The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly

In this country we do not have a king or royalty.  Instead, we have an elected president. And unlike a king, our president does not have a throne.  But if our president did have a throne, today I saw the one upon which our current president would probably sit.  The throne looks like something that might have come directly out of President Trump’s private home or office.  However, it is instead located in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which is located at 8th and F Streets (MAP), in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of northwest D.C.

The throne is named “The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly”, and it is a piece of folk art created by an African-American janitor and outsider or naïve artist named James Hampton.

Hampton was born in Elloree, South Carolina, in 1909.  In 1928, he moved to D.C. and shared an apartment with his older brother, Lee.  Hampton subsequently worked as a short order cook, served in the Air Force where he worked as a carpenter, and eventually became a night janitor with the General Services Administration.

Hampton never worked as an artist, or even had any formal training in art techniques, art history, or art theory.  But shortly after his brother’s death he began spending his time during his off-hours in a rented garage secretly creating a large assemblage of religious art, including the throne, as a monument to God.  However, he was a man of extremely modest means.  So he created his art, and built the throne, out of various old and recycled materials like aluminum and gold foil, old furniture, pieces of cardboard, old light bulbs, shards of mirror, jelly jars, coffee cans, and old desk blotters, which he bound together using tacks, pins, tape and glue.

It is unknown if Hampton, who also referred to himself as Saint James, Director of Special Projects for the State of Eternity, ever thought of himself as an artist.  He created the Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly in complete obscurity.  In fact, it was only upon his death in 1964, when the owner of the garage which he rented sought to rent the space out again, that Hampton’s work was discovered.  As best can be determined by art historians, Saint James dedicated his off-work hours from about 1950 until his death fourteen years later to assembling The Throne.

The Throne eventually landed in the possession of the Smithsonian and, thankfully, became part of our national folk art heritage instead of our modern political tradition and culture.

         

         

         

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

Note:  These photographs do not begin do The Throne justice.  In person it is absolutely massive sitting in it’s dark purple alcove.  And the play of light off the foil and mirrors not only makes it shine, but it seems to actually glow.  I highly recommend seeing it in person to experience its full effect.

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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]

 

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.

The 45th Annual March for Life

This week has been an interesting one. The workweek began with a day off to commemorate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal holiday. Severe winter weather moved into the area during the week as well. With temperatures near 70 degrees during the preceding weekend, a weather front moved in that had the temperatures drop down into single digits. The weather front also brought snow with it, which caused areas schools to close on more than one day. Now at the end of a week in which Federal workers like myself are waiting to see if the lack of a budget will result in the government shutting down at the end of the day today, the temperature has risen back up to almost 50 degrees just in time for my lunchtime bike ride to this year’s March for Life.

The March for Life is an annual event which began as a small demonstration on the first anniversary of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 1973 in cases known as Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton, which were landmark decisions on the issue of abortion. Over the years the March for Life has grown to include numerous other cities in the United States and throughout the world. The March in D.C., however, has become and remains the largest pro-life event in the world.

I have attended the March for Life each year for many years, as I did again today for the 45th annual march. This year’s events included a musical opening before the rally program began, which took place at noon on the National Mall at 12th Street, in between Madison Drive and Jefferson Drive. During the program there were a number of featured speakers, including President Donald Trump (via video satellite), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Pam Tebow, the mother of former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. Directly after the program there was a march up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court Building and the Capitol Building took place. After finishing marching there was then a time for “Silent No More” testimonies outside U.S. Supreme Court, as well as chances for some to meet with their Representative or Senator to advocate for life.

According to the latest statistics available on abortions worldwide, published by the World Health Organization (WHO), every year there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day.  Approximately 926,200 of these abortions were performed in the United States, which equates to approximately nineteen percent of all pregnancies in this country (excluding miscarriages) ending in abortion. Other available information from the WHO on abortion in the United States shows that nearly half (45%) of all pregnancies among U.S. women were unintended, and about four in 10 of these were terminated by abortion. This made the abortion rate 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged (15–44).  Among these women, 1.5% have had an abortion, with just under half of these women (45%) reported having a previous abortion.  Those who have abortions come primarily from the poorest among us (75 percent), women of color (61 percent), women pursuing post-secondary degrees that would lift them out of poverty (66 percent), and mothers who already have dependents (59 percent).  Overall, based on all available statistics, one in 20 women (5%) will have an abortion by age 20, about one in five (19%) by age 30 and about one in four (24%) by age 45.

The March for Life may not put an end to the tragedy of abortion, but it’s a good step (or steps).

 

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

More information about the annual March for Life can be found on one of my previous blog posts.

#WhyWeMarch  #MarchForLife  #MarchForLife2018

Chief Petty Officers’ Centennial Time Capsule

On a recent lunchtime bike ride I found myself at the United States Navy Memorial, located on Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest, between 7th and 9th Streets in Downtown D.C. I have been to this memorial a number of times, but this was the first time I noticed a small brass plaque located on one of the masts that encircles the memorial.  So, naturally, I had to check it out and find out more about it.

