Posts Tagged ‘National Mall’

Anton Hilberath

Despite Arlington National Cemetery (MAP) usually being thought of as a place where America lays to rest its heroes and honored dead, there are also “enemies” buried there.  From its very beginning,  the cemetery has also been the final resting place of individuals considered to be enemy combatants.  It began with Confederate soldiers.  At the time they were buried they were considered the enemy.  However, most people no longer consider them as such.  In addition to the Confederate soldiers, I was surprised to learn that there are also three foreign prisoners of war from World War II laid to rest there.  So on this bike ride, I set out to find them.

During World War II there were approximately 435,788 prisoners of war held in more than 900 camps in 46 states, plus Alaska, which was not yet a state.  The vast majority of these prisoners were from the German military, although there were also approximately 51,455 Italians and 5,435 Japanese held in the United States.  Of these men, there is one German prisoner of war, named Anton Hilberath, buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  Although his is the only grave there, he is one of at least 830 German prisoners of war who died and were buried in the United States.  Of the Italian prisoners of war held in the United States, there are only two buried at Arlington National.  Their names are Mario Batista and Arcangelo Prudenza.  All three were captured and taken prisoner during the African Campaign in North Africa.  They were then shipped across the Atlantic Ocean and held on Maryland’s eastern shore.  There they were permitted to work on farms, for modest pay, since it was decided that they presented no risk to people in the area and likely would not try to escape.

All three died in captivity in 1946, and were buried in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, which stated that if a prisoner of war or a foreign national died in another country during World War II, they should be buried in the closest national cemetery of that country.  So with Arlington National being the closest national cemetery, all three men were buried there.

Little information is available about these three men, or most of the other prisoners, inasmuch as virtually all records of prisoners were transferred to military authorities in their home countries through the International Red Cross.  So unfortunately, the lost and the incomplete records that remain, compounded by the passage of time, means that it is likely we will never know much more about these men than the information contained on their headstones – their names, ranks, and when they died.

Having seen German, Italian, as well as Japanese tourists visiting The National World War II Memorial on the National Mall here in D.C., I find it increasingly difficult to remember how these people were so negatively viewed in this country less than a lifetime ago.  And that’s a good thing.

Mario Batista

Arcangelo Prudenza

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Today’s Capitals’ Victory Parade and Rally

With the Washington Capitals winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history last week, D.C. celebrated its first major sports championship in 26 years with a victory parade today. It all began with truly fanatical fans congregating near the parade’s stage before 4:00am, a full seven hours before it was scheduled to begin. As the morning progressed, Metro stations and downtown streets were clogged with fans clad in red. And by 8:30am thousands had already lined the parade route, although the start of the parade was still more than two hours away.

The parade finally kicked off at 11:00 a.m., starting at the intersection of Constitution Avenue and 17th Street (MAP) near The Washington Monument, and proceeding east along Constitution Avenue to Seventh Street. There it turned right, where it culminated with a rally on the National Mall (MAP).

During the away games throughout the Stanley Cup finals series, thousands of people packed the streets around the Capital One Arena in downtown D.C. for watch parties. And when the Caps actually won the cup, police said they dealt with a mostly peaceful crowd. In fact, not one person had to be arrested. But it was difficult to predict what today’s celebration would be like because there was a big unknown factor when it came to today’s parade and rally. And that was the size of the crowd which would show up.

D.C. is certainly no stranger when it comes to hosting parades and marches. Hundreds of thousands of people attended the March for Our Lives on the National Mall earlier this year. But it’s been awhile since the city hosted a victory parade.

A massive crowd of more than 600,000 fans showed up for the Washington Redskins’ Super Bowl XXII victory parade in 1988. That prompted the D.C. police to limit the size of subsequent celebrations. So in 1992, when the Redskins won Super Bowl XXVI and held a victory rally on the National Mall, a more moderate yet respectable crowd of 75,000 people showed up. And in 1997, when the D.C. United won the Major League Soccer title, there was a nine-block parade along Pennsylvania Avenue. The Washington Post said “several hundred” people showed up for that parade and described the crowd as “small, but enthusiastic.”

