Posts Tagged ‘Kalorama’

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Pierce Mill

I had no particular destination in mind when I left on this lunchtime bike ride.  Initially, I just rode north.  Then as I was riding and would see a direction that didn’t look familiar, I would follow it.  As I made my way up through the DuPont Circle, Kalorama, Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods, I just continued riding.  Eventually I found myself on a long downhill stretch of Park Road, and as I crossed over Beach Road I happened upon Peirce Mill.  Situated in Rock Creek Park, Peirce Mill is located at 2539 Tilden Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.

Peirce Mill was built on 1839 by a Quaker farmer from Pennsylvania named Issac Peirce.  Using the moving water or Rock Creek as a power source, the mill ground corn, wheat, and rye.  However, Peirce was not a miller and did not operate the mill himself.  Instead, he hired other millers to do so.  It remained in operation for more than six decades.  The last commercial load ground was in 1897, when the main shaft broke, while a millwright named Alcibiades P. White was grinding a load of rye.

The Federal government bought the mill as part of Rock Creek Park and it was restored as a Public Works Administration project, completed in March 1936, at a cost of $26,614.  Operation began again in October of 1936 under the supervision of miller Robert A. Little.  The mill was used from December 1, 1936 until 1958 to provide flour for government cafeterias.  Eventually, however, due to a lack of trained millwrights and lack of water in the millrace, it again discontinued operating as a mill, and was used from that time forward as an historical site.

There was a brief period, between 1993 and 1997, that the mill was closed once again.  A restoration effort was begun by the Friends of Peirce Mill, and the mill was restored with the support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The mill officially reopened in October of 2011.

Peirce Mill is currently open from April 1st through October 31st from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m, Wednesday through Sunday.  During the month of November it is open on only Saturdays and Sundays, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  And from December through the end of March it is open from noon to 4:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays. But the best time to plan a visit is on the 2nd or 4th Saturday of each month between April and October, when the National Park Service typically runs mill operation demonstrations.

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

Note:  I recently ran across the following photo in the Library of Congress, taken sometime between the 1880s and 1910s.  It depicts men riding bikes near Peirce Mill, showing that people have been riding bikes to and near the mill for over a hundred years.

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The Lindens

I’ve found that if you remain alert when riding a bike around D.C., you’re almost always guaranteed to happen upon something interesting and out of the ordinary. And on today’s lunchtime bike ride, I chose to ride around with no particular destination in mind hoping to find something new.  I wasn’t disappointed. I was riding around the historic Kalorama Heights neighborhood in northwest D.C. when I happened upon an “Art On Call” installation. Art On Call is a city-wide effort, lead by an organization named Cultural Tourism DC, to restore the city’s abandoned roadside police and fire call boxes and turn them into neighborhood artistic icons. (Note: I plan on writing a future blog post on this subject.)

The Art on Call piece I discovered on this ride was about a house known as The Lindens.  Located nearby at 2401 Kalorama Road (MAP), the house is also known as the King Hooper House.  But it is more than just a house. The elegant Georgian-style house is also the answer to a riddle.  So if anyone ever tells you that there is a house in our nation’s capitol that is the oldest house in the city, even though some houses have been in city longer. And then asks you what house it is, you will know the answer is The Lindens. And after reading this post, you’ll know why.

The house known as The Lindens was built in 1754, more than two decades before America declared its independence, making it the oldest house currently in D.C.  However, it has not always been here.  It was originally built in Danvers, Massachusetts by Robert Hooper, an English Loyalist and wealthy shipping and business tycoon.  It was Hooper, whose nickname was King, who hired an architect named Peter Harrison to build him a summer home for property he owned in Danvers.  It got its name, The Lindens, as a reference to the linden trees that lined the property’s original driveway.  It remained in Massachusetts for nearly 200 years, and had many illustrious owners over those years, including Henry Adams, descendant of President John Adams.  As the American Revolution drew near in 1774, the house even temporarily  sheltered General Thomas Gage, the Massachusetts colony’s last British governor.

However, it become run down over the years and by the time the Great Depression hit the house was in a sad state of affairs. Then in 1933, it was rescued by Israel Sack, founder of the Sack Gallery based in Boston, and Leon David, a Boston real estate and antiques dealer.  At that time Sack used the house for storage and as a showroom. He also brought in a team of architects from the Historic American Buildings Survey in D.C. to make a set of measured drawings and photographs of the house. Those drawings and photographs would soon come in handy.

