Archive for February, 2018

The Reverend Billy Graham Lying in Honor

On my daily lunchtime bike ride today I rode to the U.S. Capitol Building, where the Reverend Billy Graham, who passed away a week ago today at the age of 99, is lying in honor.  Lying in honor is reserved only for private citizens, who are given the honor of having their casket placed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for public viewing. Including Billy Graham, only four private citizens have been given this honor. The first citizens to be given the honor are U.S. Capitol Police Officers Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson, who were killed in the line of duty during a shootout in the Capitol Building in 1998.  Civil rights icon Rosa Parks also lied in state after her death in 2005.  The Reverend Graham is the fourth, and the only religious leader in history to be given the honor.

Prior to lying in honor in the Capitol Building, the Reverend Graham lay in repose on yesterday and the day before at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte North Carolina. Thousands visited and paid the evangelist their respects.  Lying in repose is actually different from lying in honor or lying in state.  Lying in repose typically refers to when the casket of someone of high stature can be publicly viewed in a building other than the Rotunda, so the public can pay their respects.

There are no official rules that dictate who can lie in state or who can lie in honor, except that customarily only government officials can lie in state, versus private citizens who can lie in honor. The casket is typically guarded by the U.S. Capitol Police. The decision to grant this honor is made by a concurrent resolution of the House and Senate, and can be granted to anyone, with the family’s approval, who has given distinguished service to the nation.

I made sure to get there early, even before the viewing was open to the public.  Unfortunately, the line of people already there and waiting to file by and pay their respects was prohibitive for someone who had only their lunch hour before having to go back to work.  Despite getting there approximately an hour and a half early, there were already thousands of people in a line that stretched from the building out to the street, and then the equivalent of another eight city blocks.  So as I left, I couldn’t help but think that the line of people, in and of itself, would seem to serve as a testament to the respect so many people had for the great man who came to be known as “America’s Pastor”, and his service to our country, the world, and God.

         

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

 

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Georgetown’s “Swords Into Ploughshares” Fence

A while back I heard a story about an iron fence in Georgetown which was supposedly built using hundreds of rifles as the pickets.  Wanting to see for myself, I rode to Georgetown during today’s lunchtime bike ride and personally examined the iron fence in question, which surrounds the property at 2803 and 2805 P Street (MAP).

The story goes that in 1859, Hall M1819 rifles were being stored at an armory in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, while preparations were being made to ship some of them out west to San Francisco.  However, a famed abolitionist named John Brown and his militia, consisting of 21 men (16 white and 5 black),  had been watching the arsenal and planned to seize the shipment of firearms and use them to supply an army of abolitionists.  On October 16th of that year, the Brown militia marched into Harpers Ferry and took both hostages and control of the armory, and established what was briefly known as “John Brown’s Fort.”  However, Brown’s insurrection did not end well, to say the least, for the abolitionists.  A bloody battle ensued and U.S. Marines, led by Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee and his aide J.E.B. Stuart, recaptured the Amory.  Brown was subsequently hanged for treason.

For whatever reason, the raid prompted the military to cancel the shipment of Hall Rifles.  Instead they were auctioned off instead.  A Georgetown merchant and landowners named Rueben Daw purchased the guns and used the barrels to build a fence.  Census records from that time indicate that Daw had also worked as a gunsmith, making it tempting to think that he might have enjoyed constructing the fencing around his property with gun barrels.

So do do I think the story is true?  Well, on one hand there are other stories about the fence.  But none of the stories began until a half a century after Daw passed away.  So it’s really impossible to know for sure.  On the other hand, while I was unable to definitively determine for myself the accuracy of the story, the Harper’s Ferry arsenal one is the most plausible.  Additionally, when I examined he fence there were some signs that to me indicated that the fence was constructed using old rifles.  For example, there are cracks in some of the pickets that not only reveal that each picket is hollow, but also that the walls of the pickets are far thicker than is structurally necessary for a perimeter fence.  And the gun barrel fence is significantly more robust than other neighborhood fences, with each picket measuring about an inch in diameter.  Additionally, some of the pickets have small protrusions which, to me, very much resemble gun sights.  Finally, the pointy spiked tops are clearly separate inserts rather than wrought from the same piece of metal as the tubes.

