newspapers from 14 states.

Additionally, the obelisk rests on an artificially constructed knoll that was designed to hide the original foundation. The monument is hollow on the inside, but its inner walls are set with 189 carved memorial stones, which were donated by individuals, cities, states, Native American tribes, companies, foreign countries, and even the pope. There are 897 steps in the staircase that leads to the top of the monument. The walls at the monument’s base are 15 feet thick. The Monument’s 36,491 white marble ashlar blocks, weighing a total of 90,854 tons, are held together by just gravity and friction, and no mortar was used in the process. And lastly, there are lightning rods at the top to protect the structure from lightning strikes, as well as eight synchronized blinking red lights, two on each face, which serve as warning lights to keep aircraft from striking the structure.

So now that you know a little more about the monument that is not quite as simple as it initially appears, I recommend you go see the Washington Monument for yourself.  Whether it is your first time or you have seen the monument before, you may find that you have a new appreciation for it.

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The Annual Cherry Blossoms

I wrote last year in this blog about The Cherry Blossoms Around The Tidal Basin and along the Potomac River, but the spectacle of the thousands of trees at peak bloom is something that not only can but should be enjoyed every year. Unfortunately, the duration of the visual splendor of these delicate blooms is available for only a brief time, leading many to say that they are symbolic and serve to remind us of the beauty and brevity of life. Sadly, this year’s blossoms peaked earlier this week and are now gone. The wind and rain of the past few days have caused the trees to lose their blooms, forcing us to wait until next year to again experience the annual spectacle. However, in the meantime, I hope you will enjoy these photos (you can click on the photos to enlarge them and see them in their full size) which I took during my lunchtime bike rides during the past week.  As you do, think about the bright white and pink flowers which seem to be illuminated by the sunlight. Try to imagine their subtle yet sweet fragrance in the early morning hours as you watch the sun rise on the other side of The Washington Monument. Picture yourself sitting on one of the many park benches next to the twisted and gnarled trunk of one of the trees, while petals from the fleeting blossoms fall all around you.  Think about walking under the trees’ low hanging limbs while you traverse the waterside walkway surrounding the Tidal Basin.  And imagine the feel of a gentle breeze as you enjoy the rows of trees lining the trails and roads along the river.  Try to imagine these things and you’ll probably understand why I enjoy riding my bike around the city to enjoy the cherry trees, as well as all of the other attractions and experiences this area has to offer.

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A Memorial within a Memorial

Our nation’s capitol is so replete with memorials that there are sometimes actually memorials within other memorials.  Such is the case with the inscription on the steps of The Lincoln Memorial which commemorates the spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. stood when he gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.

It was August 28, 1963.  Approximately 250,000 people participating in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which would later prove to be a high point of the American civil rights movement, descended on D.C. and occupied the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial and surrounded the reflecting pool. It was there, in the shadow of the memorial honoring the president who had issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves a century earlier, that Rev. King addressed those in attendance.

The elevated spot on the steps of the memorial was not only chosen for its symbolism and for its practical value in addressing the crowd, but for security reasons as well. Surrounded on three sides, it was thought that the spot was ideal in that if an incident occurred it would be able to be easily contained.

Twenty years later, on August 28, 1983, crowds gathered again to mark the 20th Anniversary of the March on Washington and reflect on the progress that had been made in the civil rights movement, and to recommit to the ideals of the march in correcting injustices.

In August of 2003 on the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington, the landing eighteen steps below Lincoln’s statue from where the speech was given was engraved to read, “I Have a Dream – Martin Luther King, Jr. – March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – August 28, 1963.” This was still several years prior to the construction and opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and is considered by some to be D.C.’s original memorial to Rev. King.

On this bike ride I rode to this memorial within a memorial, officially located at 2 Lincoln Memorial Circle (MAP) to stand on this historic ground and reflect on what occurred there in the past.

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Statue of Crown Princess Märtha

On this bike ride I stopped by the Norwegian Embassy to see the statue of Märtha Sofia Lovisa Dagmar Thyra, more commonly known as Crown Princess Märtha of Norway. The statue is located in front of the main residence on the grounds of the embassy, which is just off Massachusetts Avenue at 2720 34th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Embassy Row neighborhood.

Princess Märtha may be one of the only people in history to be born into a royal family, then cease being a member of that royal family before marrying back in to the same royal family once again. Princess Märtha was the daughter of Prince Carl of Sweden and Princess Ingeborg of Denmark.  She was born on March 28, 1901, in Stockholm, just prior to the dissolution of the union of the United Kingdoms of Norway and Sweden in June of 1905. So for the first four years of her life, she was a Princess of Sweden and Norway.  After the union of the sovereigns ended, she was no longer a princess of Norway, and became Princess Märtha of Sweden.

In March of 1929 following a year-long engagement, she married her cousin, Crown Prince Olav of Norway, in Oslo Cathedral, in the first royal wedding in Norway in 340 years. Thus, she once again became a Princess of Norway. They went on to have three children, Princesses Ragnhild and Astrid of Norway, and Prince Harald V, who eventually ascended to the thrown and is the current King of Norway.

When the Nazis invaded Norway in 1940, Princess Märtha and her children fled to her native Sweden. However, they were not well received by the Swedish people because it was felt that their presence could compromise Sweden’s neutrality. So at the invitation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the family came to the United States.  However, she was not accompanied by her husband, Crown Prince Olav, who stayed with his father, King Haakon VII, and established a government-in-exile in England.  After brief stays at Roosevelt’s private estate in Hyde Park, New York, and then the White House, the family purchased and moved into an estate in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside of D.C. However, she continued to maintain a close friendship with President Roosevelt after leaving the White House, and the family was often invited back and included in both private and public functions there.

