Posts Tagged ‘Catholic University of America’

Bluestone Sidewalk Along Seventeenth Street

During today’s lunchtime bike ride I stopped to rest on a bench on 17th Street, near President’s Park, just south of the White House. As I sat there for a few moments watching the tourists go by, I noticed that the sidewalk seemed different than what I usually see. In fact, I didn’t recall seeing anything similar here in D.C. Sidewalks throughout the city are typically formed walkways made out of cement. But the sidewalks where I was sitting were made of stone. So when I had a chance later I looked into it, and my research confirmed that they are both unique and historic.

The sidewalk is significant as the last remaining segment of an original streetscape feature used throughout President’s Park. While President’s Park South was filled and completed in the late 1870s, the side of the park along 17th Street was a low, badly drained area until new fill was added to bring it up to grade in the early 1880s. Then beginning in 1887, bluestone flag sidewalks were constructed along the front of the park bordering B Street, since renamed Constitution Avenue. While no date of construction can be firmly ascertained for the bluestone flag sidewalk on Seventeenth Street, it likely dates from this period or soon afterwards. A grassy strip between the sidewalk and the street was later added in the 1920s.

Most of the bluestone sidewalk surrounding President’s Park was eventually replaced with ones constructed with cement forms. As the stones cracked or fell into disrepair, it was decided that it would be cheaper to simply replace them with the same type of sidewalk that is present throughout the rest of the city. This was done everywhere except, for some reason, along 17th Street.

What stone sidewalk remains consists of rectangular bluestone slate flags, six-feet square, and extends along the east side of 17th Street from opposite C Street to opposite E Street (MAP). The sidewalk is separated from the granite curb by what was once a three-foot wide grassy strip, which is now filled in with granite pavers.

The sidewalk is not a tourist attraction. In fact, I doubt anyone walking on it even noticed it was different, let alone had any idea of its history. But I enjoyed seeing it, and thinking back about the way things were at the time when the bluestone sidewalks were constructed. The Civil War had been over for not all that long, and Grover Cleveland was the President.  The Washington Monument was almost completed and would open the following year.  The Catholic University of America was founded, and the first Woodward & Lothrop department store was built. Alexander Graham Bell built his Volta Laboratory in Georgetown. There were no automobiles, so the streets were used by horses and carriages. And form and quality were considerations in public building projects, not just price and practicality.

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

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A Survivor's Journey

A Survivor’s Journey

This bike ride took me to the Brookland neighborhood in northeast D.C., where I happened upon a Domestic Violence Awareness Project mural, entitled “A Survivor’s Journey.”  The public artwork is located near The Catholic University of America, on the side of The Brookland Café building at 3740 12th Street (MAP), which donated the wall as a canvas for the artwork.

Local award-winning mural artist Joel Bergner, who partnered with the District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH), an organization that provides refuge and services to victims of domestic abuse, created the large and colorful mural in 2010.  The project was financed through fundraisers, and in part by a campaign on Kickstarter, an online fundraising site for all things creative.

Designed based on interviews the artist conducted with victims of domestic violence and staff members at DASH, the mural is intended to use their stories as inspiration for its message about overcoming past trauma and looking toward a better future.  The dedication for the mural reads, “Inspired by true stories of domestic violence, this mural depicts a woman and child’s journey from a painful past to a brighter tomorrow with a myriad of support along the way.”

A Survivor’s Journey generally depicts darkness transitioning into light as it progresses from the left to the right of the piece, with the sun shown in top right corner of the piece.  The details of the mural show a collage of images.  Among them, an older couple positioned down the road from a home, a woman holding a clipboard, and a group of woman who appear to represent a variety of races and ethnic backgrounds.  Another image shows a scene which includes a figure of a controlling man with his hands on his hips standing in a doorway behind a woman, who is painted using only black and blue, possibly representing the bruises and injuries she has sustained as a result of physical abuse. The woman is covering her ears while a child, presumably her son, is looking up at her and tries to console her.

The largest image, which is the central focus of the mural, illustrates the same abused woman after overcoming her violent situation and reclaiming her life. This time, however, she is depicted with bright green eyes and a warm, colorful complexion. Symbolically on her clothes is the image of people tearing down a brick wall. Her son is again with her, but this time smiling and seemingly content. According to the artist, “They now look toward a brighter future with the support of family, friends, and a case worker and are joined by women of many backgrounds, showing that this issue is universal across race, ethnicity and nationality.”

SurvivorsJourney02a[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

On this bike ride I rode to The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, located on land donated by The Catholic University of America, which is adjacent to the Basilica at 400 Michigan Avenue (MAP) in northeast D.C.  The prominent Latin Rite Catholic basilica is the largest Catholic church in the United States, and the eighth largest religious structure in the world.  It is also the tallest habitable building in D.C.

Visited by Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Mother Teresa, among others, the Basilica, though distinctly American, rivals the great sanctuaries of Europe and the world.  Its architecture is Romanesque-Byzantine in style, and in comparison to Gothic structures such as the Washington National Cathedral, a Romanesque church is quite simple in appearance.   Open 365 days a year, the Basilica features daily guided tours and operates a Catholic gift shop and book store, and a cafeteria.  The Basilica also houses the world’s largest collection of contemporary ecclesiastical art.  It is host to nearly one million visitors annually, attracting pilgrims and tourists alike from across the country and around the world.

Designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a National Sanctuary of Prayer and Pilgrimage, the Basilica is the nation’s preeminent Marian shrine, dedicated to the patroness of the United States – the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception.  It is not the cathedral of Washington D.C. The designated cathedral church of the Archdiocese of Washington is the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, not the Basilica.  It is oftentimes affectionately referred to as “America’s Catholic Church.”  The Basilica is home to over 70 chapels and oratories that relate to the peoples, cultures and traditions that are the fabric of the Catholic faith and the mosaic of the nation.

The Basilica has a seating capacity of 3,500 worshippers at one time, and offers six Masses and five hours of confessions daily.  Special Masses, devotions, pilgrimages, and concerts are also offered on Holy days and holidays.  It does not have its own parish community, but serves the adjacent Catholic University of America, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and hosts numerous Holy Masses for various organizations of the Church from across the United States.

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