Posts Tagged ‘Embassy Row’

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Nelson Mandela Statue at the South African Embassy

On this bike ride I stopped outside the South African Embassy, located at 3051 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Embassy Row neighborhood, to see a statue of Nelson Mandela.  Mandela was a South African activist and former president of that country who helped bring an end to apartheid, a system of segregation or discrimination based on race, and went on to become a global advocate for human rights and for AIDS awareness and prevention.

Born with the name Rolihlahla into a royal family of the Xhosa-speaking Thembu tribe in the village of Mvezo, Transkei, on July 18, 1918, the name means “to pull a branch off a tree” and “troublemaker.”  The man who would come to be know as Nelson, a name given to him at the age of seven by his teacher on his first day of elementary school, grew up in a rural area where he engaged in herding animals.  His father passed away when he was 12 years old. Afterwards, wealthy relatives had custody of him, and he attended boarding school.  He later attended Fort Hare Missionary College, but was eventually expelled for organizing a strike against the white rule of the college.

A member of the African National Congress party beginning in the 1940s, he was a leader of both peaceful protests and armed resistance against the white minority’s oppressive regime in a racially divided South Africa. His actions landed him in prison for almost three decades and made him the face of the antiapartheid movement both within his country and internationally.  While in prison, he was told in 1985 that if he stopped his acts of violence, he would be allowed to go free.  He did not agree to this provision and remained incarcerated for another five years.  Finally released in 1990, he participated in the eradication of apartheid which culminated in 1994 when he became the first black president of South Africa, forming a multiethnic government to oversee the country’s transition.

After retiring from politics in 1999, he remained a devoted champion for peace and social justice in his own nation and around the world until his death in 2013 at the age of 95.

The statue resembles Mandela’s pose, his right arm extended into a fist above his head, on this day 27 years ago today (1990) when he was released from over 27 years of incarceration.  And the statue is in an ideal D.C. location, because it is on the same spot where daily anti-apartheid demonstrations took place, led by Randall Robinson, the noted author and activist, Georgetown professor Eleanor Holmes-Norton, civil rights activist Mary Frances Berry, and former D.C. Congressional Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy, beginning in November of 1984.

“We entered this building nearly 29 years ago,” Robinson said, with the belief that the struggles for justice in the United States and South Africa were inextricably “bound up together.”  At one point, Robinson recalled in his remarks, Norton left the meeting to speak with those waiting outside. Then the others announced they were not leaving until the government began to dismantle apartheid and released political prisoners, starting with Mandela.

They did leave, but under arrest and in handcuffs.  Their arrests were followed by more than 4,000 others as the protests continued day after day, month after month, until apartheid in South Africa finally ended a decade later, and Mandela became president of that country.

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

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The Argyle House Cat

While riding down Embassy Row in northwest D.C.’s Sheridan-Kalorama neighborhood during this bike ride, I saw what appeared to be a cat precariously perched on the roof of the house located at 2201 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP).  Not knowing if it was stuck or just sitting there taking in the view, I decided to take a closer look.  But upon closer inspection it turned out that it wasn’t actually a cat at all. It was a lone, gargoyle-like statue of a cat. Finding this to be unique to the neighborhood as well as interesting, I decided to try to learn more about the cat and the house upon which it sits.

Commonly known as the Argyle House, but also referred to as the Abercrombie-Miller house or Miller House, it is a Beaux-Arts mansion designed by the associate architect of the Library of Congress, Paul J. Pelz. Constructed around 1901, it was originally built for a wealthy, retired Navy Commander named Frederick Augustus Abercrombie-Miller. A few years after Miller passed away in 1908, the house was sold by his widow, and subsequently changed hands several times after that. During most of the 1920s it was owned by D.C. developer Harry Wardman or his business partners, who between 1923 and 1926 leased it to the Costa Rican and Salvadorean Legations. But like many mansions in D.C. at that time, it was divided into apartments during the Great Depression and rented as a boarding house. Today the Argyle House has been converted into a nine condominium units.