When the war finally ended in 1945, Princess Märtha and the children returned to Norway, where they were reunited with Crown Prince Olav and King Haakon.  She focused on helping Norway and the Norwegian people recover from the war, and spent the rest of her life working with many charities in Norway.

Following a lengthy period of ill-health, Princess Märtha died of cancer in Oslo in 1954.  Her husband would go on to become King Olav V in 1957 until his death in January 1991.  Since her death came approximately three years before her husband ascended to the throne, she never became a queen and will forever remain a princess.  She was the princess of Norway from birth until the age of four, and then again from age 28 until her death. So during her lifetime her two tenures as a princess of Norway together lasted for 30 of her 54 years.

The bronze statue of Princess Märtha was sculpted by Norwegian sculptor Kirsten Kokkin, and was unveiled on September 18, 2005. It was a gift to the citizens of Norway from the Norwegian American Foundation on behalf of the Norwegian-American community in the United States. And if you can’t get to D.C. to see it, you have two other opportunities. Another cast of the statue is located at Palace Park in Oslo, Norway. It was unveiled by her son, King Harald V of Norway, on his 70th birthday in 2007. A third cast of the statue, located in Stockholm, Sweden, was unveiled in October of 2008.

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Monument to Cristoforo Columbo

There are a large number of official public monuments in the national capitol city which honor a wide range of historic figures. They include presidential monuments such as The Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, as well as monuments to military leaders such as John Paul Jones, George B. McClellan and John Barry. There are also monuments and memorials to foreign leaders and dignitaries such as Winston Churchill of England, Robert Emmett of Ireland, Orlando Letelier of Chile, and Eleftherios Venizélos of Greece.  A variety of cultural and historic figures such as Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi also have monuments and memorials dedicated to them. There are even monuments to religious leaders such as Francis Asbury, James Gibbons, and John Carroll.  So with all the different types of monuments to all the different types of people, I was surprised to learn that there is no public monument in D.C. to the man who is widely credited with founding and colonizing America and the “New World” – Christopher Columbus.

I found out, however, that there is a private monument to Christopher Columbus.  The private monument, known as the Monument to Cristoforo Colombo, is located in the garden in the courtyard of Holy Rosary Church, located at 595 3rd Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Judiciary Square neighborhood.  Christopher Columbus, as most Americans and English speaking people know him, is an Anglicization of his real name. He was born Cristoforo Colombo in Genoa, Italy.  Other languages have changed his name, too. He is known as Cristóbal Colón in Spanish, and Kristoffer Kolumbus in Swedish.

The Cristoforo Colombo Monument was a gift from the Lido Civic Club of D.C., which was established by Italian Americans in 1929 with the primary goal of assisting recent immigrants become assimilated into the ways of American business.  As Italian Americans in the D.C. area became more successful and affluent, the goals of the Club shifted towards more civic-minded activities that help not only Italian Americans but the D.C. area in general.

The plaque on the base of the monument reads, “This monument, erected on the occasion of the 1992 Quincentennial Jubilee celebrating the discovery of America, pays tribute to Cristoforo Colombo and his seafaring companions. Their bold voyage led to a historic encounter between the European world and the Americas. A turning point in Western Civilization, this event paved the way for the spreading of the Gospel and the establishment of a society anchored on the principles of Christian love and holiness. 1492 – 1992.”

Cristoforo Colombo was born in  in Genoa, Italy, in 1451, but later moved to Spain. It was in Spain, where he worked as a trader, that he got the idea that he could sail straight to China by crossing the Atlantic Ocean. As a trader he knew that there were great riches to be had in China and East Asia. However, traveling overland by the “Silk Road” was dangerous, and a sea route around Africa seemed much too long.  Like others during his lifetime, he believed that the world was formed mainly of one giant landmass consisting of Europe, Asia, and Africa.  That was mainly because these are the only continents mentioned in the Bible. They also believed that these continents were surrounded by one enormous body of water they called the Ocean Sea. It would turn out that Columbus was wrong. The Earth was much larger than was thought at the time, and there was another land mass between Europe and Asia – the Americas.

So what started out as a direct trip to China and East Asia which Colombo originally estimated to be approximately 2,400 miles, actually turned out to be a lot longer. Colombo’s calculations were only off by about 10,000 miles though.  And it wasn’t a direct route either.  Of course, there were already native people living in the Americas at the time. There even was a European, Leif Ericsson, who had been to the Americas before. However, it was Columbus’ voyage that started the exploration and colonization of this “New World.”

Interestingly, Columbo died thinking he had discovered a shortcut to Asia across the Atlantic Ocean, and never knew what an amazing discovery he had actually made.

It’s also interesting that the trip during which he “discovered” the Americas was not his last.  Columbo would eventually make three additional voyages to the Americas and back during his lifetime, and one more after his death.  After dying at the age of 55 in May of 1506, Columbo was buried in Valladolid, Spain.  His body was then moved to Seville.  Later, at the request of his daughter-in-law, the bodies of Columbo and his son Diego were shipped across the Atlantic to the island of Hispaniola, where they were interred in a Santo Domingo cathedral.  Centuries later, when the French captured the island, the Spanish dug up remains which they thought were his and moved them to Cuba.  They were then returned to Seville after the Spanish-American War.  However, a box with human remains and the explorer’s name was discovered inside the Santo Domingo cathedral in 1877, leading to speculation that the Spaniards exhumed the wrong body.  DNA testing in 2006 found evidence that at least some of the remains in Seville are those of Columbo.  But the Dominican Republic has refused to let the other remains be tested.  So it could be that, aptly, pieces of Columbo are both in the Old World and the New World.

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