So given my opinion that the fence is, in fact, made from recycled old rifles, and taking into account that the other stories contain inconsistencies or factual inaccuracies, I tend to believe the most plausible story about the Georgetown’s gun barrel fence.  And at this time in our country’s history, in which our society is in the midst of a heated debate about the 2nd Amendment and gun control, I think we could use more “swords into ploughshares” stories like it.

         

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

Benjamin Bannekar Park

During today’s bike ride I found myself riding in a traffic circle near the south end of L’Enfant Promenade and the intersection of Interstate 395 and Maine Avenue (MAP), in Southwest D.C.  Located within the traffic circle is a little used and rather neglected park.  Although I had been there before, I knew almost nothing about the park other than it’s name, Benjamin Bannekar Park.  So I decided to find out more about it.

Operated by the National Park Service, it was designed by modern landscape architect Dan Kiley and constructed in 1967.  But the small park that comprises the terminus of L’Enfant Plaza initially had no name.  However, after Congress passed legislation in 1998 authorizing a memorial in D.C. to Benjamin Bannekar, the park was chosen and named in his honor.

The 200-foot wide elliptical park sits atop a hill with grassy expanses surrounding it.  It’s elevated location offers of the D.C. Waterfront to the south, including The District Wharf and the Maine Avenue Fish Market.  The park’s circular plaza forms a conical central water feature of more than 30 feet in height when in operation, and combined with concentric rings of London plane trees and low concrete walls make the setting makes for a nice respite from the city, especially to workers in the numerous office buildings along L’Enfant Plaza.

The park’s namesake, Benjamin Banneker, was born on November 9, 1731, in Baltimore County, Maryland, to Mary Banneky, a free black, and Robert, a freed slave from Guinea, who became a primarily self-taught astronomer, mathmetician, naturalist, farmer, almanac author, abolitionist, writer and surveyor.  Banneker’s knowledge of astronomy helped him author a commercially successful series of almanacs.  He also corresponded with Thomas Jefferson on the topics of slavery and racial equality.  Abolitionists and advocates of racial equality promoted and praised his works.  Unfortunately, most of his written works were lost due to a fire that occurred on the day of his funeral.

What he is best known for, and the reason for a memorial in his honor here in D.C., is that Bannekar was part of a group, led by Major Andrew Ellicott, that surveyed the original borders and set the original boundary stones of the District, thus helping Pierre Charles L’Enfant design the national capital city.

Sadly, years of neglect have caused Benjamin Bannekar Park to fall into a state of severe disrepair.  And the numerous renovation discussions that have occurred in the past have not resulted in any significant changes.

But that is now changing. With the opening of the first section of The District Wharf, the National Park Service, in cooperation with the National Capital Planning Commission, began constructing an improved pedestrian connection between the National Mall and Memorial Parks and the waterfront along Maine Avenue, which includes a stairway and ramp between the overlook at Benjamin Banneker Park and the southwest waterfront.  The rest of the renovation project, which is currently underway, also includes landscaping, improvements to pedestrian crosswalks, lighting installation, universal accessibility, and stormwater management.  If all goes as proposed, the park will not only be restored to it’s former glory, but exceed it. I look forward to going back and seeing it again once the renovation is completed.

         

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

In Memorium

During today’s lunchtime ride as I was passing by Luther Place Memorial Church, located at in Thomas Circle, a number of handmade signs caught my attention. So, of course, I stopped to take a closer look and find out more.

The signs contained only names, with no other information at all. So later after my ride I Googled one of the names, but with no results. So I tried Googling a few of the names together. It was then that I discovered that the names were those of individuals in D.C. who passed away last year and were homeless at the time of their deaths. There were 45 deaths in 2017 of homeless people who lived here in the nation’s capital.

As I thought about those people, I also thought about another death that occurred earlier this week, that of the Reverend Billy Graham. Rev. Graham was 99 years old, and passed away peacefully in the long-time family home in Montreat, North Carolina, where he and his wife, Ruth, raised their children. He had plenty of food to eat, and a warm bed in which to sleep. And he was surrounded by and taken care of by his family in his final years since retiring. And people all over the world grieved his death, many having heard about it through the worldwide news coverage of his passing.

In stark contrast to the Rev. Graham’s death, the deaths of our homeless neighbors here in D.C. occurred under very different circumstances. These men and women often had little to no food to eat, no warm bed in which to sleep, and no family members to care for them. They even suffered the same indignity in death as they did in their final days or years of this life, that of not having a home.