But with different variables and unknown factors, such as it being the city’s first National Hockey League championship, the parade being held on a weekday when many people had to be at work, and whether yesterday’s rain would stop in time for the rally, it was a matter of wait and see when it came to the crowd size and what would happen.

Eventually a crowd estimated at around 100,000 people (100,001 if you include me) showed up to line the parade route and “Rock the Red” in support of the Stanley Cup champions, and watch the procession led from the rear by team captain and future hall of famer Alexander Ovechkin, who was atop a double-decker, open-top bus holding the Stanley Cup aloft for all to see. He was preceded by marching bands, Mayor Muriel Bowser and other officials, a Clydesdales-drawn Budweiser beer wagon, his teammates, and even a Zamboni.

We then proceeded to the rally which, like at the watch parties, was mostly peaceful. But it was not subdued by any means. There were a number of short speeches, including team owner Ted Leonsis, Head Coach Barry Trotz, and each of the players. One of the more memorable comments came from right winger Nicklas Backstrom, who proclaimed, “Finally, we started playing hockey like we can party.” The rally ended with a sing-along of Queen’s song “We are the Champions,” led by Alex Ovechkin. All in all it was a fitting celebration to an historic season for the franchise and for the city.

So now it’s up to the Washington Nationals. If they can keep playing well through the summer, who knows? We may be having another victory parade here in D.C. around the end or October of beginning of November.

        

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

Note:  While the celebration was going on here in D.C., a full page ad, bought by the Capitals, was running in a Las Vegas newspaper to congratulate the Vegas Golden Knights, who they defeated last week for the Stanley Cup, on having such an outstanding season.

The ad reads, “Congratulations to the Vegas Golden Knights on the most successful inaugural season in the history of professional sports. World class ownership, front office, coaching staff and people. A magnificent team of talented, hard-working players and stars. A fantastic venue filled with passionate, loud and proud fans. It was an honor to compete against you in the Stanley Cup Final. You are truly VEGAS STRONG.”

Now that’s #CapsClass.

A President’s Surprise Visit to the Lincoln Memorial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 45th Annual March for Life

This week has been an interesting one. The workweek began with a day off to commemorate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal holiday. Severe winter weather moved into the area during the week as well. With temperatures near 70 degrees during the preceding weekend, a weather front moved in that had the temperatures drop down into single digits. The weather front also brought snow with it, which caused areas schools to close on more than one day. Now at the end of a week in which Federal workers like myself are waiting to see if the lack of a budget will result in the government shutting down at the end of the day today, the temperature has risen back up to almost 50 degrees just in time for my lunchtime bike ride to this year’s March for Life.

The March for Life is an annual event which began as a small demonstration on the first anniversary of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 1973 in cases known as Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton, which were landmark decisions on the issue of abortion. Over the years the March for Life has grown to include numerous other cities in the United States and throughout the world. The March in D.C., however, has become and remains the largest pro-life event in the world.

I have attended the March for Life each year for many years, as I did again today for the 45th annual march. This year’s events included a musical opening before the rally program began, which took place at noon on the National Mall at 12th Street, in between Madison Drive and Jefferson Drive. During the program there were a number of featured speakers, including President Donald Trump (via video satellite), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Pam Tebow, the mother of former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. Directly after the program there was a march up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court Building and the Capitol Building took place. After finishing marching there was then a time for “Silent No More” testimonies outside U.S. Supreme Court, as well as chances for some to meet with their Representative or Senator to advocate for life.

According to the latest statistics available on abortions worldwide, published by the World Health Organization (WHO), every year there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day.  Approximately 926,200 of these abortions were performed in the United States, which equates to approximately nineteen percent of all pregnancies in this country (excluding miscarriages) ending in abortion. Other available information from the WHO on abortion in the United States shows that nearly half (45%) of all pregnancies among U.S. women were unintended, and about four in 10 of these were terminated by abortion. This made the abortion rate 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged (15–44).  Among these women, 1.5% have had an abortion, with just under half of these women (45%) reported having a previous abortion.  Those who have abortions come primarily from the poorest among us (75 percent), women of color (61 percent), women pursuing post-secondary degrees that would lift them out of poverty (66 percent), and mothers who already have dependents (59 percent).  Overall, based on all available statistics, one in 20 women (5%) will have an abortion by age 20, about one in five (19%) by age 30 and about one in four (24%) by age 45.

