Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

For today’s bike ride I rode over to Arlington National Cemetery (MAP).  However, my original destination within the cemetery was changed when I saw some artillery guns being set up at the end of McClellan Drive.  I asked one of the soldiers what was happening and found out that they were members of the Presidential Salute Battery, and they were there getting ready to participate in a military honors funeral.  So I decided to stay and watch, and go to my previously planned destination on another day.

Formed in 1953, the Presidential Salute Battery is a United States Army artillery battery that is part of the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment, or The Old Guard, the President of the United States’ escort regiment.  Also known as the 3rd U.S. Infantry Salute Guns Platoon, the battery  is chiefly responsible for firing ceremonial cannon volleys to render honors to visiting foreign dignitaries and heads of state at the White House, the Pentagon and elsewhere in the D.C., area. The battery also fires the final salutes during many funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.  They are also tasked with providing artillery support to the regiment during combat operations in the event of the need to defend the national capital city.  It also serves as the battalion’s mortar platoon, providing firepower support during tactical training exercises at nearby Fort A.P. Hill, in Virginia.  The guns platoon is the only unit of its kind in the Army, and its busy schedule includes more than 300 ceremonies each year.

The platoon is equipped with eight 3-inch anti-tank guns of World War II vintage, mounted on 105mm Howitzer chassis. Each gun weighs 5,775 pounds and fires 75mm blank shells with 1.5 pounds of powder

The battery is customarily deployed to Arlington National Cemetery for the funerals of sitting and former presidents of the United States, sitting cabinet secretaries, and military flag officers.  For funerals at Arlington it uses one of two firing positions, either from Section 4 of the cemetery on Dewey Drive, or at Red Springs on McClellan Drive where they were set up today.

The gun salutes rendered by the battery are done according to a customary order of arms which is 21 volleys for heads of state (including the president of the United States and former presidents); 19 for the vice-president of the United States, foreign chiefs of government, and members of the cabinet of the United States; and 17, 15, 13, and 11 for flag officers of the rank of O-10, O-9, O-8, and O-7, respectively.  Today’s salute was a 13-gun version done for an former admiral in the Navy.

         

         
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United States Coast Guard Memorial

The United States Coast Guard was created by Congress on this date in 1790 at the request of Alexander Hamilton.  Originally known as the Revenue Marine, it is the oldest continuous seagoing service of the United States.  And for this anniversary of its creation, I visited the Coast Guard Memorial, which sits atop a hill near the southern edge of Arlington National Cemetery.

The Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the country’s seven uniformed services. It is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the U.S. military branches for having a maritime law enforcement function as well as a Federal regulatory agency function as part of its mission set.  It operates under the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime, and can be transferred to the Department of the Navy by the President at any time, or by Congress during times of war.

Two tragic episodes in Coast Guard history prompted the construction of this national memorial. On September 16, 1918, 19 members of the crew of the cutter Seneca volunteered for a rescue party to help salvage the British steamer, Wellington, which had been torpedoed by a German submarine. Eleven of those volunteers were lost when the Wellington exploded and sank. Only 10 days later, on Sept. 26, 1918, the cutter Tampa was sunk by an enemy submarine in the British Channel, and all 131 on board that ship were lost.  Both the Tampa and the Seneca had been ordered to operate as part of the Navy when the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1918.

The Coast Guard Memorial was designed by architect George Howe and sculptor Gaston Lachaise, and dedicated on May 23, 1928.  The memorial is set upon a rock foundation and contains a prominent pyramid design, intended to symbolize the spirit of the Coast Guard’s steadfastness.  Above the Coast Guard motto Semper Paratus (meaning “Always Ready”), is a bronze seagull with its wings uplifted.  The seagull symbolizes the tireless vigil that the Coast Guard maintains over the nation’s maritime territory.  The names of the vessels Seneca and Tampa and their crewmen, as well as all Coast Guard personnel who lost their lives during the First World War, are also inscribed on the sides of the monument.

