Posts Tagged ‘National Park Service’

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The Holodomor Memorial

During this bike ride I picked up some take-out in Chinatown and then rode over to a Lower Senate Park across from Union Station to watch the travelers coming and going while I ate my General Tso’s chicken. But on the way to the park I happened upon a memorial I had not seen before.  I would come to find out that it is The Holodomor Memorial, and it is located at the intersection of North Capitol Street, Massachusetts Avenue, and F Streets (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s NoMa neighborhood.

The Holodomor Memorial was designed by Larysa Kurylas, a local architect.  Her design, “Field of Wheat,” was chosen for the memorial through an open competition.  It built by the National Park Service and the Ukrainian government, and opened on November 7, 2015.  Formally known as The Holodomor Memorial to Victims of the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide of 1932–1933, it was built to honor the victims of a brutal artificial famine imposed by Joseph Stalin’s Soviet regime on the Ukraine and primarily ethnically Ukrainian areas in the Northern Caucasus in 1932 and 1933 that killed an officially estimated 7 million to 10 million people.  Also known as the Terror-Famine and Famine-Genocide in Ukraine, it was part of the wider Soviet famine of 1932–33, which affected the major grain-producing areas of the country.

The word Holodomor is from the Ukrainian word Голодомо́р, which is derived from морити голодом and is translated as, “to kill by starvation”.   Using Holodomor in reference to the famine emphasizes its man-made aspects, arguing that actions such as rejection of outside aid, confiscation of all household foodstuffs, and restriction of population movement confer intent and, therefore, define the famine as genocide.

Despite a targeted loss of life comparable to that of the Holocaust, many people remain unaware of the genocide.  So in addition to honoring the victims, another purpose of the memorial is to educate the American public about the genocide.  And today it achieved its purpose by educating one more.

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

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Battleground National Cemetery

On this lunchtime bike ride, while I was riding north on Georgia Avenue with no particular destination in mind, I came across a small cemetery, located at 6625 Georgia Avenue (MAP).  Located near Fort Stevens in the city’s Brightwood neighborhood, I found out that it is named Battleground National Cemetery, and it’s a military burial ground managed by the National Park Service, together with other components of Rock Creek Park.  Later, I found out a lot more.

The cemetery was created after the Civil War Battle of Fort Stevens, which took place on July 11 and 12, 1864.  The battle was significant in that it marked the defeat of General Jubal Anderson Early’s Confederate campaign to launch an offensive action against the poorly defended national capitol city.  The Battle of Fort Stevens also gained notoriety as being the only military action in which the commander in chief, President Abraham Lincoln, came under direct fire from an enemy force.  President Lincoln lived, but during the battle, 59 soldiers were killed on the Union side, and there were approximately 500 casualties on the Confederate side.

After the battle, Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs seized an acre of farm land to use for burying the dead. Under direction from President Lincoln and General Meigs, forty were buried on the evening of July 12, 1864, on the battlefield site. That night, Lincoln came to the site to dedicate it as Battleground National Cemetery.

The piece of land seized for the cemetery was previously part of a fruit orchard owned by farmer James Malloy.  When he returned to his land after the dust cleared from the battle, Malloy was upset that his land was taken and challenged the action. Through an act of Congress passed on February 22, 1867, the land was acquired and officially transferred to the Federal government, and on July 23, 1868, payment made to Malloy.

Battleground National Cemetery is one of our Nation’s smallest national cemeteries. The entrance to the cemetery is flanked by two Civil War vintage 6-pounder, smoothbore guns.  Also near the entrance are monuments commemorating each of the units which fought at Fort Stevens.  They were the 25th New York Volunteer Cavalry, the 98th Pennsylvania Volunteer, the 122nd New York Volunteer, and the 150th Ohio National Guard.

The center of the cemetery is marked by a central flagpole, surrounded by 41 regulation marble headstones, marking the remains of the honored dead of Fort Stevens. Behind these headstones and to the east, stands a marble rostrum used to conduct yearly Memorial Day services. The four granite pillars are in memory of the four volunteer companies who fought at Fort Stevens.

