Frelinghuysen University

If someone were to mention a university in northwest D.C. that was founded to serve African Americans, it’s likely that 99 or maybe even 100 out of every 100 people would think of Howard University.  But on this bike ride I visited the site of another, lesser-known university, named Frelinghuysen University, which beginning in 1921 was housed in a two-story residence located at 1800 Vermont Avenue (MAP), formerly known as the Edwin P. Goodwin House.

Frelinghuysen University was founded in 1906 when a group of local African-American educators and leaders met at the home of Jesse Lawson, a Howard University educated African-American attorney, educator, and sociologist, and his wife Rosetta C. Lawson, an advocate for temperance and low-income housing, to organize a branch of the Bible Educational Association, with Kelly Miller as president. They also established the Inter-Denominational Bible College, naming Jesse Lawson, as president.  Eleven years later the two groups were combined and renamed Frelinghuysen University, in honor of New Jersey Senator Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen, who had worked to promote civil rights during Reconstruction with Senator Charles Sumner, for whom The Sumner School, one of the earliest schools for African Americans in D.C., was named.

Frelinghuysen University provided academic programs, vocational training, social services and religious education for working-class African-American adults.  It was accredited and conferred degrees from 1927 until 1937.  But after losing its accreditation, and with the racially motivated laws increasingly limiting the future of the institution, in 1940 the school became the Frelinghuysen Group of Schools for Colored Working People, and Anna J. Cooper became its registrar.  The institution finally dissolved in the late 1950s.

The historic building eventually fell into disrepair until it was purchased by it’s current owners in 1992 for $90,000, and subsequently renovated back into a private residence.  The Queen Anne-style home follows a triangular plan with an octagonal corner tower, and includes such architectural features as corbelling, a patterned slate roof, and intricate iron finials.  It was designated by D.C. as an historic site, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in 1995.

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

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Astroturf Car

Artificial turf is common on athletic fields.  After all, that’s the purpose for which it was invented in in 1965 by Donald L. Elbert, James M. Faria, and Robert T. Wright.  It was originally called “ChemGrass,” but the name was later changed by a company employee named John A. Wortmann after its first well-publicized use at Houston’s Astrodome.

You don’t, however, usually see AstroTurf on a vehicle.  But during this bike ride in D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood I came across just such a car.  Now, I’ve seen lots of unusual vehicles throughout the city during my daily bike rides.  But this is the first time I’ve seen one like this.  And although I like it, I don’t think I’d want it to be my car.

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Observing Ascension Day at The Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes

Today is Ascension Day, a Christian celebration day commemorating Jesus’s ascension into heaven.  According to the Bible, Christ met several times with his disciples during the 40 days after his resurrection to instruct them on how to carry out his teachings. It is believed that on the 40th day he took them to the Mount of Olives, where they watched as he ascended to heaven.  Therefore, Ascension Day occurs ten days before Pentecost and is observed on the 40th day of Easter, which always falls on a Thursday.  However, some churches, particularly in the United States, celebrate it on the following Sunday.

In observance of Ascension Day, on this lunchtime bike ride I stopped by the Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes, located at 1215 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP) in the Downtown neighborhood of northwest D.C.

The origin of the Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes dates back to May 7, 1844, when several people who had previously attended services at nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square met to discuss establishing their own parish.  After approval from the diocese, the territory of St. John’s was split between the two churches, formally establishing the Church of the Ascension on March 1, 1845.

After the donation of land on H Street, between 9th and 10th streets, by Parishioner Martha Burnes Van Ness, a prominent local socialite and the wife of banker and future D.C. Mayor John Peter Van Ness, the cornerstone was laid for the church’s new home on September 5, 1844.  Construction of a the Gothic Revival brick building was complete enough to use by December 1844, and the first services were held on December 14th.

During the Civil War there were disagreements within the church. with some parishioners as well as clergy sympathizing with the Confederacy while others were Unionists.  After one such disagreement in which the parish’s bishop asked the church to pray and thank God for recent Union victories and the church’s rector refused, Washington’s Provost Marshall notified the church that the authorities would assume control of the church to prevent a disturbance.  The Church of the Ascension then became a military hospital to house casualties from the war, as did Church of the Epiphany, and Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown.