An integral part of the original house is the 500-square-foot, semi-detached garage, which is located adjacent to the alley behind the house, which can be accessed around the corner on 22nd Street.  Built at the same time as the house, it’s one of the first local constructions of its kind designed specifically as a garage to store an automobile instead of a stable house for a horse carriage. From 1986 to 2009 the garage was used by Olga Hirschhorn, widow of entrepreneur Joseph Herman Hirshhorn, and founder D.C.’s Hirshhorn Museum, to store part of her art collection. Hirschhorn named the structure her “Mouse House”, in a lighthearted reference to the house’s cat statue.

So what about that cat statue? It turns out that because Miller had been a Naval officer, the house includes a number of maritime architectural accents.  Among them is the cat on the ledge facing Massachusetts Avenue, which is intended to depict a ship’s cat.  Ship cats were a common feature on many trading, exploration, and naval ships of that time. The cats not only offered companionship to sailors who could be away from home for long periods, but would catch mice and rats aboard the ship, which could otherwise cause damage to ropes, woodwork and other parts of the ship, as well as damage to the cargo and provisions the ship was carrying. The ship cats could also be integral to preventing the spread of disease, which could be carried by the rats and mice, to other parts of the world.

So the Argyle House cat continues to sit there as it has for over a century, with most passersby oblivious to it.  And of those who do see it, most don’t know anything about it or why it’s there.  But now I do, and so do you.

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

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Statue of Sir Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill is a widely-known historic figure. When asked, a majority of people would be able to tell you who he was – the Prime Minister of England during World War II, and one of the greatest world leaders of the 20th century. But most people know relatively little about the man himself, despite the fact that he was one of the most diverse, interesting and admired men in recent history.

The following are some examples of the little-known facts that even people who know of Churchill don’t know about him.

  • Like his father, Churchill was a citizen of England. However, his mother was an American. And late in his life, Churchill became an American citizen when President John F. Kennedy made him the first person to be made an honorary American citizen, an honor that has been conferred on only two people during their lifetimes. The other was Mother Teresa.
  • As a young man he was often bullied and teased mercilessly by other children. Churchill struggled with a stutter and a lateral lisp, and was mocked for his red hair, for which he was given the cruel nickname “Copperknob”.
  • Churchill was extremely accident prone. In fact, he was so accident prone that the world is fortunate he survived into adulthood. During his lifetime Churchill fell off a bridge, fell several times from horses, nearly drowned in a lake, dislocated his shoulder while disembarking from a ship, crashed a plane while learning to fly, and was hit by a car when he looked the wrong way while crossing New York’s Fifth Avenue. None of these incidents, however, left him too worse for wear.
  • For Churchill it was not the third, but rather the fourth time that was a charm. Churchill proposed to three different women during his twenties. But all three said no.  It wasn’t until he proposed to his future wife, Clementine Hozier, that his proposal was accepted.  He and his darling Clementine remained married for 57 years, and the bond between the Churchills remained strong throughout. The couple would often send one another affectionate letters during long periods of absence – sometimes decorated with handdrawn illustrations. The pair also had pet names – she was his “Kat” and he was her “Pug”.
  • Much like the soon-to-be-former Speaker of the House, John Boehner, Churchill was an incredibly emotional man. He would often breakdown into sobs during meetings when he was given bad news, and he can even be heard trying to hold back tears in some of broadcasts and recordings of his speeches.
  • Like many Englishmen, Churchill often enjoyed his afternoon tea. But far from being a teetotaler, Churchill also frequently enjoyed a drink, and particularly Champagne. He once was quoted as saying, “I could not live without Champagne. In victory I deserve it. In defeat I need it.”
  • He also enjoyed good cigars, and was so notorious for his smoking that there is a Cuban cigar named in his honor.
  • Churchill claimed to have witnessed Abraham Lincoln’s ghost walking the corridors of the White House.  He is not the only one to make this claim though.  Both Theodore Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, also claimed to have encountered President Lincoln’s ghost in the White House.
  • When Churchill retired he moved to the South of France to concentrate on his writing. Under the pen name “Winston S. Churchill”, he wrote about 20 books over the course of his life, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
  • Churchill could be tactful, but didn’t always choose to be.  He once defined tact as “the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.”  But in response to a British politician named Bessie Braddock, who accused him of being drunk, he is quoted as saying, “I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.”
  • Using the pseudonym “Charles Morin”, Churchill was a prolific and accomplished painter. Not only did he use this creative outlet to derive great pleasure, but in it he found a haven to overcome his clinical depression, which he referred to as his “black dog”, a condition from which he suffered throughout his life. He produced almost 600 works of art during his lifetime.
  • In addition to being an artist and a writer, Churchill was, oddly enough, also an amateur bricklayer, and was at one time a member of the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers.  In his retirement he constructed brick buildings and garden walls and at his country home.
  • Lastly, Churchill was also a passionate breeder of butterflies. As a young man, he was a serious butterfly collector on his travels across the world. In fact, his interest in butterflies can be traced back as far as the age of six, when he wrote to his mother, “I am never at a loss to do anything while I am in the country for I shall be occupied with ‘butterflying’ all day.” In his later years, he built a butterfly habitat garden, complete with a brick breeding house, at Chartwell, his country home in England. He even attempted to bring back an extinct species, the black-veined white, by breeding imported caterpillars.