Also within the cemetery grounds is a series of cast iron markers containing the first of the twelve stanzas of a poem entitled “Bivouac of the Dead,” which was written by Theodore O’Hara in memory of those men who perished during the Mexican-American War.  The poem, as well as the words of the Gettysburg Address found on the side of the caretaker’s lodge, are reminiscent of many national cemeteries.

For an aimless bike ride with no particular destination in mind, I sure came across a lot of interesting history.  Unfortunately, that portion of Georgia Avenue is not particularly bike friendly.  So I imagine the vast majority of those driving hastily by in their vehicles probably have no idea of what they are passing by, and the history behind it.

         

         

    

         

                   
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BIVOUAC OF THE DEAD
The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on life’s parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame’s eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.

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The Oldest Miniature Golf Course in the United States

There are not a lot of choices when it comes to playing miniature golf in D.C. In fact, there is only one miniature golf course in the entire city.  And that is the course in the East Potomac Park Golf Center, located in East Potomac Park at 972 Ohio Drive (MAP), just south of The Jefferson Memorial and north of Hains Point, situated on a peninsula between the Washington Channel and the Potomac River.  And this was the destination of my lunchtime bike ride today, which combined with taking the afternoon off from work, turned into a miniature vacation.

East Potomac Park’s miniature golf course began operating in 1930, and is the oldest continually-operating course in the United States.  As you can imagine based on its age, it is a little more plain in appearance than the typical modern dinosaur or pirate-themed courses, or the fluorescing glow-in-the-dark indoor courses, that are prevalent in seaside resorts, amusement parks, and other tourist destinations.

Each of the course’s holes are simple cement, brick and stone structures with lightly rolling hills and angled turns and corners.  But with varying degrees of difficulty, the overall course is challenging enough to keep the game interesting.  My score made it clear that I was not one of the best players to play the course.  But I think I can safely say that I had as much fun as anyone there.  And a leisurely late lunch at the clubhouse after a full round of 18 grueling holes was a perfect way to top off the day.

The East Potomac Park Golf Center also has two 9-hole and one 18-hole regular golf courses in addition to its miniature version, as well as a covered and lighted driving range, a practice putting green, a FootGolf course (also the only one in D.C.), a retail pro shop, a tennis center, and an aquatic center. There is also a restaurant in the club house, The Potomac Grille, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. And everything is overseen by the National Park Service and, therefore, open to the public.

The center has available on-site parking, as well as an ample number of bike racks.  So regardless of how you get there, I highly recommend going.  For me, it was a great way to end the workday, and begin the workweek.

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The Amur Cork Tree

Perhaps the National Capital City’s biggest attraction in early Spring is the blooming of the historic cherry trees surround the Tidal Basin, the National Mall, and the Potomac waterfront. Visitors come from all over the world to witness this annual spectacle of nature.  However, the blooms last a very short time.  Any given tree may be in full bloom for only about a week.  And it has now been more than a week since the blossoms peaked.  During the intervening time the remaining blossoms continued to fall off the trees.  And then almost all of those that were left succumbed to the rain and wind over the past weekend.

But just because we will have to wait until next year for the cherry blossoms to return, visiting the trees near the Tidal Basin is still worthwhile.  The twisted and gnarled trunks of the 3,750 cherry trees are ornamental in and of themselves.   And like their blossoms, flowering cherry trees themselves are fairly ephemeral too, at least as trees go. Most cultivars live only 30 to 40 years.  But quite a few of the trees surrounding the Tidal Basin were originally planted more than 100 years ago, and their age only contributes to their beauty.

There are other trees mixed in with the more famous cherry trees that are worth seeing too.  Flowering trees include dogwood, holly, magnolia, and crabapple trees. Other trees include American Elms, Red Maples, River Birches and pines.   But perhaps the most interesting of the other trees is an Amur cork tree on the south side of the Tidal Basin (MAP), between the water and The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.  Having been planted over 80 years ago, these trees are old enough to have witnessed the construction of the nearby The Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and its dedication back in 1943.

The Amur cork tree, or the Phellodendron amurense, is a species of deciduous tree in the family Rutaceae named for its thick corky bark.  Native to eastern Asia; northern China, northeast China, Korea, Ussuri, Amur, and Japan.  The tree is a major source of huáng bò, one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine.