During the subsequent war years after their church was seized by the government, the parish was without a home. The problem was solved by member William Corcoran, a prominent banker and partner in the firm of Corcoran and Riggs, later known as Riggs Bank. Corcoran offered the use of a building he owned on H Street, between 13th and 14th Streets.  The congregation met there, and would not return to its permanent home until after the conclusion of the war more than three years later.

Within a short period of time after the congregations return to the church, the structure proved too small and not grand enough for what was now one of the most affluent areas of the city.  So after much debate, church leaders decided to erect a new structure. William Corcoran donated the site at the northwest corner of Massachusetts Avenue and 12th Street where the church continues to be located, as well as approximately half of the $205,000 construction costs.

The cornerstone for what is still the church’s current building was subsequently laid on June 9, 1874.  The building is constructed of white marble quarried near Cockeysville, Maryland, with accents of pink Ohio sandstone.  Designed in the Victorian Gothic style, it reaches a height of 74 feet with a 190-foot tower and spire that was visible across much of the city at the time it was built.

After World War I, membership at the Church of the Ascension began to decline, and in 1925 the congregation merged with nearby St. Stephen’s Church to help stabilize the parish.  This worked briefly until the onset of the Great Depression, when a downturn began that lasted through 1947, when the diocese considered selling the building to another congregation.  It was then that the Vestry received a proposal from St. Agnes Episcopal Church to merge.  It accepted and adopted its present name, under which its diverse, urban congregation continues as an active parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

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A President’s Surprise Visit to the Lincoln Memorial

During this morning’s bike ride I not only rode by The Lincoln Memorial, but I also rode back in history.  As I paused at the memorial, I went back in time as I thought about this day in 1972.

Today is the anniversary of one of the strangest things to happen during President Richard Nixon’s time in office.  And that’s saying something when you think about some of the other things that happened during his time as commander in chief, such as the time, when he was still running for president, when he appeared on the politically charged, sketch comedy TV show “Laugh-In” and awkwardly asked, “Sock it to me?”  By the way, for the rest of his life Nixon contended that “appearing on Laugh-In is what got him elected.”  Other incidents during his presidency include: the time he met in the Oval Office with Elvis Presley, during which the King of Rock and Roll lobbied to be deputized as a federal agent in the War on Drugs, and; the time he declared to a roomful of newspaper editors during a press conference in Disney World at the height of the Watergate scandal, “I am not a crook.”

It all began days earlier, on April 30, 1972.  The anti-war movement was shocked when President Richard Nixon announced a major new escalation in the Vietnam War – the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.  It took many people by surprise inasmuch as he had addressed the nation just ten days earlier, outlining his plan for the withdrawal of 150,000 troops from Vietnam, seemingly signaling that he was serious about his promise to get America out of the war.  Near the end of his announcement about Cambodia, Nixon appealed for calm, especially on America’s college campuses.  He nonetheless expected blowback.  And that is exactly what he got.

Campuses across the country exploded in dissent, culminating on May 4th when National Guardsmen unleashed a 13-second, 67-shot barrage of gunfire toward student demonstrators at Kent State University, killing four students and wounding nine, one of whom was paralyzed from the waist down with a bullet lodged in his spine.  In the tense days following Kent State, more than 450 U.S. colleges, universities, and even high schools were disrupted by strikes.

Locally, impromptu rallies erupted all over the D.C. region, and a major demonstration was planned for May 9 on the National Mall.  Law enforcement entities went on alert, mobilizing all available resources including the entire D.C. police force and 5,000 military personnel from the 82nd Airborne Division who were stationed in the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House, which was encircled by D.C. transit buses parked bumper to bumper as an additional security barrier.

