Posts Tagged ‘Capitol Hill’

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The Grave of Charles Forbes

On this lunchtime bike ride I returned to Historic Congressional Cemetery (MAP) on Capitol Hill, one of my favorite lunchtime biking destinations. I like it because even after numerous rides there, there is still so much more history within the cemetery to be discovered and learned. This time I visited the grave of Charles Forbes, who I often think about whenever I make a mistake at work. Let me explain why.

Forbes was born in Ireland around 1835 and at the age of 26 started working at the White House in 1861, shortly after President Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration. He was one of several house servants assigned to President Lincoln. Quickly becoming a favorite with both the President and Mrs. Lincoln, Forbes became the personal attendant to the President, a position he held for approximately four years. He also occasionally watched out for Mary Todd Lincoln and Thomas “Tad” Lincoln III, as well.

And it was during this time working for the President that Forbes made one of the biggest mistakes on the job that anyone has ever made. Forbes accompanied the Lincolns to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, the night that Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. That night Booth approached Forbes, who was seated outside of Lincoln’s box, and gave him his calling card. Forbes then allowed Booth to enter the door to the private box. Moments later the President was mortally wounded.

Forbes remains a mysterious figure in the events of that night. He never gave a witness statement nor did he ever leave a written or verbal account of the assassination of the President. But Mrs. Lincoln remained fond of Forbes, bore him no ill will for the evening’s events, and later presented him with the suit of clothes that Lincoln wore that night.

After Lincoln’s death, Forbes became a messenger for the U.S. Treasury Department and later for the Adjutant General’s office. He died October 10, 1885, at his home at 1711 G Street in northwest D.C., leaving his wife Margaret and a daughter, Mary. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Congressional Cemetery until 1984 when The Lincoln Group, a historical society, placed a marker on his grave.

So it was this mistake on the job of Forbes’ that makes me glad that the mistakes I make at work never result in the consequences his mistake did. Even the worst mistakes I could possibly make don’t result in altering the course of history, as his mistake did. So when I mess up, I just think of him and this bike ride, and I feel a little better.

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27 – Seagulls near a puddle in the parking lot at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.

Below I have included more photos that I took at different times over the past year, but were not previously included in this blog.  They had not been previously posted because what they depict are not necessarily main ingredients in what I like to call the recipe of this city.  I consider them to be more like ingredients that contribute to the overall flavor.  I hope you enjoy them.  And I hope you will continue to follow this blog, and enjoy the posts as much as I enjoy everything that goes into them.

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

27 – Seagulls near a puddle in the parking lot at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.
28 – One of the mid-day summer performances in Franklin Square Park.
29 – The Suburbia airstream bar in the parking lot in front of Union Market.
30 – An altered stop sign in the H Street Corridor. (I couldn’t get the song out of my head for the rest of the ride.)
31 – A weary-looking bike tourer and his dog in front of the Trump International Hotel.
32 – The Chocolate City mural in an alley near 14th and S Streets in the U Street Corridor.
33 – One of the colorful artworks at the National Zoo made entirely of trash taken from the ocean.
34 – An overview of the WMATA rail yard in Brentwood.
35 – A peaceful promotion of Islam and the Al-Islam online digital library by a young woman handing out roses.
36 – A colorful knight, or at least suit of armor, guarding the balcony of an apartment on Capitol Hill.
37 – Some promoters of Red Nose Day raising awareness and money to help raise kids out of poverty.
38 – A clock on the side of a building on 14th Street in the U Street Corridor.
39 – An artist working and displaying his wares on the sidewalk near Eastern Market.
40 – Evidence of an eviction in front of an apartment building in Downtown D.C.
41 – The iconic dome of the U.S. Capitol Building towering over trees on the Capitol grounds.
42 – A Muslim protestor in front of the White House taking a break.
43 – One of the many Little Free Libraries I have seen throughout D.C.
44 – An antique Good Humor ice cream truck in front of the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
45 – A promotion for the Washington Capitals using the DuPont Circle Fountain.
46 – Demolition of an office building at the corner of 13th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.
47 – Mushrooms at the Department of Agriculture Outdoor Farmers Market.
48 – Construction on the southwest waterfront development project.
49 – A homeless man in a doorway on 8th Street, ironically next door to The Lansburgh, a luxury apartment building.
50 – A company car for a marijuana advocacy and investment group.
51 – A lone gun rights advocate demonstrating in front of the White House.
52 – The Spirit of Washington dining ship in the Washington Channel.