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Beirut Barracks Memorial

It was great early-spring weather for a bike ride today.  There was no longer any sign of the recent cold, rainy conditions that took away the cherry blossoms.  Instead, the skies were clear.  There was a slight breeze.  And the temperature was just warm enough to hint of summer’s approach.  So on this lunchtime bike ride I rode over to Arlington National Cemetery (MAP), and went for a long walk on the grounds.  And it was during this walk that I visited the Beirut Barracks Memorial.

The Beirut Barracks Memorial honors the 241 American servicemen, comprised of 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers, who were killed in the October 23, 1983 terrorist bombing of the Marines barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The bombing occurred during the Lebanese Civil War, when two truck bombs carrying what the FBI called the largest non-nuclear bomb in history, detonated by suicide bombers affiliated with a splinter group of the Iranian-and Syrian-supported Hezbollah organization, struck separate buildings housing United States and French military members of the Multinational Peacekeeping Force in Lebanon killing the U.S. servicemen, as well as 58 French peacekeepers, six civilians, and the two suicide attackers.

The memorial consists of a Lebanese cedar tree and a stone marker which reads, “‘Let Peace Take Root’  This cedar of Lebanon tree grows on living memory of the Americans killed in the Beirut terrorist attach and all victims of terrorism throughout the world.  Dedicated during the first memorial ceremony for these victims.  Given by: No Great Love. October 23, 1984.  A Time of Remembrance.”  And it is located in the green expanse of Arlington National’s Section 59, near the final resting place of some of the first Americans to shed blood in the fight against Middle East terrorism.  Twenty-one service members who lost their lives in the Beirut Barracks Bombing are also buried in Section 59 near the memorial.

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The National Museum of the Marine Corps

The National Museum of the Marine Corps

For this Independence Day bike ride, I chose a destination which is both patriotic and outside of the city, as I tend to prefer on these long, holiday weekends. On this bike ride I stopped by the National Museum of the Marine Corps.  Located just over 30 miles south of D.C., at 18900 Jefferson Davis Highway (MAP) in Triangle, Virginia, the museum is situated on a 135-acre site a short distance away from the main entry gate to Marine Corps Base Quantico.

The museum is a cooperative effort between the United States Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation. The Foundation manages the museum operation, while the building, which was purchased privately and then donated to the Marine Corps, is under the command of Marine Corps University. The museum opened on November 10, 2006, and replaces both the Marine Corps Air-Ground Museum in Quantico, Virginia, which closed in November of 2002, and the Marine Corps Historical Center in The Washington Navy Yard, which closed in July of 2005.

One of the most unique aspects of the 120,000-square-foot museum, which was designed by Curtis W. Fentress of Fentress Architects, is that the design of the building evokes the image of the marines raising the flag over Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima, as famously depicted Joe Rosenthal’s Pulitzer prize-winning photograph and the iconic Marine Corps War Memorial.

Inside the museum, visitors can see permanent exhibits on World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, as well as a number of collections which include more than 60,000 uniforms, weapons, vehicles, medals, flags, aircraft, works of art and other artifacts that trace the history of the Marine Corps from when it was founded in 1775 to the present.  The museum also includes class rooms, a theater, a gift shop, a bar, a restaurant, and a laser shooting range.

The museum, which draws over a half a million visitors a year and has become one of the top tourist attractions in the state of Virginia, is open every day except Christmas, and is free to the public. But if you are unable to ride a bike to or otherwise go to the museum in person, you can still experience the entire museum virtually from your computer or other streaming device. You can tour the exhibits virtually with high definition panoramas, zoom in on treasured artifacts, watch videos created specifically for the museum, and listen to docents recount Marine Corps history. 

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The First Division Monument

The destination for this lunchtime bike ride was a plaza within President’s Park, west of the White House and due South of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, between 17th Street Northwest and West Executive Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood. I rode there because it is the location of the First Division Monument. 