The above information is provided to give a sense of what a highly-charged and volatile atmosphere existed nationally, and especially here in D.C., at that time.  Because it was within this setting that one of the most bizarre moments of Nixon’s presidency took place when, in the early morning hours of May 9, 1970, the president made an impromptu visit to The Lincoln Memorial.

At approximately 4:00 a.m., Nixon was awake and listening to a composition by Rachmaninoff as he took in the majestic view that the White House affords of the Lincoln Memorial.  He also observed students protestors beginning to gather for the protest planned for later that day.  Inspired to visit the hippie contingent, Nixon asked his valet, Manolo Sanchez, if he wanted to take in the Memorial up close at night.  The Secret Service was astonished but adhered to the orders of their commander in chief to take the impromptu trip. Nixon, Sanchez and approximately four agents took the presidential limousine to the foot of the Lincoln Memorial.

It was there that Nixon engaged a small group of students.  He began by acknowledging that most surely thought of him as a real “S.O.B.”  Irregardless, he explained that they all shared the same goal – stopping the killing in Southeast Asia.  And despite varying interpretations of his recently announced invasion of Cambodia, his overall actions proved this contention as he did more to extricate the U.S. from that conflict than his predecessors. During his discussion with the protestors, he also spoke about his views as a pacifist, given his Quaker background. Nixon explained that he changed after WWII to a view war as only useful as long as it was necessary.

The discussion also vacillated with lighter subjects, which was the socially awkward Nixon’s attempt to communicate with young people on their terms.  He spoke about the benefits of traveling and dating while young.  Nixon discussed the Syracuse football team with students from New York, and surfing with a student from California.  This was a leader not naturally at ease with people.  Yet it was Nixon who was willing to open a dialogue with individuals naturally opposed to him in a manner few with such power have ever attempted.

As the sun began to rise, Nixon, having exhausted both himself and his welcome, began walking back to the presidential limousine. As he did, a student Nixon describes as “a bearded fellow from Detroit” rushed up and asked if he could have his picture taken with the president. Nixon instructed the White House doctor to take the student’s picture with the president.  “He seemed to be quite delighted,” Nixon says of that bearded fellow from Detroit. “It was, in fact, the broadest smile that I saw on the entire visit.”

The president along with Sanchez and his entourage, including the Secret Service agents, whose numbers had increased during the course of the visit, then departed.  But they did not return to the White House.  Not yet.  Sanchez had never seen the famous “well” of the House of Representatives, either. Having roused security there, the President was sitting at one of the House desks as his valet took to the same podium used for State of the Union addresses.  From there, and now also with press secretary Ron Ziegler in tow, the presidential entourage proceeded to the Mayflower Hotel on Connecticut Avenue for breakfast, before heading back to the White House.

There were no news crews or fanfare. There was no prepared speech, talking points, or plan on what to do when Nixon arrived. And all that remains are a few photographs and the recollections of those involved, including Nixon’s, as can be heard on the video below.

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

Walking a Labyrinth for World Labyrinth Day

Starting in 2009, The Labyrinth Society designated the first Saturday in May, which this year falls on May 5th, as World Labyrinth Day.  And although that is not until tomorrow, during today’s bike ride I decided to stop and walk the labyrinth located in the sanctuary of The Church of The Epiphany, which is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10:00am until 3:00pm.

At different times, the practice of walking a labyrinth has been associated with pilgrimages and pagan rituals.  More recently however, labyrinths have popped up in modern spirituality for contemplation and as prayer.  People walk a labyrinth for as many reasons as the number of people who walk one, including centering, feeling grounded, as prayer, as meditation, or as a great way to just unwind and clear your mind.

If you would like to walk a labyrinth tomorrow to celebrate World Labyrinth Day, there are nine labyrinths here in D.C., and more than a dozen more now exist within a ten-mile radius of the city.  Of these, there are at least a half a dozen outdoor labyrinths that are open to the public, and most are open daily from sunrise to sunset or shortly thereafter.

One of a few local labyrinths located outdoors and available to the public, the Georgetown Waterfront Park Labyrinth provides a means to walk a labyrinth in a scenic location.  It is located at the southern end of 33rd Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood.