In 1934, George Maurice Morris, a lawyer who eventually became president of the American Bar Association, and his wife, Miriam, a fertilizer heiress, bought the house for $10,000.  They then had it moved to its present location on Kalorama Road.  Under the supervision of Walter Mayo Macomber, the architect of reconstructed Colonial Williamsburg, the house was painstakingly taken apart and transported on six railroad cars to its new home.  Using the drawings and photographs, it was reassembled beginning in 1935, and took 34 months to complete.  The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.  So even though there are numerous homes in the city that predate The Lindens tenure at its current location, the house itself is, nonetheless, the oldest house in D.C.

And if this house sounds interesting to you and you think you might want to own it, you’re in luck.  It is currently for sale.  The 262-year old, 8,820 square-foot house boasts six bedroom suites, and seven full and two half baths on five separate levels. It also includes banquet and embassy-sized principal rooms, a reception hall, a library, a spa with sauna, a billiard room, a tavern room, and eleven fireplaces. The Colonial-style home has all of this, as well as a patio and three-car garage, all on a majestic half-acre, landscaped and fully fenced-in yard.  The Lindens was featured in Architectural Digest in January of 2014.  The house most recently sold for $7.165 million in February of 2007 to retired hedge fund manager Kenneth Brody, but is now on the market again and could be yours for a mere 8.75 million dollars.  I looked over my budget and worked out the math, and found out that I’d have to sell some of my bikes to be able to afford it.  So I decided to pass.

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

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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National Museum of American Jewish Military History

National Museum of American Jewish Military History

There are a large number of museums in our nation’s capitol and the surrounding area, and among them are many that are a number of specialty museums. One such example is the National Museum of American Jewish Military History. Located at 1811 R Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s DuPont Circle neighborhood, it was the destination for this bike ride.

The National Museum of American Jewish Military History was founded in September of 1958. It is operated by the Jewish War Veterans (JWV), USA, National Memorial, Inc., and is housed in the same building as the organization’s headquarters. According to the JWV, the museum is intended “to document and preserve the contributions of Jewish Americans to the peace and freedom of the United States, educate the public concerning the courage, heroism and sacrifices made by Jewish Americans who served in the armed forces, and to combat anti-Semitism.”

The museum is comprised of two floors of permanent and special exhibitions, in addition to sponsoring a number of traveling displays that are temporarily displayed in other institutions throughout the country. In addition to exhibitions, the Museum also features the Captain Joshua L. Goldberg Memorial Chapel, and a study center that serves as site for the museum lecture series and other special programs. The Museum also includes an Honorial Wall and Tree of Honor, which are memorials which recognize individuals and organizations that contribute to the goals of the museum.

The National Museum of American Jewish Military History is an active member of the Dupont-Kalorama Museums Consortium, which was established in 1983 to promote the “off the Mall” museums and their neighborhoods in the greater Dupont-Kalorama area of D.C.

Whether you’re a tourist or a local, I highly recommend exploring some of the off-the-beaten path specialty museums, like this one.

 

The Washington Hilton

The Washington Hilton

The Washington Hilton, sometime referred to by locals as “The Hinkley Hilton,” is located at 1919 Connecticut Avenue (MAP) in Northwest D.C., roughly at the boundaries of the Kalorama, Dupont Circle, and Adams Morgan neighborhoods. The hotel has seen its share of history. It also hosted the first International Conference on Computer Communications which demonstrated new ARPANET technology, the precursor to the Internet. It has also hosted the White House Correspondents Association, the Radio and Television Correspondents Association, and the National Prayer Breakfast. The hotel’s ballroom has also been the venue for a number of concerts, including The Doors and Jimi Hendrix. But The Washington Hilton is most widely remembered for an event that occurred just outside the hotel’s T Street exit. It was there that John Hinckley, Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan as the culmination of his effort to impress teen actress Jodie Foster.

Just 69 days into his presidency, Reagan exited the hotel through “The President’s Walk,” which had been built specifically as a security measure after the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  As Hinckley waited within the crowd of admirers, Reagan unexpectedly passed right in front of him. Knowing that he would never get a better chance, Hinckley fired six times in just 1.7 seconds, seemingly missing the President with all six shots. The first bullet hit White House Press Secretary James Brady in the head. The second hit District of Columbia police officer Thomas Delahanty in the back of his neck as he turned to protect Reagan. Hinckley now had a clear shot at the President, but the third overshot him and hit the window of a building across the street. As Special-Agent-in-Charge Jerry Parr quickly pushed Reagan into the limousine, the fourth hit Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy in the abdomen as he spread his body over Reagan to make himself a target. The fifth hit the bullet-resistant glass of the window on the open side door of the limousine. The sixth and final bullet ricocheted off the armored side of the limousine and hit the president in his left underarm, grazing a rib and lodging in his lung, stopping approximately an inch from his heart. Had Parr hesitated for a moment, the President would likely have been hit in the head.