The First Division Monument commemorates all of the soldiers who died while serving in the 1st Infantry Division of the U. S. Army, also known as The Big Red One. Conceived by The Society of the First Infantry Division, the veteran’s organization of the Army’s First Division, it was designed by American architect Cass Gilbert, and sculptor Daniel Chester French, who created the Victory statue that sits atop the monument. French also created the Butt-Millet Fountain, also located in President’s Park.  But he is perhaps best known for the sculpture of a seated Abraham Lincoln at The Lincoln Memorial.

The monument was erected in 1924 and dedicated later that year by President Calvin Coolidge.  It was originally intended to honor the sacrifices made by soldiers of the First Division who fought and died in World War I.  Later, additions to the monument were made to commemorate the lives of First Division soldiers who fought in subsequent wars and conflicts. The World War II addition on the west side was designed by the original architect’s son, Cass Gilbert Jr., and dedicated in 1957. The Vietnam War addition on the east side was added in 1977, and the Desert Storm plaque was installed in 1995.

Another, different type of addition was made to the monument in 1965.  A large flower bed in the shape of a First Division patch was added to the monument as part of Lady Bird Johnson’s landscape plans to beautify the national capital city. The flower bed is located just east of the monument’s south steps.  The symbolism of the flower bed’s shape is clearly visible from the top of the monument’s steps, but less so at ground level, which often results in it being overlooked by visitors.

After obtaining Congressional approval to erect a monument on Federal property, the Society of the First Infantry Division raised all the funds for the original monument, as well as its additions. No taxpayer money was used. However, today the monument and grounds are maintained by the National Park Service.

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Marine Corps Base Quantico

Long holiday weekends provide me with opportunities to venture out of the city to places in the local area that I normally would be unable to ride to on my usual lunchtime bike rides. So for a Memorial Day weekend ride, I chose to go to Marine Corps Base Quantico. Also known as MCB Quantico, it is a United States Marine Corps installation located in Virginia, near the town of Triangle (MAP), covering nearly 55,148 acres of southern Prince William County, northern Stafford County, and southeastern Fauquier County.

MCB Quantico is near the Potomac River approximately 35 miles south of D.C. The area was originally inhabited by the Patowomacks tribe in the 16th century. The name “Quantico” is credited to come from an Algonquian Native American term, and has been translated to mean “by the large stream.” It was not visited by European explorers until the summer of 1608, with settlement beginning later that year. More than two centuries later, in 1816, the Marine Corps first visited the site.  And just over a century after that, in 1917, Marine Barracks, Quantico was established on some of the land currently occupied by today’s base. At that time, Marine Barracks occupied just over 5,000 acres and the personnel consisted of 91 enlisted men and four officers. In 1942, an additional 50,000 acres were purchased by the Federal government and added to the barracks, making up what is now the base.

The MCB Quantico community currently consists of 12,000 military and civilian personnel, including families. The majority of that is made up by the Corps’ Combat Development Command, which develops strategies for Marine combat. It is also home of the Marine Corps University, where virtually all Marine officers receive their basic training, as well as enlisted technicians from many different disciplines. It has a budget of around $300 million and is the home of:  the Marine Corps Officer Candidates School; the Marine Corps Research Center, which pursues equipment research and development, especially telecommunications, for the Marine Corps, and; the Marine Corps Brig, a military prison.

The base was designated as part of the Quantico Marine Corps Base Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. This district includes 122 buildings, two landscapes, a sculpture, and a water tower located within the base. And a replica of The United States Marine Corps War Memorial, depicting the 2nd U.S. flag-raising on Iwo Jima, stands at the entrance to the base.

MCB Quantico is the home of major training institutions for military and Federal law enforcement agencies as well, including the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service Headquarters, the Army Criminal Investigative Division Headquarters, and the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations Headquarters. The FBI Academy and the FBI Laboratory, the principal training and research facilities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the principal training facility for the Drug Enforcement Administration, are also located on the base.