NOTE:  Check out Part 1 of my year-end collection of various photos on yesterday’s post.

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The East Front of the United States Capitol Building

The United States Capitol Building is a world-renowned architectural icon and one of the most recognizable buildings in the world.  It is located at 100 Constitution Avenue (MAP) atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall. Though not at the geographic center of the Federal District, the Capitol forms the origin point for the District’s street-numbering system and the District’s four quadrants.  I’ve ridden both to it and past it hundreds, if not thousands of times, and on this lunchtime bike ride Julius and I rode there again.  And although I usually write in this blog about the lesser-known monuments and attractions in D.C., for this last lunchtime bike ride of the year before I take a little time off from work for the holidays, I time I decided to break from tradition and write about the Capitol.

It was Pierre Charles L’Enfant who chose the location within the new capital city for the building in which Congress could meet. Tasked with creating the city plan, he chose what was then known as “Jenkin’s Hill” as the site for the “Congress House”, with a “grand avenue” that would later be named Pennsylvania Avenue connecting it with the “President’s House”, and a public space stretching westward to the Potomac River. That public space is now known as the National Mall. However, in reviewing L’Enfant’s plan, Thomas Jefferson insisted the legislative building be called the “Capitol” rather than “Congress House”.

In the spring of 1792, Jefferson proposed a design competition to solicit designs for the Capitol and the President’s House.  A four-month deadline was set, with a prize of five hundred dollars and a lot of land in the new capital city to go to the winner.  Of the 17 submitted designs, all of them were turned down.  A Scottish doctor named and amateur architect named William Thornton submitted the design which was eventually chosen, although it came in after the deadline for the contest.  The following year Thornton was appointed to serve as the first Architect of the Capitol, a position that still exists today.

Thornton’s original design was later modified by the famous British-American architects Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Sr., and then Charles Bulfinch.  On September 18, 1793, first President George Washington, along with eight other Freemasons dressed in masonic regalia, laid the cornerstone for the new Capitol Building.  The original building was completed in 1800, and Congress met for the first time in the newly-created Capitol in November of that year, approximately 11 months after the death of George Washington.  Eventually, the current cast-iron dome was added.  A new southern extension for the House of Representatives and the Senate’s new northern wing, designed by Thomas U. Walter and August Schoenborn, were added in the 1850’s, giving us the building we see today.

Like the principal buildings of the executive and judicial branches, the Capitol is built in a distinctive neoclassical style and has a white exterior.  Both its east and west elevations are formally referred to as fronts.  However, the east side of the Capitol is the only one with level ground for a proper entrance, so it was intended for the reception of visitors and dignitaries.  This gives the appearance that the building faces away from the Mall instead of toward it, like most other important buildings and monuments.  But the Capitol and the statue on top face toward the east so that it faces toward the people who are entering it.

Books could be written about the complete history of the Capitol, its appearance, and other aspects of the building.  But rather than go into that kind of additional detail, I decided to simply provide some of the information I find most interesting about the  building that is the seat of the legislative branch of the Federal government and serves as a symbol of American democracy.