So on today’s lunchtime bike ride, I decided to go see a local statue erected in honor of this joint-citizenship-holding, red-headed, stuttering, clumsy, emotional, clinically-depressed, alcohol-drinking, cigar-smoking, ghost-seeing, book-writing, sometimes-tactless, artistic, bricklaying, butterfly-breeding, world leader.

The statue of Sir Winston Churchill is located at the British Embassy, which was the first embassy built in an area of D.C. now known as Embassy Row.  It is located at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP), in the Woodland-Normanstone Terrace neighborhood of northwest D.C.  The sculpture was created by an American sculptor named William Mozart McVey, and rests on a granite base.  Underneath the base is a time capsule and soil from England’s Blenheim Palace, from his rose garden at Chartwell, and from the Brooklyn home of his mother. The time capsule will be opened in the year 2063 to celebrate the centenary of the date on which Churchill was given honorary U.S. citizenship.

Churchill is depicted making the “V” for Victory sign with his right hand, and holding a cigar and a cane at his side with his left hand.  He is dressed in a suit, vest, and bow tie.  And symbolically, Churchill is positioned striding forward, with one of the cast bronze statue’s feet on British soil inside the marked embassy grounds, while with the other foot he is stepping into D.C., and thus in the United States.  This was done to symbolize Churchill’s Anglo-American parentage, his dual citizenship, and his work towards the maintenance of the Anglo-American alliance.

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

The plaque at the base of the statue reads, “Sir Winston Churchill 1874 – 1965 This statue, by William McVey (1902-1995), was erected in 1966 by public subscription, on the initiative of the English Speaking Union. One foot stands on United States soil, one on British Embassy grounds: a symbol of Churchill’s Anglo-American descent, and of the Alliance he did so much to forge, in war and peace.”

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Statue of Crown Princess Märtha

On this bike ride I stopped by the Norwegian Embassy to see the statue of Märtha Sofia Lovisa Dagmar Thyra, more commonly known as Crown Princess Märtha of Norway. The statue is located in front of the main residence on the grounds of the embassy, which is just off Massachusetts Avenue at 2720 34th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Embassy Row neighborhood.