The President, whose Secret Service codename was “Rawhide,” was rushed in his limousine, codenamed “Stagecoach,” to the emergency room at George Washington University Hospital, where it arrived less than four minutes after leaving the hotel. When his wife Nancy arrived Reagan remarked to her, “Honey, I forgot to duck.” Later, in the operating room, Reagan removed his oxygen mask to joke, “I hope you are all Republicans.” The doctors and nurses laughed, while Dr. Joseph Giordano, who was the head of the medical team and a liberal Democrat, replied, “Today, Mr. President, we are all Republicans.” Reagan survived the surgery with a good prognosis, and went on to serve out the rest of his first term as well as a second term on his way to becoming one of the most popular presidents of the modern era. Reagan died 23 years later at the age of 93 of pneumonia brought on by Alzheimer’s disease at his home in Bel Air, California.

Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity on June 21, 1982. The defense psychiatric reports had found him to be insane while the prosecution reports declared him legally sane. After his trial, he wrote that the shooting was “the greatest love offering in the history of the world”, and did not indicate any regrets. Hinckley was committed at St. Elizabeths Psychiatric Hospital indefinitely. Over the years he has been allowed to leave the hospital intermittently for visits with his family, but Hinckley remains confined at St. Elizabeths to this day.

The two law enforcement officers recovered from their wounds, although Delahanty was ultimately forced to retire from the police force due to his injuries. Since the bullet had ricocheted off Delahanty’s spinal cord after striking his neck, he suffered permanent nerve damage to his left arm. McCarthy finished out his career with the Secret Service where he retired in 1993. He subsequently served as Chief of the Orland Park, Illinois Police Department and in 1997, he unsuccessfully ran for Illinois Secretary of State as a Democrat.  Parr came to believe that God had directed his life to save Reagan, and became a pastor. The attack seriously wounded Brady, who sustained a serious head wound and became permanently disabled. Brady and his wife Sarah became leading advocates of gun control and remain actively committed to actions to reduce the amount of gun violence in the U.S.

Although the hotel was considered the safest in D.C. due to the secure, enclosed passageway called “The President’s Walk”, the unenclosed outer door from which Reagan had left the hotel shortly before being shot, was altered subsequent to the assassination attempt. The open canopy above the door was removed and a brick drive-through enclosure was constructed to allow the president to move directly from the door of his car into the hotel without public access.

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The Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps

On this ride I visited the only public park in D.C. that occupies a city street.  Located on what would be 22nd Street in the Kalorama neighborhood of northwest D.C. (MAP), are the Decatur Terrace Steps and Fountain, known colloquially as the Spanish Steps.  Instead of continuing 22nd Street, the steps were constructed in 1911 by the District of Columbia Municipal Office of Public Works and Grounds as a solution to a topographical predicament involving a slope which was too steep for carriages, and to provide a pedestrian link between S Street and Decatur Place.

What most likely would have been a simple staircase in any other era, the steps were built at the height of what is known as the “City Beautiful Movement.”  This reform philosophy of North American architecture and urban planning flourished during the 1890s and 1900s with the intent of introducing beautification and monumental grandeur in cities.  However, it promoted beauty not only for its own sake, but also to instill moral and civic virtue among urban populations.

So the ornate concrete staircase was designed to include narrow bands of steps that flank wider central steps, planting beds, and an oval-shaped basin and lion-head fountain on an upper terrace.  Two graceful sets of stairs then curve around the fountain to meet at the top, which consists of a broad brick terrace and balustrade.  The entire area is lined with a mix of magnolias, eastern red cedars, oaks, and other flowering trees, and there are two lamp posts at the bottom.  The steps are so elaborate that they are actually listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing feature in the Sheridan-Kalorama Historic District, designated in 1989.

When viewed from Decatur Street to the south, the Spanish Steps appear imposing and impressive.  However, when approaching from S Street to the north, they are fairly well hidden.  Their secluded location and cloak of lush greenery give the steps an intimate, almost secret feeling, making it seem as though you have discovered a hidden treasure in the middle of the city.

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