  • The Capitol covers well over 1.5 million square feet on five separate levels, has 540 rooms, contains approximately 850 doorways, and has 658 windows, with 108 of those windows in the dome alone.
  • The Dome is 8,909,200 pounds of cast-iron and was constructed between 1855 and 1866.
  • The The building covers a ground area of 175,170 square feet, or about 4 acres, and has a floor area of approximately 16-1/2 acres. Its length, from north to south, is 751 feet 4 inches; its greatest width, including approaches, is 350 feet.  Its height above the base line on the east front to the top of the Statue of Freedom is 288 feet.
  • There used to be a law that no building in the capital city could be taller than the Capitol.  But that law was short lived, and today it is only the fifth-tallest building in D.C.  The Capitol is shorter than the Washington Monument, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Old Post Office and the Washington National Cathedral.
  • The Capitol has its own subway, which has been there in some variation since 1909, and carries politicians from House and Senate office buildings to the Capitol.
  • There are marble bathtubs in the basement of the Capitol where members of Congress would take baths back in the 19th century.
  • The Capitol has its own crypt, which is located on the basement floor directly under the Rotunda. It is called that because President George Washington’s body was supposed to be entombed here. They even had holes dug for a viewing chamber where you could walk by and see him.  But Washington’s wishes were to be buried at his home on the Potomac River, Mount Vernon.
  • A bust of Abraham Lincoln located in the crypt and sculpted by Gutzon Borglum, has only one ear. The ear on the bust was originally supposed to face to the north because the sculptor believed Lincoln listened to Northern views and not those of the South. The ear now faces the South with its placement in the room.
  • Directly below the crypt there is a nuclear fallout shelter.
  • At any given time, several United States flags fly over the Capitol building and the flags have been flown continuously day and night since World War I.  Two flagpoles are located at the base of the Capitol Dome on both the East and the West sides.  Two other flagpoles are located above the North Wing (the Senate side) and the South Wing (the House side) and are flown only when the Congress is in session.  There are also several additional flagpoles located west of the Dome and are not visible from the ground, these flagpoles are used to meet the congressional requests for flags flown over the Capitol.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court also convened in the Capitol Building for 135 years, until moving into its own building in 1935.
  • There is a myth that the Capitol is haunted by an evil demon cat. The reason this myth exists is because of mysterious paw prints in the sandstone floor just outside of the former Supreme Court Chamber. They still have not found an explanation for the paw prints.
  • The Senate chaplain’s office has a rare oval window and it is one of the very few windows that still opens.  It can be seen on the left side of the west front.
  • For the first couple of decades, beginning in the fall of 1800 when the Federal government moved to D.C., the Capitol building was used during the administrations of Presidents Thomas  Jefferson and James Madison for Sunday religious services as well as for governmental functions.
  • Today there is still a private, locked chapel that is for the exclusive use of members.  According to the architect of the Capitol: “Its only purpose is to provide a quiet place to which individual senators and representatives may withdraw a while to seek divine strength and guidance, both in public affairs and in their own personal concerns.”

I’ve seen the Capitol Building almost every workday for the past thirty years.  But I learned new things about it as a result of this bike ride.  That’s just one of the reasons I ride.  And I look forward to more rides next year.  There are currently 435 posts on this blog about different places I’ve been to, events I’ve attended, or other interesting things I’ve seen throughout the city while out and about on my bike.  But I have an ever-growing list of more places to which I still want to ride.  And that list contains more places than the number places where I’ve already been.  So I anticipate that I will continue to be riding not only next year, but for the foreseeable future.

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The West Front of the United States Capitol Building

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

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Note:  The following historic photos obtained from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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

Top Left – Historic American Buildings Survey Copy of old photograph East Front of Capitol Dome under Construction, Showing Clairvoyee and Gates. (Library of Congress Call Number: Habs DC,Wash,1–1 .
Top Middle – West front of the United States Capitol, with the new cast-iron dome under construction. In the foregrd. is the Tiber Creek or Washington City Canal and the octagonal greenhouse for the Botanic Garden (Library of Congress Call Number: Lot 12332 [item] [P&P]. Contributor: Montgomery Meigs. Date Created: November 16,  1860.)
Top Right – Construction of Capitol Dome. (Library of Congress Call Number: Lot 12251, p. 49 [P&P]. Contributor: Benjamin Brown French. Date Created: Between 1860 and 1863.)
Bottom Left – Inauguration of Mr. Lincoln,
Photograph shows crowd attending ceremony; construction on dome of U.S. Capitol in background.  (Library of Congress Call Number: LOT 12251, p. 41 [P&P].  Contributor: Benjamin Brown French. Date Created: March 4, 1861.
Bottom  Middle – Photograph showing Capitol building with scaffolding surrounding Thomas Crawford’s Statue of Freedom atop the dome.  (Library of Congress Call Number: Unprocessed in PR 13 CN 1995:149 [item] [P&P], Date Created: between 1860 and 1863.)
Bottom Right – Photograph showing Union soldiers with rifles at attention in front of the Capitol.  (Library of Congress Call Number: Lot 12251, p. 55 [P&P]. Contributor: Benjamin Brown French. Date Created: May 13, 1861.)