The March for Life may not put an end to the tragedy of abortion, but it’s a good step (or steps).

 

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

More information about the annual March for Life can be found on one of my previous blog posts.

#WhyWeMarch  #MarchForLife  #MarchForLife2018

The Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

One of my very favorite gardens in D.C., and one which I stop by frequently during my lunchtime bike rides, is the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden. Conveniently located on the south side of the National Mall in the city’s Downtown neighborhood, the garden is tucked neatly in-between the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (MAP), in an area which had previously been slated to become a parking lot.

The half-acre curvilinear-shaped garden was designed by local architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen as a sensory garden, with raised planting beds and greater accessibility for handicapped and other visitors. Many of its original plants were brought in from the Litchfield, Connecticut home of Mary Livingston Ripley, an avid lifelong plant scholar-collector, active gardener, and wife of the S. Dillon Ripley, the Smithsonian Institution’s eighth Secretary.  The garden opened in 1978, and a decade later it was renamed in Mrs. Ripley’s honor by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, a philanthropic group she helped found.

The garden has evolved over the years, with more recent efforts focused on exposing visitors to the widest variety of plants and flowers possible, many of which are grown in the Smithsonian Gardens Greenhouse Complex in Maryland.  Currently there are more than 200 varieties of plants in hanging baskets, borders, raised serpentine and circular beds, and even growing vertically on plant walls.

The garden is also adorned with a number of 19th-century cast-iron furnishings. These furnishings are part of the historical collection belonging to Smithsonian Gardens, and include a large Acanthus fountain anchoring the middle of the garden, ornate light posts interspersed along the paths, and benches that are far away enough from each other that they provide a sense of intimacy with the person you’re sitting with rather than people on the next bench.

Another asset of the Ripley Garden is horticulturist Janet Draper and her staff.  They not only maintain this incredible garden, but are also friendly, helpful if you have a question or need assistance, and even offer an informal walking tour of the garden every Tuesday at 2 p.m. through October, weather permitting.

For anyone who hasn’t yet been there, I highly recommend it.  And I would encourage you to spend some time there and be attentive, unlike the commuters and other pedestrians who simply use the garden as a cut-through between Independence Avenue and the National Mall.  And if you’re able, I would suggest going several times, perhaps at different times during the year.  It is worth repeated visits not only for the quantity and variety of plants. but because the garden is ever changing.

         

         

         

         

The following are some of my favorite photos, mostly of of flowers and plants, that I took over the past year
or so in the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden.  Click on each to see the full-size version.  Viewing them on a
high definition screen is suggested in order to better see the complexity and intricate beauty of each.

         

         

         

         

         

         

          

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

          

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

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

Sign hanging in the Ripley Garden

Needle Tower

The destination of today’s lunchtime bike ride was Needle Tower, a public artwork by Kenneth Duane Snelson, an American contemporary sculptor and photographer.  The 60-foot abstract sculpture of steel wires and aluminum tubes is on display outside of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, which is located just off the National Mall at Independence Avenue and 7th Street (MAP) in southwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood. 

At first glance it seems improbable that Needle Tower can even remain upright.  But the aluminum tubes of the slim and graceful piece act in compression, and held in tension by the stainless steel cables threaded through in the ends of the aluminum tubes.

Snelson’s works often center around or incorporate geometric shapes.  And this piece is a good example of that.  The tower itself is interesting.  But looking up from the inside of Needle Tower is where it really impresses.  I see Stars of David getting progressively smaller in a seemingly endless procession ascending into the sky, symbolizing the infinite nature of the universe.  According to Snelson, however, six-pointed stars are common, and the piece does not include the Star of David nor is it symbolic.  In Needle Tower the six pointedness comes from the natural geometry of the three compression struts that make up each layer.  Sets of three alternate with left and right helical modules, adding up to six when viewed upwards from the base of the tower.