Princess Märtha may be one of the only people in history to be born into a royal family, then cease being a member of that royal family before marrying back in to the same royal family once again. Princess Märtha was the daughter of Prince Carl of Sweden and Princess Ingeborg of Denmark.  She was born on March 28, 1901, in Stockholm, just prior to the dissolution of the union of the United Kingdoms of Norway and Sweden in June of 1905. So for the first four years of her life, she was a Princess of Sweden and Norway.  After the union of the sovereigns ended, she was no longer a princess of Norway, and became Princess Märtha of Sweden.

In March of 1929 following a year-long engagement, she married her cousin, Crown Prince Olav of Norway, in Oslo Cathedral, in the first royal wedding in Norway in 340 years. Thus, she once again became a Princess of Norway. They went on to have three children, Princesses Ragnhild and Astrid of Norway, and Prince Harald V, who eventually ascended to the thrown and is the current King of Norway.

When the Nazis invaded Norway in 1940, Princess Märtha and her children fled to her native Sweden. However, they were not well received by the Swedish people because it was felt that their presence could compromise Sweden’s neutrality. So at the invitation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the family came to the United States.  However, she was not accompanied by her husband, Crown Prince Olav, who stayed with his father, King Haakon VII, and established a government-in-exile in England.  After brief stays at Roosevelt’s private estate in Hyde Park, New York, and then the White House, the family purchased and moved into an estate in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside of D.C. However, she continued to maintain a close friendship with President Roosevelt after leaving the White House, and the family was often invited back and included in both private and public functions there.

When the war finally ended in 1945, Princess Märtha and the children returned to Norway, where they were reunited with Crown Prince Olav and King Haakon.  She focused on helping Norway and the Norwegian people recover from the war, and spent the rest of her life working with many charities in Norway.

Following a lengthy period of ill-health, Princess Märtha died of cancer in Oslo in 1954.  Her husband would go on to become King Olav V in 1957 until his death in January 1991.  Since her death came approximately three years before her husband ascended to the throne, she never became a queen and will forever remain a princess.  She was the princess of Norway from birth until the age of four, and then again from age 28 until her death. So during her lifetime her two tenures as a princess of Norway together lasted for 30 of her 54 years.

The bronze statue of Princess Märtha was sculpted by Norwegian sculptor Kirsten Kokkin, and was unveiled on September 18, 2005. It was a gift to the citizens of Norway from the Norwegian American Foundation on behalf of the Norwegian-American community in the United States. And if you can’t get to D.C. to see it, you have two other opportunities. Another cast of the statue is located at Palace Park in Oslo, Norway. It was unveiled by her son, King Harald V of Norway, on his 70th birthday in 2007. A third cast of the statue, located in Stockholm, Sweden, was unveiled in October of 2008.

Woodrow Wilson’s Interment Site

Woodrow Wilson’s Interment Site

In addition to the distinction of remaining a resident of the National Capitol City after leaving office in 1921, President Woodrow Wilson also has the distinction of being the only President whose final resting place is in D.C.  The 28th President is interred at Washington National Cathedral, which is located at 3101 Wisconsin Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Cathedral Heights neighborhood. And on today’s 91st anniversary of his death, it was the destination for this bike ride.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson served as President from 1913 until 1921. While still in office, President Wilson suffered a severe stroke in October of 1919, leaving him paralyzed on his left side, and with only partial vision in his right eye. This was compounded by the effects of a previous stroke he had while sleeping one night in 1906, which had caused blindness in his left eye. As a result, he was confined to bed for weeks and sequestered from everyone except his wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, and his physician, Dr. Cary Grayson. As there was no clear constitutional precedent at that time for what to do if a president became unable to perform his duties, Edith Wilson effectively led in his place.

Wilson served as President during a time prior to ratification of the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which limits a President to two terms in office. And had it not been for his significant health problems, he would have run and most likely been elected to a third term as President. But by the following year his disability had diminished his power and influence, and the Democratic Party ignored his tentative plan to run for re-election.

Despite his poor health limiting the time he was able to serve in office, Wilson was not only one of the more effective Presidents in history, but one of the more interesting ones as well. In addition to being the only President to live in D.C. after leaving office, and the only one to make D.C. his final resting place, the following are just a few of the more interesting facts about him.