The long, open roads, the many miles of maintained running and biking trails, and the general lack of vehicle traffic on the base, except an occasional tank crossing the road, make it a safe and ideal place for a weekend bike ride.  The undeveloped nature of the area also provides opportunities for wildlife viewing, including white-tailed deer and wild turkey, which I have seen almost every time I have been on base.  I’m fortunate that I have access and am allowed to ride there.  Unfortunately, I find myself unable to recommend it as a riding destination for others, but only because much of the base is restricted from public access.  So if you want to go there, I suggest you check in advance about the areas of the base, if any, where you will be allowed access.

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The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial

With Memorial Day coming up next week, I decided for this bike ride to go to one of the city’s newest memorials, The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. Located just a block off the National Mall at 150 Washington Avenue (MAP) in southwest D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, the memorial opened just this past September after a more than a dozen years in the making.

The origins of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial date back to a chance meeting in 1995 at another D.C. memorial. A woman named Lois Pope, widow of National Enquirer owner Generoso Pope Jr., met a disabled American veteran at The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Realizing that there was not a memorial to honor disabled veterans, she attempted to call the office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown to plead for one. Unable to get through, she called again every day for six months until Brown’s secretary finally put her call through.  The Commemorative Works Act of 1986 prohibits the expenditure of Federal funds for memorials, but Secretary Brown agreed to support legislation to establish memorial.

On October 23, 2000, Congress adopted legislation authorizing the Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial Foundation, whose purpose was to design, raise funds for, and construct a memorial.  Almost a decade later the fundraising goal was reached. The groundbreaking for the memorial occurred on November 10, 2010.  And on October 5, 2014, President Barack Obama officially dedicated the memorial.

The Memorial, located on a 1.72-acre parcel of Federally-owned land, consists of five distinct yet interconnected elements. The first element and centerpiece of the Memorial’s design is a 30 inches-tall black granite fountain in the shape of a five-pointed star, with a ceremonial eternal flame rising out of the water in the middle of the fountain. Extending south and southeast from the star-shaped fountain is the Memorial’s second element, a reflecting pool which, together with the fountain, are designed to reflect the nearby U.S. Capitol building. The third element is known as the “Wall of Gratitude”, and consists of two long, white granite walls which extend along the western edge of the site, and are inscribed with quotations from General George Washington and General Dwight Eisenhower, as well as the name of the memorial. The fourth element is the “Voices of Veterans” area, which forms the southern portion of the site and consists of three staggered glass walls made up of 49 panels. On the interior sheets of glass are inscribed photo-realistic images of veterans and quotations from veterans describing their devotion to duty, what it was like to be wounded, and how they came to terms with their disability. Four bronze panels, with silhouettes of soldiers cut from their center, stand behind some of the glass panels. The final element of the memorial consists of a grove of memorial trees. The “Voices of Veterans” element is set among the trees of the northern part of this grove.

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial serves as a permanent national public tribute to veterans of the armed forces of the United States who were permanently disabled during the course of their national service.  This includes over four million veterans currently living with a disability, as well as countless others who subsequently passed away.  It is the only national memorial to not defined by service branch, military unit or specific conflict, but to simply honor those who veterans seriously injured in the line of duty as heroes.

Although the upcoming Memorial Day holiday is for remembering military personnel who died while serving, it is an opportune time to also remember those who served and survived, but continue to pay a price for that service, as well as all military veterans.  For as one of the inscriptions on the memorial reads, “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”

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Today marks the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, also commonly referred to as VE Day, which was a public holiday celebrated on May 8th in 1945 to mark the formal acceptance by the United States and the Allied powers of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany and the Axis powers, resulting in the end of the World War II in Europe. Beginning on that day, airplanes flying overhead meant celebration and the return of good times instead of fear and destruction.

During today’s bike ride I had the opportunity to stop and watch an unusual event to mark this anniversary. In celebration of the anniversary of VE Day, and to honor the heroes who fought in the War, as well as other members of our country’s “greatest generation” who contributed to the war effort on the home front by building the aircraft, tanks and ships that enabled the United States and its Allies to win the war, there was a flyover event above the national capitol city today. And the airplanes flying overheard today to celebrate the victorious end of the war were some of the same aircraft that flew 70 years ago.