The structure was built in 1968, and has been on continuous display since the museum’s namesake, Joseph Hirshhorn, donated it in 1974. It remains one of the museum’s most popular works of art.  Needle Tower is so popular, in fact, that it was placed in its central spot outside the museum so that when tourists pass by on their way to and from nearby museums and attractions, it draws their attention to both the piece and the Hirshhorn.

A second Needle Tower, Needle Tower II, was completed in 1968 and was acquired in 1971 by the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands. That piece resides in the museum’s sculpture garden.  And I look forward to seeing it on my next bike ride to the Netherlands.

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

Paradise In Pots

During today’s lunchtime bike ride I stopped to take a break at the Enid Haupt Garden, located just behind the Smithsonian Castle, just off the National Mall at 1000 Jefferson Drive (MAP).  As I was entering the grounds I saw a sign for an outdoor potted plant exhibit located on the garden’s western patio entitled Paradise In Pots.  The exhibit included hundreds of tropical and warm weather plants, most of which are currently in bloom despite the increasingly cooler autumn temperatures.

The exhibit is only temporary, however, because they will have to take the plants in before the really cold weather arrives.  When they take the plants in, they will be taken back to an off-site facility in Suitland, Maryland.  The facility, known as the Smithsonian Gardens Greenhouse Complex, actually includes fourteen greenhouses and serves as the production and maintenance facility for thousands of seasonal plants that are displayed in gardens, grounds, and indoor and outdoor horticultural exhibits throughout the Smithsonian Institution museums and properties.  The Suitland complex also houses the Smithsonian Orchid Collection, tropical plant specimens, interior display plants, and thousands of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs, plus hundreds of poinsettias and other holiday plants.  They grow the nectar plants as well for the Butterfly Pavilion at the National Museum of Natural History.

So the next time you step outside your office or visit the museums downtown, take notice of all the plants – inside and outside the buildings. It is most likely that every one of them came from your newest neighbors on the Suitland Campus; the staff at the Greenhouse Nursery Branch!

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

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

2016eoy15

1 – A Metro train inbound from Alexandria to D.C. as it passes over the Potomac River

Back in May of this year I wrote a post about meeting my original goal for this blog, and what my future goals would be.  Along with that post I also published a couple of dozen miscellaneous photos that I had taken during my lunchtime bike rides, but had not previously used for other posts on this blog.  As this year is rapidly coming to an end, I decided to post some more miscellaneous photos.  So below I have included a couple of dozen more photos that I took at different times over the past year, but have not used for this blog.  Be sure to click on each of the photos to view the full-size versions.

 2 2016eoy02    3 2016eoy04    4 2016eoy10

 5 2016eoy05    6 2016eoy06    7 2016eoy09

 8 2016eoy08    9 2016eoy07  10 2016eoy44

11 2016eoy11  12 2016eoy141  13 2016eoy54

14 2016eoy13  15 2016eoy16  16 2016eoy17

17 2016eoy361  18 2016eoy26  19 2016eoy22

20 2016eoy23  21 2016eoy25  22 2016eoy21

23 2016eoy18  24 2016eoy37  25 2016eoy39
[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]