Although he could not read until he was 9 years old and was mostly home-schooled, he went on to be the only President, so far, to earn a PhD.  He went by “Tom” or “Tommy” for most of his life, and didn’t switch to going by his middle name until he headed off to law school, because he thought it sounded more impressive. While living there, he was the first person to ride a bike in the city of Wilmington, North Carolina.  Afterward he remained an avid bike rider.  He was the first President to cross the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the first President to hold a press conference. He holds the record for spending more time outside the U.S. than any other President. Wilson was the first President to attend a World Series game, throwing out the first pitch of Game 2 between the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies in 1915.   Wilson holds the record among all U.S. Presidents for the most rounds of golf, having played over 1,000 rounds, or almost one every other day.  As President, Wilson issued a declaration creating Mother’s Day. His nickname is Professor because he was one at Princeton, where he was voted as the most popular professor for six consecutive years before becoming President of the University. He was married twice, and his second wife was a direct descendant of legendary Native American Pocahontas. He let flocks of sheep stay on the White House lawn. And after running on a platform of keeping the U.S. out of World War I, and then leading the nation into the war, Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for his efforts to avert future world wars. The Second World War would begin two decades later.  And the last thing he said was his wife’s name, Edith.

President Wilson retired in 1921, and he and his wife moved into an elegant 1915 town house on Embassy Row in northwest D.C.’s Kalorama neighborhood. Less than three years later, on February 3, 1924, the 67-year old former President died at home of another stroke and other heart-related problems. He was buried at the Washington National Cathedral, which was under construction at the time. Thirty years after his death his body was moved inside the church, where he was interred in a sarcophagus. Edith Wilson stayed in the home another 37 years, dying there on December 28, 1961, after which she was also interred at the Cathedral, below the tile in front of President Wilson’s crypt.

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The Society of the Cincinnati

The Society of the Cincinnati

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

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

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

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

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Embassy of the Republic of Iraq

Embassy of the Republic of Iraq

Today is the anniversary of “Operation Red Dawn,” an American military action which was executed on this day in 2003. The operation, named after the 1984 fictional war movie starring Patrick Swayze, took place in the town of ad-Dawr, in northern Iraq, near Tikrit, and led to the capture of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who had been on the run at that point for approximately nine months. In observance of the anniversary of the military operation, on this lunchtime bike ride I rode to the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq, located at 3421 Massachusetts (MAP) in the DuPont Circle neighborhood of northwest D.C.

Saddam’s downfall began on March 20th of that year, when the United States led a multi-national coalition of military forces into Iraq to topple his government, which had controlled the country for more than 20 years. Saddam went into hiding soon after the American-led invasion, speaking to his people only through an occasional audiotape.

After declaring Saddam the most important of a list of his regime’s 55 most-wanted members, the U.S. began an intense search for the former leader and his closest advisors. Five months later, on December 13, 2003, U.S. soldiers found him hiding nine miles outside his hometown of Tikrit, in a “spider hole”, which is military parlance for a camouflaged one-man hole in the ground. Saddam, the man once obsessed with hygiene, was found hiding in the dirt, unkempt, with a bushy beard and matted hair. He did not resist and was uninjured during the arrest. A soldier at the scene described him as “a man resigned to his fate.”

After an investigation and being interrogated by the FBI, Saddam was eventually tried by a Iraqi special tribunal on several criminal counts, and was found guilty of crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to death by hanging. After an unsuccessful appeal, the execution was carried out on December 30, 2006.

After getting back from my bike ride to the embassy, I took a look at the newspaper from eleven years ago today. It was in a stack of old newspapers I keep in my office. Whenever there is a significant news story that results in what’s called a “banner” headline, I buy an extra copy of that day’s newspaper and throw it on the stack that’s behind the door to my office, where I have a collection of newspapers dating all the way back to 1980 with a headline that reads, “Reagan Landslide!”