What I find most interesting about the Amur cork tree, however, besides its unusual appearance, is that it is considered invasive and even an ecological threat in North America.  The National Park Service, who overseas the area around the Tidal Basin, originally introduced it to the environment.  However, the Park Service’s own guidelines state, “The best way to control Amur corktree is not to plant it in the first place.”  It’s a contradiction that seems typical for the Federal government.

    
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The Devil’s Chair Footbridge

During this lunchtime bike ride, as I was riding on the Rock Creek Park Trail near the southern end of the park, I rode over Rock Creek on a bridge usually referred to as the Devil’s Chair Footbridge.  Located near Waterside Drive at a point approximately one-fifth of a mile northwest of where Q Street passes over the trail (MAP), with its eastern abutment just 30 feet from the southbound lanes of the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, the bridge’s name intrigued me.  So later after I got back from my ride I researched it to find out more.

Also called the Lyon’s Mill Footbridge, Devils Chair is the most notable of a series of eight footbridges built in Rock Creek Park as Public Works Administration projects during the Great Depression. It was completed in 1934, with the concrete, rustic-style bridge constructed in the style advocated by Albert H. Good, an architectural consultant to the National Park Service, in his sourcebook Park Structures and Facilities which was published the following year. The bridge lies in the shadow of Georgetown’s Oak Hill Cemetery on its western side, with its eastern abutment built on a remnant of the original Lyon’s Mill which had been located on the eastern bank of the creek.

The term devil’s chair usually refers to a memorial sculpture common in this country during the nineteenth century, when cemeteries sometimes included carved chairs for the comfort of visitors. In this function, the object was known as a mourning chair. Some carved chairs, however, were not intended for use as anything but monuments.  Anyway, once the original purpose of these chairs fell out of fashion, superstitions developed in association with the act of sitting in them. In a typical example, local young people dare one another to visit the cemetery, most often after dark, or on a certain night, such as Halloween. Variously, the stories suggest the person brave enough to sit in the chair at such a time may be punished for not showing due respect or rewarded for their courage.

So I assume the name Devil’s Chair is connected in some way to nearby Oak Hill Cemetery. But I have been unable to find one in the section of the cemetery near the footbridge. The rocky and hilly cemetery is both gothic and beautiful, but I have not found a devil’s chair anywhere in the cemetery. And despite researching it, I have been unable to find an explanation for the name. So the origins of the Devil’s Chair Footbridge’s name continues to be shrouded in mystery, at least for now.  So if anyone knows of the story behind the name, please contact me.  Otherwise, I may just have to go back there on Halloween next week, at midnight, and see if I can figure it out firsthand.

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The Abner Cloud House and Mill

For this outing I decided to go for a leisurely ride on The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and Towpath.  Starting in Georgetown at the eastern end of the towpath, I rode west until I got to Fletcher’s Cove and Boathouse.  From there, the destination for this ride was just across the canal – the Abner Cloud House and Mill.

Located on the canal near where Canal Road, which parallels the canal and the Potomac River, intersects with Reservoir Road in northwest D.C. (MAP), the house was built in the 1801.  Nestled near the former Little Falls Skirting Canal, it is the oldest structure on the canal.  In fact, it actually predates the canal project itself by more than two decades.

A miller from Pennsylvania named Abner Cloud was the original builder and occupant of the house, and the operator of the flour mill which he built about two hundred yards upstream from it.  He and his family lived on the upper floors of the house, and used the basement as a storeroom for the flour and grains he shipped from his mill to Georgetown.

Interestingly, a Cloud mill worker married one of Abner Cloud’s sisters, and they constructed a mill not too far away in Rock Creek in 1801.  That mill is Peirce Mill, which I ran across during one of my previous bike rides.

Although Cloud died in 1812, his widow, Suzanne, continued to live there until she passed away forty years later, in 1852.  The mill continued to provide an excellent quality flour called “Evermay” to D.C. until it closed in 1870.  Ruins of the mill, located west of the house and for a long time obscured by overgrown brush, were uncovered through the efforts of volunteers as part of an annual event called Canal Pride Day, which is a day of restoration, revitalization, and fun in conjunction with the C&O Canal Trust, the official non-profit partner of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park.