The American Psychological Association also has a labyrinth on the green rooftop of their building at 10 G Street (MAP), near Union Station in northeast D.C.’s NoMa neighborhood.  The 42-foot labyrinth features trellises, plantings, tables, a journal, and a finger labyrinth that you can “walk” with your fingers—a good option for those with ambulatory issues. It is open Monday through Friday from 7:00am to 7:00pm.  You can sign in at the building’s security desk to go up to the roof, or call Holly Siprelle (202-336-5519) to arrange a guided walk.

There is also an outdoor labyrinth that is available to the public at Barton Park, located across the river at the corner of North Barton and 10th Streets (MAP) in Arlington, Virginia.  Originally part of the former Northern Virginia Whitman-Walker Clinic’s healing garden, the 37-foot labyrinth of precast stone and pavers went into storage when that branch of the clinic closed.  It was later moved to Barton Park in late 2013.

Set among old pines and other trees, St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia, also has a public labyrinth.  Located at 8531 Riverside Road (MAP), the 40-foot labyrinth is made of rubber mulch with white stones outlining the path and is set near a memorial garden with benches. At the nearby Art at the Center, parishioner Kathryn Horn Coneway offers workshops on making finger labyrinths from clay.

The city of Bethesda’s St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, located at 6030 Grosvenor Lane (MAP), has a 62-foot labyrinth made from turf and pavers, as well as a 36-by-36-inch Plexiglas finger labyrinth, available to the public.  At this labyrinth, a journal to record your thoughts is available, and is located under the bench.

The University of Maryland’s Garden of Reflection and Remembrance, located at 7600 Baltimore Avenue in College Park (MAP), also has a labyrinth adjacent to the campus chapel. Guided walks, yoga sessions, and special events are regularly scheduled. Benches, trees, and water elements help visitors connect with nature.

If you want to walk a labyrinth, but these options are not readily available to you, I encourage you to find one that is.  To find others labyrinths here in the D.C. area, or anywhere else in the world, just use the Labyrinth Society’s online worldwide labyrinth locater.  And if there is not a labyrinth near you, there are also finger labyrinths now available as a smartphone app.  Just check the Google Store or iTunes.

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

National Day of Prayer

Today is the National Day of Prayer, an annual observance inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation.  It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress which requested the President to proclaim a day each year, other than a Sunday, as a National Day of Prayer, on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation in places of worship, in groups, and as individuals.  It was subsequently signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.  In 1988, the law was unanimously amended by both the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Thursday, May 5, 1988, designating the first Thursday of May as a day of national prayer.  Each year since its inception, the president has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day.

It was announced late last year that the theme for this year’s observance is “Pray for America – Unity,” based upon Ephesians 4:3, which challenges believers to mobilize unified public prayer for America, “Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

In recognition of this year’s observance, during today’s bike ride I stopped by the American Center for Prayer and Revival, located in the basement of 117 2nd Street (MAP), right across the street from the U.S. Supreme Court Building, in northeast D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.  There they provided a prayer room, a red, white and blue “Pray” button for me to wear for the rest of the day, and a pre-packaged Eucharist pack with both wine and a communion wafer.

The American Center for Prayer and Revival is a center designed for day-and-night prayer in the National Capitol city, much like David’s Tent is for worship.  Through hosting teams of intercessors who maintain a 24/7 prayer vigil focused on asking God for a spiritual re-awakening and re-evangelization across our country and among our nation’s leaders.  Believing that only a powerful movement of repentant prayer and engagement in God’s Word will bring America back to spiritual life again, the center hopes to see a true religious revival in the United States, much like the great awakenings led by Jonathan Edwards in the 1750s and Charles Finney in the 1850s.

As I left and passed by the Supreme Court building, it made me wonder about the legality of the National Day of Prayer, and if it had yet been challenged in court.  Some people might say that it is wrong for the President to issue such a proclamation, contending that it is improper for the government to do so because it violates the separation of church and state and is, therefore, unconstitutional.