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The Japanese Embassy

The Japanese Embassy

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the United States’ declaration of war against the Empire of Japan, which occurred as a direct result of the previous day’s attack conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In recognition of this anniversary, on this lunchtime bike ride Julius and I rode to the Embassy of Japan, located at 2520 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Embassy Row neighborhood.

Beginning at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time on December 7, 1941, 353 Japanese fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers, launched a surprise strike against the American naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii, which was the headquarters of the United States Pacific Fleet. The attack was intended as a preventive action in order to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States.

The damage incurred by the United States as a result of the attack was extensive, including 2,403 Americans killed and 1,178 others who were wounded.  Additionally, all eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four being sunk.  All but one, the USS Arizona, were later raised, and six of the eight battleships were returned to service and went on to fight in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, one minelayer, and 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed.

Described the following day by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in an address to a joint session of Congress as “a date which will live in infamy,” the result of the attack was the exact opposite of what had been intended. Instead of intimidating the United States, the attack led to President Roosevelt asking Congress the very next day to declare war on Japan. Congress approved his declaration with just one dissenting vote, leading to the United States’ entry into both the Pacific and European theaters of World War II. Three days later, Japanese allies Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, and again Congress reciprocated. More than two years after the conflict had commenced, the United States had finally joined World War II.

Calvary Baptist Church

Calvary Baptist Church

On this day in 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment and bringing an end to the era of national prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. It should be noted that the consumption of alcohol was never illegal under federal law. Prohibition focused on the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. However, exceptions were made for medicinal and religious uses. Nationwide prohibition did not begin until 1920, when the 18th Amendment to the Constitution went into effect.  Thirteen years later, what President Woodrow Wilson referred to as “America’s noble experiment” ended.

The movement for the interdiction of alcohol that eventually resulted in Prohibition actually started much earlier – in the early 19th century, when Americans concerned about the adverse effects of drinking began forming temperance societies. By the late part of the century, these groups had become a powerful political force, campaigning on the state level and calling for national liquor abstinence. The Anti-Saloon League was one of the most prominent of these organizations, and eventually spearheaded the lobbying for prohibition in this country.  Calvary Baptist Church, a bright red brick church located at 755 8th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood, is where the first Anti-Saloon League meeting was held. It was also one of my destinations on today’s lunchtime bike ride.

On this ride I also went by a couple of other D.C. locations with connections to Prohibition – The Woodrow Wilson House and D.C.’s Temperance Fountain – despite the fact that I have been to and written in this blog about these locations previously.

While most presidents at that time happily retired back to their home state, Wilson decided to stick around and continued to live in the national Capitol city after leaving office. His second wife, Edith, had lived in D.C. before they met and received a small fortune when her former husband, a prosperous local jeweler, passed away. Woodrow and Edith moved into their newly-acquired Embassy Row home at 2340 S Street (MAP) in 1921.  But it wasn’t an easy move. Prohibition was in effect at the time, and since it forbade the transportation of alcohol, it presented a problem for Wilson, who did not want to leave his fine wine collection behind in the White House for his successor, especially since the recently elected Warren G. Harding was known to be a heavy drinker.  Wilson appealed to Congress, and Congress passed a special law just for him that allowed one person on one specific day “to transport alcohol from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to 2340 S Street.”

My last destination for this prohibition-themed bike ride was the Temperance Fountain, located at the corner of Seventh Street and Indiana Avenue in downtown D.C. (MAP).  A temperance fountain was a fountain that was set up, usually by a private benefactor, to encourage people not to drink alcohol by providing safe and free water instead. During the earlier temperance movement, beer was the main alternative to water, and generally safer. The temperance societies had no real alternative as tea and coffee were too expensive, so water fountains were very attractive. One such fountain still exists in D.C. It was one of the ones built by Henry Cogswell, a dentist and a crusader in the temperance movement. It was his dream to construct one temperance fountain for every 100 saloons in the U.S. It is unknown exactly how many Cogswell actually built, but the fountain in D.C. is one of only four that still remain.