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Note:  A complete renovation and restoration of the iconic Capitol dome was just recently completed.  In 2014, scaffolding was erected around the Capitol Building’s massive dome for a three-year restoration project, the first major overhaul of the dome in more than half a century.  After removing 14 layers of lead paint, applying 1,215 gallons of “Dome White” paint, the fabrication and replacement of exterior ornamentation, repairing deficiencies and over 1,300 different cracks in the cast iron and, finally, removing more than a million pounds of scaffolding, the Architect of the Capitol announced just last month that the restoration effort is officially complete.  So the freshly painted and restored Capitol Building and dome will look pristine next month when it serves as the backdrop for the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

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Scaffolding for Restoration of the Capitol Dome

[Click on the photo to view the full-size version]

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District Doughnut

During the spring and summer, I occasionally set out on my daily bike ride earlier in the day so I can beat the heat.  But as fall and winter weather begins to set in, I have begun to again find myself waiting until later in the day when it has warmed up a little.  On today’s ride, however, I took advantage of this week’s unseasonable warm weather and went out for what may end up being one of my last early rides of the year.  Today Julius and I got an early start, and along the way stopped for breakfast at District Doughnut, located on Barracks Row, at 749 8th Street (MAP), in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. 

The origins of District Doughnut began with a couple of locals named Juan Pablo Segura and Greg Menna who became friends in middle school, in part based on a shared love for doughnuts.  After graduating from high school, the two temporarily parted ways when Greg left to study philosophy at the College of William & Mary, and Juan Pablo went to the University of Notre Dame to major in accounting.  Then after graduating from college their careers brought them back to D.C. 

After their return, Juan Pablo met a chef named Christine Schaefer, a graduate of the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute’s Le Cordon Bleu Program, where she received a degree in Patisserie and Baking.  And after trying her brown butter doughnut, Juan Pablo knew he’d found something special.  So as Christine expanded and perfected her collection of doughnut recipes, Juan Pablo recruited his old friend Greg to manage the operations of the young company.  And with the three of them working together, District Doughnut came to be.

In addition to the original Brown Butter signature doughnut, the menu includes an ever-changing and diverse variety of flavors.  From staples like the Vanilla Bean Glazed and Salted Dulce de Leche yeast doughnuts, to cake doughnuts like Cookies and Cream and Apple Cider, I don’t think there’s a bad one on the menu.  And I’ve tried quite a few of them.  Of course, so may good options makes the decision of what to order that much more difficult.  So you may want  to take a look at their online menu and decide before you get there so you don’t hold up the line.  Or just go, and choose whatever strikes your fancy.  A couple of my favorites are the Key Lime Pie doughnut, and the Snickerdoodle cake doughnut.  And for those of you who enjoy pumpkin, as do I, their seasonal Pumpkin Crème Brûlée and Pumpkin Spice are as good as any I’ve ever tasted. 

But for the best selection, or to ensure they will still have what you’ve already set your heart on, you can use their online ordering portal.  Otherwise, you will want to get there early because their doughnuts are so popular that on many days they sell out of one or more menu items. 

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

Epilogue:  Today was actually a “do-over” for yesterday.  I rode to District Doughnut yesterday to check out their newest seasonal doughnuts.  But I it wasn’t until after I got there and had begun to place my order that I realized I had forgotten my wallet back at my office and had no money with me.   The friendly young lady waiting on me, apparently perceiving the crushing disappointment in my eyes when I told her I had forgotten my wallet, treated me to a couple of delicious doughnut holes. While that was sufficient to tide me over yesterday, I had been thinking about the Pumpkin Crème Brûlée doughnut ever since.  And today I wasn’t disappointed.  As if the flavorful pumpkin spice dough and creamy pumpkin pie filling were not already enough, I was able to watch the young lady taking my order get out a blow torch and create a freshly- caramelized sugar coating that provided just the right touch of sweetness and crunch.  I can’t say that it was better than the Key Lime Pie, which up until now has been my favorite.  But I can’t say it was worse either.  I guess there is now a tie for my favorite at District Doughnut.