It turned out that the plaque marks the spot where a time capsule was placed in the base of the mast nearest to the entrance to the Navy Memorial Heritage Center.  Created by and dedicated to the Navy’s chief petty officers (CPOs), the time capsule was placed there on October 13, 1993, the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Navy’s establishment of the CPO position.

The time capsule is scheduled to be opened on the bicentennial anniversary of the establishment of the CPO position, on October 19, 2093.   And I look forward to being there to see it opened.

The inscription on the plaque reads,

“The rank of chief petty officer – the senior position among naval enlisted ranks – was established by the Navy Department in 1893. A time capsule was placed within this foundation on 13 October 1993 to be opened in the chiefs’ bicentennial year 2093.

The chief petty officers serving in the 1993 centennial year are honored to pass on these items representative of our first 100 years of service to our country and navy to the chiefs serving in the 2003 bicentennial year. As we look to the future, we place our faith and trust in you to carry out the traditions of leadership, pride, and professionalism, and continue “Set the tone.”

Our salute affirms our trust in you – the future chief petty officers of the United States Navy.”

It just goes to show you that you should keep your eyes open and be aware of what is around you when you are in D.C.  because you never know what you’re going to see.

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

Best of the Rest – Part 5

Posted: December 29, 2017 in Miscellaneous, Photos

The Colonnade at The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America

Today’s blog post is the fifth and last part of a series of my favorite miscellaneous photos from 2017 that have not been previously posted here on this blog.  Part 1Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 of the series were previously posted.

 

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

1 – A street vendor selling a purse featuring Barack and Michelle Obama.
2 – Various mushrooms for sale at the Vermont Avenue Farmers Market
3 – A pedicab parked off the beaten path for tourists on P Street in the Logan Circle neighborhood
4 – Savory Greek pastries for sale at the farmers market at the Reagan Building
5 – A purple flower on an cast iron fence on 14th Street in the Columbia Heights neighborhood in northwest D.C.
6 – A mural on the side of a grocery store features the store’s owner
7 – One of many signs of patriotism for Independence Day, this one in Georgetown
8 – The simplistic and elegant architectural lines of the colonnade at Federal Triangle
9 – Evergreens, although singular in color, rival the colorful flowers at the Botanic Garden for their beauty
10 – Autumn showing off it’s colors on Swann Street in the DuPont Circle neighborhood
11 – A complimentary smart car for use by guests at Attache Corporate Housing in Foggy Bottom
12 – A summer concert in the park as part of Farragut Fridays in Farragut Square Park
13 – A Metropolitan Police Department car parked in a bike lane as an officer inside eats her lunch
14 – A freshly-fallen colorful autumn leaf I watched fall in the yard of a residence on Capitol Hill
15 – Secret Service officers requiring a man to take down the encampment he built in Lafayette Square Park
16 – Marchers from Charlottesville vowed to occupy Farragut Square Park for six months but lasted only a few days
17 – One of the many summer concerts, this one in Franklin Square
18 – Stained glass windows at the church of presidents, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square
19 – A view from the north shore of the Potomac River looking toward Arlington
20 – An inflatable Hoya bulldog mascot in Red Square on the campus of Georgetown University
21 – Musicians in a tent performing in a temporary “Moroccan City” set up on the National Mall
22 – A woman wearing a pie hat at the annual handing out of free pie at McPherson Square
23 – Colorful balloons seemed to detract from this protest’s message
24 – My recumbent bike named Julius at the fountain at the
25 – An elderly homeless man with only one shoe but his own Bible at Street Church in Franklin Square
26 – The counter at another one of my favorite lunch spots, MGM Roast Beef in Brentwood
27 – Heirloom tomatoes at the USDA Outdoor Farmers Market
28 – Looking through the front window and watching the pizzas being prepared at We, The Pizza
29 – A window washer repelling down the side of The W Hotel  on 15th Street
30 – A bike designed more for the comfort of the passenger than the rider
31 – Colorful statues in front of pet bakery and grooming shop
32 – A giant chicken statue in the front yard of a house on R Street in northwest D.C.
33 – A seemingly distraught man near the fountain in DuPont Circle Park
34 – A topiary dog marking it’s territory at a residence on R Street in northwest D.C.
35 – Holiday vendors selling handmade items at Eastern Market just before Christmas
36 – A street artist’s wares on display on a sidewalk on Capitol Hill
37 – I thought all Holly berries were red, but now I’ve learned that they are not
38 – A window in City Center decorated for the holidays
39 – One of the grill masters of the Georgetown University Grilling Society
40 – A dinosaur hiding in the Hawaii room at the United States Botanic Garden
41 – The Tune Inn, my favorite “dive” on Capitol Hill and home of the Joe’s West Virginia sandwich
42 – The entrance to David’s Tent, where a non-stop worship service has been happening since September 11, 2015