Their names were Chris Mason, Darius Duncan, Duane “Joey” Henderson, Galaxina Robinson, James King, Lisa Jennings, Mark Jenkins, Michael Kelley, Michael Dunne, “MS”, Mweane Sikuzote, Nick, Norman Anders, Joseph Watkins, Wilkie “Bill” Woodard, as well as thirty additional unnamed city residents. And very few people knew about them, in life or in death.

And sadly, these neighbors’ deaths while homeless are from just 2017. There were 51 others the previous year, and 41 more the year before that. As this information sunk in, it made me question how in the capital of the richest nation in the world, a progressive city that has declared itself to be a human rights city, this can continue to occur. But I don’t have the answer to that anymore than I have the answer to preventing school shootings like the one that occurred last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

While I don’t have the answers to these problems, I think they are caused by or the side effects of the same thing – the fact that evil exists in this world. And even if there isn’t a solution to the problem of evil, an improvement can occur. But for that to happen we each must try to recognize the different ways in which evil manifests itself, whether it be through commission or omission, and then vigilantly oppose it wherever and whenever we see it.

The Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre Memorial

I have been taking photographs during my lunchtime bike rides and posting them in this blog for over four years now.  But it wasn’t until today’s ride that I visited a memorial to a man who contributed to making that possible.  During this ride I visited the memorial to Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, inventor of the daguerreotype, which was the first viable photographic process.

The Daguerre Memorial is located at 7th and F Streets (MAP), across the street from the Verizon Center,  in northwest D.C.’s Chinatown neighborhood.  It stands on the grounds of the Old Patent Office Building, which is now home to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.  The 11-foot tall bronze sculpture, by American artist Jonathan Scott Hartley, was erected in the rotunda of the Arts and Industries Building at the instigation of the Professional Photographers of America, and was unveiled and dedicated on August 15, 1890 during the eleventh annual PPA convention.

In 1897, during a renovation of the building, the memorial was moved outside to the grounds, where it remained for the next 72 years.  In the early 1960’s The Kodak Company tried to have the statue moved to its George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, the oldest museum in the world dedicated to photography.  But the Smithsonian Institution said no.  But then a few years later, in 1969, it was removed and out it storage, and was not on public view for the next two decades.  In 1989, in honor of the 150th anniversary of photography, the Daguerre Memorial was re-dedicated and placed in it’s current location.

The subject of the memorial, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, better known as Louis Daguerre, was born on November 18, 1787.  He was an accomplished French painter and a developer of the diorama theatre.  But he was most famous for his contributions to photography.

Deguerre became interested in the 1820’s in the process of reproducing images by light exposure, which was first invented by a man named Nicéphore Niépce in 1822.  In 1829 Daguerre partnered with Niépce, and after refining the process significantly, lent his name to the improved process, which became known as the daguerreotype process.

A daguerreotype, unlike its predecessor, required only minutes of light exposure to fix an image on a light-sensitive, polished silver plate, thus creating a usable image that was then refined with various chemicals.  The improvement was so significant that the French Academy of Science acquired the intellectual property rights to the process and on August 19, 1839, the French Government presented the invention as a gift from France “free to the world”, and complete working instructions were published.   Because of this, it became the first photographic process to be used widely in Europe and the United States, and caused Deguerre to become known as one of the fathers of photography.

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

Note:  Inscriptions on the front and sides of the granite base of the memorial read:  Photography, The Electric Telegraph, And The Steam Engine Are The Three Great Discoveries Of The Age.;  No Five Centuries In Human Progress Can Show Such Strides As These. (and);  To Commemorate The First Half-Century In Photography 1839-1889. Erected By The Photographer’s Association Of America, August, 1890.

This Morning’s Sunrise

Posted: February 9, 2018 in Events
Tags: , ,
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This Morning’s Sunrise

This morning, as the Congress and Senate were still inside the U.S. Capitol Building trying to reach an agreement to pass a continuing resolution which would reopen the Federal government and end the second government shutdown of the year, the rest of us on the outside were treated to a sunrise that was so beautiful that it made you temporarily forget about the political ugliness going on inside the building.

As the sun rose and the blackness of night seemed to change the entire sky to a deep red and then a pronounced pink, I decided to stop on the way to work and take some time to watch the spectacular show.  I can’t recall ever seeing such a red sky, and it reminded me of the saying, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.”  But with what was going on inside the Capitol, I think the politicians, more than sailors, should take warning.