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The YuMe Tree

One of the best aspects of outdoor public art in D.C. is that it’s not limited to places like the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. Art in D.C. can be found almost anywhere, and often in some unexpected places. A good example of this is the mural entitled The YuMe Tree, which I happened upon during this hot afternoon bike ride when I stopped at a store to buy a cold drink. On the wall of the north side of a building housing a CVS store, The YuMe Tree mural is located just off Pennsylvania Avenue at 500 12th Street (MAP), near the intersection with E Street, in the southeast area of D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The YuMe (you/me) Tree is a 28 by 14 foot mosaic art project that was literally built by the community as a tribute to community. It was designed by local artist and the founder of The Corner Store non-profit arts studio and performance center, Kris Swanson. Laurie Siegel, a fused glass artist and award winning art teacher who taught at Watkins Elementary School, located across the street from the mural, also contributed greatly to it. The project also included the input and involvement of dozens of friends, hundreds of Capitol Hill neighbors, and more than a thousand children at several elementary schools who sculpted and signed the three-inch names tiles that form the trunk, roots, and branches of the tree. Other tiles form the landscape out of which the tree emerges. These tiles contain messages reflecting some of the thoughts of the community, or are commemorative in nature, and come from various donors.

But one of the most striking aspects of The YuMe Tree is the tiles which make up the leaves of the tree. The leaves of the tree are cut mirror tiles, which reflect the reality of the mural’s surroundings back to the observer. The higher leaf groupings reflect the light and movement of the clouds in the sky. The lower mirror tiles reflect back the garden and other nearby trees, the street, Watkins Elementary School, and cars and people passing by.

The Yume Tree was installed and dedicated in October of 2003. But it remains an ever-evolving work.  It continues to change and grow along with the neighborhood as new name and sponsorship tiles are added periodically. So not only can you see this art project, but you can choose to contribute and be part of it as it carries forward in representing the community and beautifying the neighborhood.

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

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Police Protecting Protestors Protesting the Police

We’re in the middle of a heat wave here in D.C.  And it has been so hot in the afternoons lately that for today’s bike ride I decided to go earlier in the day when the heat was a little less oppressive.  In fact, I went for my daily ride shortly after arriving at work this morning.  And since I usually begin my workday relatively early, rush hour was still ongoing while I left to go out on this ride.  This is important because the timing played a part in what I saw during today’s ride.

During my ride, I decided to ride Julius, my orange recumbent bike, around the tree-lined, shaded streets of northeast D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.  As I was riding down Massachusetts Avenue approaching the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge, located at 328 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP), I saw a crowd gathered near the building and at the end of the block near Stanton Park.  So I rode closer to investigate.  And it turns out that it was a protest by the group which calls itself Black Lives Matter, along with others affiliated with Black Youth Project 100.

The Fraternal Order of Police District of Columbia Lodge #1 is one of the largest lodges in the United States. Its membership consists of approximately 10,000 members from over 114 various District and Federal agencies. The lodge also houses the organization’s national legislative office, which in the wake of the recent killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, is calling for Federal legislation classifying the intentional targeting of police officers as a hate crime.  And the organization’s position seems to have gained additional momentum when President Obama stated that the black sniper who killed the white officers in Dallas should have been prosecuted for a hate crime if he were still alive.

Today’s Black Lives Matter protestors were gathered in the street in front of the lodge, joining arms to block rush hour traffic at the intersection of 4th Street and Massachusetts Avenue.  I heard some of the protesters shout to the commuters who were simply trying to get to work, “If this is your normal way to work, please go around. The FOP protects killer cops.”  Others said to at least one pedestrian on the sidewalk, “Use your white privilege to walk around.” (See video below.)  Some protestors were also blocking the gateways and access to the building, while others had chained themselves to stair railings and fixtures at the entrance to the lodge.  At one point they even hoisted a Black Lives Matter flag atop a flagpole in front of the building.