1 – A Metro train inbound from Alexandria to D.C. as it passes over the Potomac River.
2 – A hauntingly beautiful abandoned mansion located on Cooper Circle in LeDroit Park.
3 – A demonstration by Native Americans on the steps of The Lincoln Memorial.
4 – A musician taking a mid-afternoon nap in the park at DuPont Circle.
5 – A young girl admiring a mounted Park Police officer’s horse on the National Mall.
6 – An old farmer and his family selling watermelons out of the back of a truck on Rhode Island Avenue.
7 – A bike repurposed as a planter on the front porch of a home in LeDroit Park.
8 – A book sale at Second Story Books at the corner of 20th and P Streets in DuPont Circle.
9 – A mural interplaying with the shade of the leaves of a nearby tree on Capitol Hill.
10 – The First Street protected bikeway connecting Union Station to the Metropolitan Branch Trail.
11 – A merging of protests in front of the White House and  Lafayette Square Park.
12 – A view of the Anacostia River through the thick growth of vegetation on Kingman Island.
13 – Chocolate City Bar mural in a alley near 14th and S Streets, NW
14 – Demolished buildings on 14th Street making way for new Downtown construction.
15 – A ping pong game in the Farragut Square Park sponsored by the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District.
16 – Statues outside Bar Rogue in the Kimpton Rouge Hotel on 16th Street.
17 – The former Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration headquarters building on First Street in northeast D.C.
18 – Boats docked on the Southeast Waterfront just west of the Maine Avenue Fish Market.
19 – A homeless woman who spends her days on a bench in DuPont Circle Park.
20 – A news reporter broadcasting live from in front of FBI Headquarters.
21 – Chinese zodiac signs adorn the crosswalk at 7th and H Streets near The Friendship Archway in Chinatown.
22 – A bee pollinating a flower in The Smithsonian’s Butterfly Habitat Garden.
23 – An Organic Transit ELF vehicle parked at a bike rack on the National Mall.
24 – A street musician playing for tips outside the Farragut North Metro Station during the morning rush hour.
25 – A bench with a view on the southern side of the Tidal Basin.

NOTE:  Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of my year-end collection of various photos.

capitolbuilding01

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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David’s Tent

Over the years as I have been riding a bike during my lunch breaks at work, I have periodically seen a large white tent erected in different parts of the downtown area of the city.  On it’s side there has been a sign which reads, “davidstent.dc.org“.  I first saw it about four years ago in President’s Park on The Ellipse near the White House.  Since that time I have intermittently seen it near John Marshal Place Park just off Constitution Avenue, as well as various other sites.  It is currently located on the National Mall just east of the pond in Constitution Gardens and about 100 yards due north of the National World War II Memorial (MAP), and within view of the White House.  On this ride I stopped in to learn more about it.

Jason Hershey founded David’s Tent DC in 2012 as a non-denominational Christian non-profit organization dedicated to performing public worship services.  That first year a service was to be held in the park at McPherson Square, but at the suggestion of the National Park Service it was moved to The Ellipse instead.  And although the Park Service had never given a permit for more than 14 days in that area, they granted David’s Tent a 45-day permit.  So it was that David’s Tent began with 40 days of continuous worship and praise.

When the organization decided to hold another event the following year, it again was located on The Ellipse.  However, that year the Federal government shut down due to the fact that no budget had been passed.  And in addition to closing most Federal departments and agencies, the first things to close were the National Parks, including the National Mall and The Ellipse.  I vividly remember during that time the news stories of attempts to keep World War II veterans from being allowed to visit the closed memorial that had been made to honor them.  Amazingly though, David’s Tent was allowed to continue uninterrupted.  That year they did it again for 42 days, which equates to being 1,000 hours long.

David’s Tent has continued ever year, and gotten bigger and longer in each consecutive year.  In 2014, the service was extended to 50 days, during which they prayed for each state for one day.

This time is the organization’s most ambitious event to date.  The tent was pitched in its current location last September 11th, and David’s Tent is committed to performing nonstop worship music on the National Mall for 14 months straight, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, until Election Day this November.  This weekend, they will reach the one year mark on their way to the goal of a 422-day worship service.  Hershey, the founder of David’s Tent, says there’s no political agenda behind the vigil despite its significant start and end dates, and its notable location in the heart of our nation’s capital.

David’s Tent is inspired by the biblical story of King David, who pitched a tent near his palace and hired more than 4,000 musicians and 288 singers to worship there continually throughout his 33-year reign. David made worship central for his nation, and it is said to have brought blessing on the whole nation. David’s Tent DC is attempting to do the same here in America.  So if you’re in downtown D.C. during the next few months, I encourage you to stop in, learn more, and participate.

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