But while looking into the National Day of Prayer and learning more about it, I discovered that it has been challenged in court.  And the court ruled that it is perfectly legal.

In October of 2008, an organization named the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued to challenge the constitutionality of the designation of a National Day of Prayer. On October 3, 2008, the Wisconsin-based organization filed suit in a federal court in Madison, naming as defendants President George W. Bush; White House press secretary Dana Perino; Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle; and evangelist James Dobson’s wife, Shirley Dobson, in her capacity as chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.  After initially being declared unconstitutional in April of 2010 by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned Crabb’s decision.

The panel ruled that the Freedom From Religion Foundation did not have standing to sue because the National Day of Prayer had not caused them harm and stated that “a feeling of alienation cannot suffice as injury.” The court further stated that “the President is free to make appeals to the public based on many kinds of grounds, including political and religious, and that such requests do not obligate citizens to comply and do not encroach on citizens’ rights.”  In its issued opinion, the Federal appeals court even cited President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, which referenced God seven times and prayer three times.

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

Today’s 24th Annual Blue Mass and Procession

During today’s bike ride I rode to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church to attend the 24th annual Blue Mass, which is an annual mass celebrated as an opportunity for the community to show gratitude to first responders and their families.  Celebrated each year by the Catholic Church, the Blue Mass is similar to the Red Mass, a service held to honor law enforcement officers and others in the public safety field who died in the line of duty during the past year, and to pray for the safety in the coming year of those still serving.  Here in D.C., the service is usually held shortly before the beginning of National Police Week

Located at 619 10th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood, St. Patrick’s is the oldest parish in the national capitol city.  It was founded in 1794 to minister to the needs of the stonemasons building the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building, and continues to serve the needs of downtown D.C. through daily Mass and confession, as well as adult education and cultural activities.

Before the beginning of the Mass, hundreds of law enforcement officers and public safety officials gather outside for the solemn processional into the church. Units from a variety of Federal, state, and local jurisdictions from the D.C. Metropolitan Area and around the country gather in official formation to pass under a huge American flag proudly hung over the street by two fire ladder trucks. Also gathered outside are officers on horseback, as well as bagpipe and drum corps units.

Inside the church, the principal celebrant and homilist again this year was His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington. The Blue Mass included A Police Officers’ Prayer to Saint Michael, who as the Archangel of battle and defender of Heaven, is said to be the Patron Saint of policemen.

The police officers’ prayer to St. Michael is as follows:  “Dear Saint Michael, Your name means, “Who is Like a God”, and it indicates that You remained faithful when others rebelled against God. Help the police officers of our day who strive to stem the rebellion and evil that are rampant on all sides. Keep them faithful to their God as well as to their country and their fellow human beings.  Amen.”  The Mass also included the solemn playing of “Taps” in memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the past year.

Today’s Blue Mass was a powerful reminder of that working in the public safety field is not only extremely difficult and dangerous, but also involves a willingness to sacrifice for others, even if they don’t appreciate it.

 

The Procession Leading Into the Church for Mass

 

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

An Anniversary of Sorts

Posted: April 25, 2018 in Events
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An Anniversary of Sorts

Today is the anniversary of the first time I went for a bike ride during my lunch break at work.  Although it’s only been a little more than four years that I’ve been writing this blog about the places where I go and the things I see during my lunchtime bike rides , I went on my first lunchtime bike ride seven years ago today.  And around 1,400 rides and approximately 20,000 miles later, it’s still just as much fun as it was that first day in 2011.

That initial ride, on a bike I bought from a seller who listed it for sale via Craigslist, was not a particularly long one.  From my downtown office I rode to the National Mall, where I entered it at 9th Street.  Then on one of the gravel paths I rode down past The Washington Monument. I then rode over to the Jefferson Memorial, followed by a trip around The Tidal Basin.  Then I rode by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the Holocaust Museum.  Next I rode by the Smithsonian Castle and the National Sculpture Gardens.  Finally, I rode past the Air and Space Museum, the U.S. Capitol Building, and up through Embassy Row, before heading back to my office.  I remember at the time it sounded like an itinerary of a good week for a tourist.