In response, Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police’s D.C. office, said he supports the protesters right to assemble. But because of the disruptive influence of the protestors attempting to block access to both the street and the building, he had decided to close the lodge for the day said they would continue their work from other locations.

So as Mr. Pasco and the other employees departed, they left behind a number of on-duty Metropolitan Police Department Officers. Those officers, who were most likely also members of the lodge itself, blocked and rerouted the vehicular traffic to protect the protestors themselves, and remained on the scene to protect their right to free speech. All of the police officers there remained calm throughout, and continued to act in a professional way to the protestors who were there to protest against them.

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

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Headstone for Tip O’Neil

On my visit to Historic Congressional Cemetery during this bike ride, I happened upon a headstone for someone I knew of and remember, but didn’t know was honored at the cemetery – Tip O’Neill.  Located at 1801 E Street (MAP), in the southeast portion of D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, the cemetery got its name when in 1830 the United States Congress appropriated money for improvements, built cenotaphs to honor representatives who had died in office, and purchased several hundred burial sites to be used for members of Congress.  Although the cemetery itself is privately owned, the U.S. government owns 806 burial plots.  This includes many members of Congress who died while Congress was in session.  And I now know that Tip O’Neill is honored there among them.

Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill Jr. was born, raised, and lived out almost all of his life as a resident of North Cambridge, Massachusetts.  It was also in North Cambridge where he got his start in politics. He first became active in politics at the age of 15, when he campaigned for Al Smith in the 1928 presidential election. Four years later, he helped campaign for Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Then, as a senior at Boston College, O’Neill ran for a seat on the Cambridge City Council. It was his first race, and his first and only electoral defeat. But the campaign taught him a valuable lesson that would later become his best-known quote: “All politics is local.” O’Neill’s first electoral victory came shortly after he graduated from college, when he was elected at the age of 24 to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. From there he would go on to become the first Democratic Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in its history. He remained in that position until 1952, when he ran for the United States House of Representatives from his home district, and was elected to the congressional seat vacated by Senator-elect John F. Kennedy.

O’Neill became a very outspoken liberal Democrat and influential member of the House of Representatives. He would be reelected 16 more times, and served for 34 years. In 1977, O’Neill was elected the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He served as Speaker until his retirement a decade later, making him the only Speaker to serve for five complete consecutive Congresses, and the one of the longest-serving Speakers in U.S. history.

One of the first things that comes to my mind when remembering Tip O’Neill, particularly during the time near the end of his career, was that it was a time when politics and governing was not the animosity-filled, adversarial process that it is today. Republicans and Democrats could have differing opinions and significantly different political philosophies, but at the end of the day they were congenial, and even friendly with each other. And no two people exemplified this type of relationship better than Tip O’Neill and the President at that time, Ronald Reagan. Despite O’Neill being described by his official biographer, John Aloysius Farrell, as an “absolute, unrepentant, unreconstructed New Deal Democrat,” O’Neill was able to have a friendly relationship with a President who rehabilitated conservatism, led the modern conservative movement, and turned the nation to the right. O’Neill and Reagan vehemently disagreed on almost everything, yet were known to occasionally have a beer together at the end of the day, or get together along with their spouses for dinner.

As I stood at the headstone and thought of those bygone days, I couldn’t help but lament the decline in the civility of the current political process in this country.  I find it impossible to imagine Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, along with Melania Trump and former President Bill Clinton, ever choosing to get together socially today.  I miss the days when politicians and people could disagree with each other, yet still respect the other person and their opinion.  And I think Tip O’Neill would feel the same way.

UPDATE:  I later learned that the maker in Congressional Cemetery is actually a cenotaph, not a headstone.  A cenotaph is a monument built to honor a person or people whose remains are interred elsewhere or whose remains cannot be recovered.  Tip O’Neill is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Harwich Port, Massachusetts.

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The Florida Embassy

There are a total of 178 embassies and diplomatic missions in the national capital city, and 177 of them belong to foreign countries.  The remaining one belongs to the state of Florida, which is the only one of the 50 states to have an embassy in D.C.  Other states, specifically California and Texas, have tried but have not met with success.