In 1970, a restoration project of the Abner Cloud House was begun.  Completed in 1976, the house is now maintained by the Colonial Dames of America.  Today, the headquarters of the Colonial Dames of America, Chapter III, occupies the top two floors of the house.  The organization shares the house with the national park, and conducts interpretive programs for visitors.

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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]

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The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail

I took advantage of the mild weather preceding the storm expected for this weekend and went for an early morning ride today on a scenic portion of one of the southern sections of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.  The part of the trail where I explored this morning is located about 20 miles south of D.C., between the northern edge of the Julie J. Metz Wetlands Bank just south of Neabsco Creek, and the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, in Prince William County, Virginia (MAP).

The trail, also known as the Potomac Heritage Trail or the PHT, is a designated National Scenic Trail corridor spanning parts of the mid-Atlantic and upper southeastern regions of the United States. It is comprised of a network of trails that will eventually connect numerous historic and cultural sites and natural features of the Potomac River corridor in D.C. and the local surrounding area, as well as in the Upper Ohio River Watershed in Western Maryland and Pennsylvania, and a portion of the Rappahannock River Watershed in Virginia.

Unlike many long-distance hiking and biking trails, such as the Appalachian Trail (which the PHT crosses near Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia), the PHT is a general route with numerous side trails and alternative routes.  Some of the routes even run parallel to each other, such as the Northern Neck Heritage Trail in Virginia and the Southern Maryland Potomac Heritage Trail, which parallel each other on opposite sides of the Potomac River.  The PHT includes approximately 800 miles of existing and planned future sections which, when completed, will all be connected. However, at the present time many of these trails and routes are still separated, connected to the others only by roads.

Development, construction, maintenance and preservation of the natural surface portions of the PHT is sponsored by The Potomac Heritage Trail Association in cooperation with other trail advocacy groups, as well as support from the National Park Service and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.   Among the trail advocacy organizations are a number of local groups and clubs, including the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club; Great Falls Trail Blazers; Fairfax Trails and Streams; Southern Prince George’s Trails Coalition; and the Oxon Hill Bicycle Club.

The PHT network follows some of the original paths once explored by George Washington, and you can follow the same routes today.  Whether by bike, on foot, or by horse or boat, the PHT provides almost limitless opportunities to explore the contrasting landscapes between the Chesapeake Bay and the Allegheny Highlands, and the many historic sites in between.  But if you’re looking for biking opportunities on the PHT which are closer to D.C., try exploring the The C & O Canal Towpath and the Mount Vernon Trail.

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The Samuel Hahnemann Monument

Located on the east side of Scott Circle, near the cross section of Massachusetts and Rhode Island Avenues (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s DuPont Circle neighborhood, is a memorial to a German physician and the founder of the homeopathic school of medicine. Known as the Samuel Hahnemann Monument, or simply Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, it was the destination for this lunchtime bike ride.

Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann was born in Meissen, Saxony, near Dresden, Germany, on April 10, 1755. He studied medicine for two years at Leipzig but later, citing Leipzig’s lack of clinical facilities, he moved to Vienna to continue his studies.  He would go on to graduate with honors from the University of Erlangen in August of 1779.  He then settled down in Mansfield, Saxony, where he became a village doctor, got married, and raised a family that would eventually include eleven children.

Within approximately five years of starting his practice, Hahnemann became dissatisfied with the state of medicine at that time. Complaining that the medicine he had been taught sometimes did the patient more harm than good, he actually quit practicing medicine. Having become proficient as a young man in a number of languages, including English, French, Italian, Greek and Latin, he began working as a translator and teacher of languages. But he continued to be concerned about the medical practices of his day, especially practices such as bloodletting, leeching, and purging.  And he vowed to investigate the causes of what he considered to be medicine’s “errors.”