Since that first bike ride I have had a number of different bikes I’ve kept at the office for my lunchtime rides.  I’ve ridden on days when the temperatures were in the 90’s, as well as days when the temperatures in the single digits.    I’ve ridden in the rain and the snow.  I have gone for rides in every neighborhood throughout the city, as well as to places in both Maryland and Virginia.  But there are still more than enough destinations to keep me riding for the foreseeable future.  In fact, I will probably retire before I run out of destinations for my lunchtime rides.  But even after I retire, I’ll still be riding.  Probably even more than I do now.

Emma G

During today’s bike ride, I stopped to watch a street performer playing music outside of the Metro Center transit system station (MAP), located in Downtown D.C.  I had heard her briefly once before, at Christmastime at the Downtown Holiday Market.  But at that time, despite wanting to stay and listen longer, I had to get back to work.  Today, however, I was able to stay for what for me turned out to be an hour-long beginning-of-the-week concert.  The performer’s name is Emma Ghaemmaghamy, but she is more commonly known as Emma G.

Emma G moved to D.C. almost three years ago from New Zealand, where she was the lead singer with the Auckland-based hard rock band Static Era.  After arriving stateside she worked for a few months or so at various jobs in Massachusetts and Connecticut before moving here.  But since arriving in D.C., she’s been focusing all of her time and energy, and her soul into the reason she moved here, to establish a music career in America.  She now works full time as a singer, songwriter, musician, vocal teacher, and actor.  She plays in various local clubs, bars and numerous community events throughout the city.  For example, just recently Emma G was one of the winners of the 2018 Sing Into Spring competition.  And as a result, along with Summer Pearson and Eli Lev, she sang on national television the opening song at this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, which took place earlier this month here in D.C.  Within the last year she has also played at The Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and Arena Stage.

Her career also takes her far beyond our national capital city.  Since moving here she has also completed two tours of California, as well as a nationwide New Zealand tour entitled “All Roads Lead To Home (not Rome).”

Emma G’s music crosses the confines of individual genres.  She describes her music as “always having had a bit of tug and war between rock and pop”, but more recently also incorporating a whole bunch of funk, hip-hop and rap songs.  Her current sound she describes as “having a hint of aggression and sassiness but with a funky edge – kind of Pink meets Adele meets Tracy Chapman”.

A lot of her music also conveys a social consciousness, and not surprisingly for D.C., a certain political aspect as well.  For example, she has described her recent song “Superhero” as being about “using love as a superpower to win out over hate, bigotry, racism and sexism.”  And her studio single “Sold (Take A Shot)” she has described as her “anthem to women in particular with the messaging of ‘my body my choice’.”

It states on her website that she “is known as the ‘Kiwi girl’ who plays great songs.”  But if you’re not fortunate enough to be able to hear her in person, her music is available on iTunes, AmazonGoogle Play, Spotify, and SoundCloud.  And you can even download a free copy of her recent album entitled “Real Talk – Live in Washington, D.C.”

As I was enjoying her musical performance this morning in front of the metro station, I also watched the commuters as they came off the escalators and passed by her on their way to work.  And I felt sorry for many of them.  They seemed to be so caught up in their rush to get to their destinations that they didn’t pause to enjoy the music.  Many of them didn’t even look up to see her smiling, or hear her intermittently greeting them and wishing them a fantastic day.  They simply zoned out and followed each other like lemmings heading off a cliff or, in this case, to their jobs.

But not all of the passersby were oblivious to her presence.  I saw many of them start smiling once they saw her, or when they first heard the music.  Some waved.  A few even gave her a thumbs up.  And some of them exuded an air of familiarity in their interactions with her, much like regulars in a neighborhood bar.  They are the ones I envision having a good day and being happy throughout the day.