After the repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933, some states continued Prohibition by maintaining statewide temperance laws. Mississippi, the last “dry” state, didn’t end Prohibition until 1966. To this day there continue to be areas within states where prohibition remains in effect, commonly referred to as “dry counties.” There are currently more than 500 counties and municipalities in the U.S. that are dry, including 83 in Alaska. Nearly one half of Mississippi’s counties are dry. And in Florida, four of its 67 counties are dry, all of which are located in the northern part of the state, an area that has cultural ties to the Deep South. And although Moore County, Tennessee, is the home of Jack Daniel’s, a major operational distillery of whiskey, it is also a dry county, so the product is not available at stores or restaurants within the county.

By comparison, D.C. is not dry, and it is very different place today than it was when the Anti-Saloon League was meeting at Calvary Baptist Church and people were drinking water from the Temperance Fountain.  There are currently over 1,900 establishments and businesses that possess liquor licenses to sell alcohol to the 646,449 residents in the 68-square-mile area known as the District of Columbia.  This works out to a bar or liquor store for every 340 residents of our nation’s capitol.

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Statue of Eleftherios Venizélos

Statue of Eleftherios Venizélos

On this lunchtime bike ride I stopped by to see the statue of Elefthérios Venizélos which stands in front of the Embassy of Greece, located at 2217 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Embassy Row neighborhood.

Elefthérios Kyriákou Venizélos was born in Mournies near Chania, in then–Ottoman Crete in 1864.  When the Cretan revolution broke out two years later, his family fled to the island of Syros.  Because of his father’s involvement in the revolution, they were not allowed to return to Crete, and stayed in Syros until 1872, when they were granted amnesty.  He later returned to Syros, where he spent his final year of secondary education before enrolling at the University of Athens Law School.  He then returned to Crete in 1886 and worked as a lawyer in Chania.

Early on, Venizélos felt that he was faced with a career decision, which he later described when he stated, “I had to decide whether I would be a lawyer by profession and a revolutionary at intervals, or a revolutionary by profession and a lawyer at intervals.”  Influenced by his father and profoundly affected by his earlier experiences of living in exile, he opted to be a revolutionary.

Venizélos became a leader of of the Greek national liberation movement in Crete and in 1896, as a member of the Liberal Party, he took a prominent role in the Cretan rising against Turkish rule.  In 1905 Venizélos becoming the island’s first independent prime minister.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Venizélos favored an alliance with Britain, France and Russia against the Central Powers.  He wanted Greece to give military aid to the Allies, and when King Constantine refused to agree, Venizélos resigned from office.

When he was again elected Prime Minister after a landslide victory in March 1915, he ordered mobilization of the Greek Army.  But when Venizélos invited the Allied forces to Salonika, he was dismissed by the king.  Venizélos then returned to Crete where he formed a provisional revolutionary government.

With the support of Allied forces, Venizélos made plans to march on Athens and overthrow King Constantine.   But in June of 1917, the king was deposed and Venizélos was able to regain power without resorting to force.

Venizélos led the Greek war effort until the Armistice in November 1918.  At the Versailles Peace Conference, he won substantial territorial gains for his country from Bulgaria and Turkey.

However, despite his achievements, Venizelos was defeated in the 1920 general election, and the new pro-royalist government invited King Constantine back to power.

Venizelos was elected prime minister again in 1924, 1928-32 and 1933.  And again in 1935, Venizélos came out of retirement to support another revolt in Crete.  When this failed Venizélos was forced to flee to France, where he died in 1936.

It’s impossible to know how successful Venizélos might have been had he made a different career choice and remained a lawyer.  But the statue in front of the Greek Embassy honoring him as a prominent and illustrious statesman who is credited with being “the maker of modern Greece” would seem to indicate he made the right decision.