So on today’s lunchtime bike ride, I visited The Florida Embassy, which is located at 1 2nd Street (MAP) in northeast D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.  It is at the corner of East Capitol and Second Street, directly behind the Supreme Court building.  And it offers an excellent view of the dome and the Statue of Freedom on top of  the nearby United States Capitol Building.

Also known as “Florida House,” this unique embassy is located in a restored 1891 Victorian house, and since 1973 it has been a privately-owned and funded education and information center that provides meeting, classroom and reception space for visiting Floridians, students, dignitaries, elected officials and those doing business in the nation’s capital.

On today’s visit I was greeted by a very friendly summer intern, who gave me a tour of the embassy building, as well as the art and antique furnishings it contains.  The embassy also provides information about Florida’s congressional delegation, and other famous Floridians, as well as many other programs and partnerships that support and showcase the Sunshine State’s education, business, arts and culture, and of course, hospitality.  And I was able to learn about all of this while enjoying a complimentary glass of cold Florida orange juice.

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

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National Bike to School Day

I took my lunch hour at work early today so that I could go for a bike ride this morning because today is National Bike to School Day.  And on this morning’s bike ride I rode to Lincoln Park, located at 13th and East Capitol Streets (MAP) in D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, to attend a party to kick off the day.  Billed as an annual “party on wheels,” there were hundreds of students and their parents at this year’s event, which included fun activities, breakfast snacks of fresh fruit and granola bars, and a performance by the jazz dancers from Brent and Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan.

The event also included remarks from Councilmember Charles Allen, Department of Energy Director Tommy Wells, Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez, and D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.  However, I don’t think the children were as interested in the remarks of the visiting politicians and officials as they were in the activities and the food. 

In coordination with the League of American Bicyclists’ National Bike Month, the first National Bike to School Day was celebrated on May 9, 2012.  For the inaugural event there were close to 1,000 local events in 49 states and D.C. that joined together and encouraged children to safely ride a bike or walk to school.  By 2013 there were more than 1,700 schools in all 50 states and the D.C. participating in events which took place throughout the month.  Celebrated annually, the day necessarily varies from year to year in order for it to fall on an actual school day.

This morning’s ride and the party an Lincoln Park brought to mind a quote of the American novelist Tom Robbins, who said, “You’re never too old to have a happy childhood.”  This morning’s ride made me feel that the statement is true.  And it was particularly relevant inasmuch I am another year older today.  It’s my birthday.

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Little Free Library

During today’s lunchtime bike ride I ran across a “Little Free Library.” It is located in the 400 block of 13th Street, near the intersection with D Street (MAP), in the southeast section of D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, and is part of a burgeoning global literary movement which began in 2009 in Hudson, Wisconsin, when  a man named Todd Bol built a model of a one room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading.  He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard.  Everyone loved it so much that he built several more and gave them away.  And thus, a movement began.

Little Free Libraries first began popping up in the D.C. metro area a couple of years ago. It has since spread throughout the city and to the suburbs. There are currently 31 Little Libraries in the city, 140 in Maryland, and an additional 180 in Virginia. Worldwide there are over 30,000 Little Free Libraries. In addition to the United States, these little libraries are also providing access to free literature all around the globe, in such countries as Tanzania, India, Brazil, Italy, Ghana, Spain Vietnam, and Guatemala, to name just a few.

Little Free Libraries relies on people to build and fill their own little libraries so that the movement continues to expand. Library creators are called Stewards, and it’s up to them to choose what their libraries look like. Some look like fancy mailboxes, while others look like birdhouses, or even doll houses. The creativity is limited only be the imagination of the Stewards. Stewards also choose what initially goes in them. But that can quickly change as people add and subtract from the offerings available. Stewards can also register their Little Library on the website and add it to the online Interactive World Map of libraries.

The libraries don’t require membership cards, nor do they have late fees or time limits on the books that anyone can “check out.” In fact, if you like the book, it’s okay to keep it. So next time you’re going down the street, keep an eye out for a Little Free Library. You may just find a great novel waiting for you there.

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