The event was named “Arsenal of Democracy: World War II Victory Capitol Flyover,” and featured more than 50 World War II-era bombers, and fighters and trainers. Included in today’s flyover was a Boeing B-29 Superfortress nicknamed Fifi, the only known model still flying, which was the type of plane that dropped atomic bombs on Japan. Also among today’s airplanes were B-25 Mitchell bombers, which were adapted for the aircraft carrier Hornet for the Doolittle Raid over Japan. Dick Cole, who will turn 100 years old this fall, and who was co-pilot of the first bomber flying off the Hornet, was in attendance today. A TBM Avenger also participated today. It led a “missing man” formation, and was scheduled to be flown by Congressman Samuel Bruce “Sam” Graves, Jr., with Congressman Theodore Edward “Todd” Rokita riding along as a passenger.  The Avenger is the type of plane flown during the war by George H.W. Bush, who was the event’s honorary chairman.

Flying just 1,000 or so feet off the ground over the city’s highly restricted airspace where aircraft are otherwise prohibited, the planes flew south along the Potomac River flew down the Potomac River, turned left at The Lincoln Memorial and followed Independence Avenue along the south side of the National Mall and over The National World War II Memorial, where there was a large assemblage of World War II veterans gathered at the Memorial for a special ceremony honoring them.  The aircraft then banked right away from the U.S. Capitol Building and turned south again and flew along the Potomac River.  As they passed over the city the aircraft flew in over a dozen historically sequenced warbird formations that were designed to commemorate the War’s major battles, from Pearl Harbor through the final air assault on Japan, and concluding with a missing man formation to “Taps.”

It was a near perfect day for an air show, with very few clouds in the skies and clear visibility.  The flyovers were scheduled to start at 12:10pm, and started right on schedule.  By that time I had found a shady spot under some trees near the Lincoln Memorial, where I sat back with some blueberry ice tea and then watched the show.  It lasted approximately an hour, and then I had to head back to my office.  And it’s a good thing I was on a bike, because traffic downtown was nearly gridlocked from the thousands of people who came to see the show.

After the flyover was over, some of the airplanes flew to Dulles Airport where they will be on display tomorrow from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.  I did not ride my bike out there to see them though because it’s about 60 miles, and my lunch breaks are not long enough for that far of a bike ride.

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The Pentagon

The D.C. area is not only home to the largest library in the world, it is also home to the world’s largest office building.  Located just outside of D.C., across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia (MAP), that building is The Pentagon, and it is where I rode on this bike ride.

The Pentagon was dedicated on January 15, 1943, after ground was broken for construction two and a half years earlier, ironically on September 11th.  It is the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, although it was not initially intended to be.  In the 1930’s,  President Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned another building for the War and Navy departments, but they quickly outgrew that space. That’s when a new building was commissioned. The old War Department building is now the State Department.

The Pentagon also serves as a symbol of the U.S. military.  “The Pentagon” is often used metonymically (which is today’s vocabulary work of the day, and is defined as “a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is called not by its own name but rather by the name of something associated in meaning with that thing or concept”) to refer to the Department of Defense, rather than the building itself.

Although it remains the world’s largest office building, The Pentagon currently ranks only 12th in the world, and 2nd in the U.S., of all buildings in terms of floor area, with approximately about 6.5 million sq ft, of which 3.7 million sq ft are used as offices. (Dubai International Airport is the largest in the world, and The Palazzo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is the largest in the U.S.)

Over 23,000 military and civilian employees and non-defense support personnel work in the Pentagon. It has five sides, five floors above ground, two basement levels, and five ring corridors per floor with a total of 17.5 miles of corridors. It is thought of as one of the most efficient office buildings in the world. Despite the 17.5 miles of corridors it takes only seven minutes to walk between any two points in the building. The Pentagon covers 34 acres of land and includes a five-acre central plaza, which is shaped like a pentagon and informally and ironically known as “ground zero,” a nickname originating during the Cold War and based on the presumption that the Soviet Union would target one or more nuclear missiles at this central location in the outbreak of a nuclear war.