At the beginning of this post I wrote that Emma G is a street performer.  But with all due respect to that genre of entertainer, I would come to find out that she is much more than a street performer.  She emits a personal kind of gravity that draws you in.  Her contagious smile automatically evokes smiles from others.  And her music makes you feel like it’s going to be a good day.  She not only performs, but seems to also possess the power to make other people happy.  Experiencing her perform was a great way to start out my Monday at the beginning of a new work week.  And I think it’s going to be a good week.


The sound quality on these videos is not very good because I took them with my cellphone.  But you can
view and listen to her official videos here!

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

A Post-White House Presidential Residence

Unlike when most presidents’ terms in office conclude, when President Obama left the White House in January of 2017 he and his family chose to stay here in D.C.  In fact, the only other former President to live in D.C. after leaving the presidency was Woodrow Wilson, who also has the distinction of being the only former president interred in D.C.

The Obamas’ reason for staying in the national capital city was so that Sasha (the youngest daughter), could stay and graduate from high school.  At the time she was a sophomore at a private high school named Sidwell Friends, where her older sister Malia graduated in 2016.  As President Obama explained, “We’re going to have to stay a couple of years in D.C. probably so Sasha can finish.  Transferring someone in the middle of high school?  Tough.”

So after living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for eight years, what kind of home did the Obama family move into?  On today’s lunchtime bike ride I stopped by to see their current home, located at 2446 Belmont Road (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Kalorama neighborhood, to find out.

While not as impressive as the White House, the Obama family’s current home is newer than it.  The White House has been the residence of every U.S. President since John Adams in 1800.  The Obamas’ Belmont Road house was built 128 years later, in 1928.  The White House has 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms and 6 levels in the residence, while the Obamas’ current house has 13 rooms, eight and a half bathrooms, and three levels.  The Obama family’s previous residence has 35 fireplaces, while their current home has only one.  The White House has formal gardens, vegetable gardens and a rose garden.  Their new home has only a formal garden.  Lastly, the White House is approximately 55,000 square feet and sits on 784,080 square feet of fenced in land, while the Belmont Road house is 6,441 square feet and sits on fenced in lot that measures 11,915 square feet.

The White House also has a bowling alley, a swimming pool, a tennis court, a movie theater, three elevators, butlers and personal assistants, groundskeepers, and five full-time chefs.  The Obamas do not yet have a pool but recently were approved for a permit to build one.  And the Belmont Road house has a lower level au-pair suite for Barack’s mother-in-law.

Although not for sale, the White House is worth $397.9 million.  The Belmont Road house was listed for $5,750,000 in 2008, and then listed and relisted twice in 2012 for $7,995,000.  Having not found a buyer, it was subsequently listed again in 2014 for $5,750,000.  It sold in may of that year for $5,295,000 to former Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart and his wife, Giovanna Gray Lockhart.  An Obama family corporation, Homefront Holdings, LLC., then purchased the home from them in 2017 for $8.1 million, which is more than quadruple the price of comparable real estate listings in the area, where the median price is $1,995,000.

Despite the fact that last year’s move from their home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was a substantial step down for Barack, Michelle, and Sasha, their current home is much larger and more valuable than the home they still own at 5046 South Greenwood Avenue in south side Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood, where they lived prior to the White House, and still stay on some visits back home to Chicago.

The Obamas will most likely remain in their current home in the nation’s capital until at least the summer of 2019, after Sasha graduates.  After that, they may continue to reside here, they may return to Chicago, or they may end up somewhere else.

 

NOTE:  Unlike all of the other photos on this blog, I did not take the above photos of the Obama family’s current home.  Those photos were taken from the real estate listing at the time they bought the home.   Because the Secret Service, which guards the former president’s homes here in D.C. and in Chicago have restricted access to the roads on which they are located, the following photos were the only ones I was able to take of what I could see on my bike ride.  They show uniformed Secret Service officers at blockades at either end of the road, and one of the black SUVs I saw while I was riding around the neighborhood in which sat plain clothes Secret Service agents.

 

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