It was during this time, while he was working as a translator, that he was tasked with translating William Cullen’s “A Treatise on the Materia Medica.” While Hahnemann was contemplating information in the book he was translating, he began experimenting on himself. And through this experimentation he came up with the principle of “Similia Similibus Curentur” or “like cures like,” meaning a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people. And it was this principle that became the basis for an alternative approach to medicine which he gave the name homeopathy.

Following years of fundraising efforts by the American Institute of Homeopathy, this monument to the founder of homeopathy was dedicated in 1900. The monument was significant at the time because Hahnemann was the first foreigner not associated with the American Revolution to be honored with a statue in D.C. Among the thousands of attendees at the dedication ceremony were prominent citizens such as President William McKinley, Attorney General John W. Griggs, and Army General John Moulder Wilson. The Classical Revival monument consists of an exedra designed by architect Julius Harder, and a life-sized statue by American sculptor Charles Henry Niehaus, whose works include The John Paul Jones Memorial and several statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol Building.
The sculpture sits beneath a red, yellow and green mosaic dome, and the monument contains four relief panels, which depict Hahnemann’s life as a student, chemist, teacher and physician.

Because homeopathic remedies were actually less dangerous than those of nineteenth-century medical orthodoxy, many medical practitioners began using them.  At the turn of the twentieth century, there were approximately 14,000 practitioners and 22 schools dedicated to homeopathy in this country alone. However, although homeopathy continues to exist today, it is nowhere near as popular or accepted as it once was.  As medical science advanced, and large-scale studies found homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo, homeopathy declined sharply in this country.  The number of practitioners has decreased dramatically.  And schools either closed or converted to modern methods, with the last pure homeopathic school in this country closing in the 1920’s.

But the monument to the pseudo-science’s founder remains.  In fact, it recently underwent an extensive restoration process, which was completed in 2011.  Today, the Samuel Hahnemann Monument is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it and the surrounding property are owned and maintained by the National Park Service.

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Bernardo de Gálvez Statue

On today’s lunchtime bike ride I rode to Gálvez Park, a small park located at Virginia Avenue and 22nd Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, to see a statue entitled Bernardo de Gálvez.  The statue is part of a series, entitled “Statues of the Liberators,” honoring liberators and other national figures of western-hemisphere countries.  The statues can be found along Virginia Avenue between 18th and 25th Streets, near the Headquarters of the Organization of American States in northwest D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The statues were erected by various Latin American countries, and are maintained by the National Park Service.

Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Viscount of Galveston and Count of Gálvez, was the Spanish Governor of Louisiana from 1777-1785, prior to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. During his time as governor he staged a three-year military campaign that tied up significant numbers of British troops, allowing the . to capture British-controlled territories such as Baton Rouge, Pensacola, and Natchez. Gálvez also aided the American settlers with supplies and soldiers. Later he was among those who drafted the Treaty of Paris of 1783, negotiated between the United States and Great Britain, ended the Revolutionary War. In appreciation, America’s new president, George Washington, took Gálvez with him in the parade on July 4th. This is the reason that many U.S. cities and landmarks are named for him. Galveston, Texas, Galveston Bay, and St. Bernard Parish Louisiana are examples of these.

And on December 16, 2014, the United States Congress conferred honorary citizenship on Gálvez, citing him as a “hero of the Revolutionary War who risked his life for the freedom of the United States people and provided supplies, intelligence, and strong military support to the war effort.”

The statue, depicting Gálvez atop his horse, was sculpted by Juan de Ávalos of Spain, and sits atop a marble base that is inscribed, “Bernardo De Gálvez, the great Spanish soldier, carried out a courageous campaign in Lands bordering the lower Mississippi. This masterpiece of military strategy lightened the pressure of the English in the war against American settlers who were fighting for their independence. May this statue of Bernardo de Gálvez serve as a reminder that Spain offered the blood of her soldiers for the cause of American Independence.” It was installed in its current location on this day in 1976.

The bronze equestrian statue is idiosyncratic in that it both celebrates a Spanish loyalist and was paid for and donated by King Juan Carlos of Spain to the American people in celebration of the United States Bicentennial.  It is Gálvez’s role as a helper of the rebellious colonies during the Revolutionary War which the statue celebrates.

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