The Federal government paid just over $52 million for the land and to construct the massive building.  And under the oversight of General Leslie R. Groves, who also oversaw the Manhattan project,  building of the Pentagon was accomplished in just two years.   After the September 11, 2001 attacks, it cost $501 million dollars just to repair the damage.  And it has had one major renovation since it opened its doors in 1943.  That renovation was completed in 2011, cost $4.5 billion, and took 17 years to finish.

Some other interesting facts and figures about The Pentagon include the following. If you chopped off the Empire State Building at its base and laid it across the top of the Pentagon, it would not reach from end to end. And the Pentagon has twice as much office space as the Empire State building.  The Pentagon has 284 rest rooms, twice the number needed due to being built when racial segregation laws requiring separate facilities still existed. It also has 691 drinking fountains, including the legendary “purple water fountain.” The building was originally designed without elevators, to save on steel, but has 131 stairways and 19 escalators. The Pentagon has 16,250 light fixtures which require 250 new bulbs daily. It has its own post office, dry cleaner, barbershop, nail salon, shoe repair shop, gymnasium, clinic, florist, and even a DMV.  It also has a CVS, a Best Buy and an Adidas store. The Pentagon has plenty of dining options as well, including two Starbucks, three Subways, and a restaurant staff of 230 persons who work in 1 dining room, 2 cafeterias, and 6 indoor and 1 outdoor snack bars. The Pentagon also has: 4,200 clocks in the hallways; 7,754 windows, and; 16 parking lots with approximately 8,770 parking spaces. Over 200,000 telephone calls are made daily through phones connected by 100,000 miles of telephone cable. The building’s Post Office handles about 1.2 million pieces of mail monthly.  And, out of 210 countries in the world, the Pentagon consumes more oil per day than all but 35 countries.

The public can access The Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, which is located on the grounds to the southwest of the building.  However, because it is a military facility, access to the building and other areas can be restricted.  But guided tours are available.  The Pentagon Tour includes a 60-minute presentation and a 1.49 mile walk through the building, and it is well worth the time.

The Society of the Cincinnati

The Society of the Cincinnati

While on a recent bike ride in the Embassy Row area along Massachusetts Avenue in northwest D.C., I saw a statue of George Washington on the front lawn of what appeared to be an embassy. Wondering what country’s embassy would be displaying a statue of the father of this country, I stopped to check it out. It turns out that it is not an embassy after all. Rather, it is Anderson House, also known as Larz Anderson House.  Mr. Anderson was an American businessman, diplomat and philantropist, and the Beaux Arts-style mansion was he and his wife’s winter residence during the Washington social season.  Mr. Anderson was also a member of the Society of the Cincinnati, and after his death his wife, Isabel Anderson, donated the house to the Society.  It now houses the headquarters, library, and museum of the Society of the Cincinnati.

The Society of the Cincinnati is this country’s oldest patriotic organization, and the oldest lineage society in North America.  It was founded in 1783 by officers of the Continental Army and their French counterparts who served together in the American Revolutionary War.  The Society’s original purpose was to promote knowledge and appreciation of the achievement of American independence, preserve the ideals and foster fellowship among the American Revolutionary War officer members who founded it, and to pressure the government to honor pledges it had made to officers who fought for American independence.

Now in its third century, the modern Society at Anderson House is a nonprofit historical, diplomatic, and educational organization devoted to the principles and ideals of its founders. Its mission is to promote public interest in the American Revolution through its library and museum collections, exhibitions, programs, publications, and other activities.

Anderson House is located at 2118 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP), between 21st and 22nd streets along Embassy Row in the heart of northwest D.C.’s historic Dupont Circle neighborhood. The Society encourages the public to visit Anderson House and to use the library, attend a lecture, tour the museum, or view one of the exhibitions. Museum Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m., and library Hours are Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.  And although it is a privately-owned museum and library, admission is free.

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