Posts Tagged ‘National Register of Historic Places’

May Flowers

There’s an old saying that goes “April showers bring May flowers.”  Actually, the entire proverb goes something like, “March winds and April showers bring May flowers and June bugs.”  It is a lesson in patience.  It means that a period of discomfort can provide the basis for a period of happiness and joy.

Well, I can do without the early cold winds, and June bugs that come later on.  And I’m not all that fond of the rain either.  But I guess the traditionally rainy period in April is necessary to provide the water that nourishes the plants and allows them to subsequently bloom.  And based on the beauty and magnificence of many of the flowers I saw during my lunchtime bike rides during the past month, I’d say this year’s rains were well worth enduring.

As I rode around in some of the city’s various residential neighborhoods, a number of flowers and plants and private gardens caught my eye.  Some were at homes which are very large, and clearly belong to more affluent people.  Some of those homes are even on the National Register of Historic Places.  Others were located on the property of more modest houses.  A few were actually from abandoned properties.  And I even saw some plants and flowers in medians in the road,  or in plantings outside of small, local businesses.

Unlike the early season wildflower blooms I recently saw on a ride to the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge earlier this month, all of these flowers were purposefully planted by the property owners.  And none were from places in D.C. where you would normally expect to find such beautiful blooms, such as the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory, the Smithsonian’s Enid A. Haupt Garden, or other similar places.

The photographs in this blog post are some of the ones I took during the month of May.  And I took a lot of photos in the last month.  There are one hundred photos included in this post.  I chose them based on the photo itself, and not just the flower in it.  But I also tried to include photos of a variety of flowers so as to show the diversity and beauty of the gardens and grounds of many of this city’s homes.

I’d also like to remind you, however, that I am not a professional photographer and I do not have a fancy camera.  These photos, like all the ones in this blog, were taken with my cell phone.  I think they turned out fairly well though.  So be sure to click on the thumbnails for the larger versions so you can see the intricacy, complexity and the full beauty of the flowers.  And I hope you enjoy these photographs as much as I enjoyed riding around and taking them.

         

          

         

         

          

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

          

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

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

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Captain Nathan Hale Statue

On this lunchtime bike ride I went to see a statue of Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale, which is located outside of the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building, located at 950 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in the city’s  Downtown neighborhood.  I went for two reasons.  First, to see the statue itself.  But the other reason I went to see the statue was to try to determine why it was located where it is.  As far as I know, Hale was not a lawyer or connected in any way to the Justice Department or the Federal government.  And he didn’t even have any known connections to D.C.  So I was curious why the statue was placed where it is.

Nathan Hale was born on June 6, 1755 in Coventry, Connecticut.  In 1768, at the age of 14, he attended Yale College along with his older brother Enoch.  Hale graduated with first-class honors in 1773 at age 18 and became a teacher in Connecticut, first in East Haddam and later in New London.

When the Revolutionary War began in 1775, Hale joined a Connecticut militia unit.  His unit participated in the Siege of Boston, but Hale remained behind.  It has been speculated by some that he was unsure as to whether he wanted to fight.  On July 4, 1775, Hale received a letter from his classmate and friend Benjamin Tallmadge, and the letter was so inspiring that, several days later, Hale accepted a commission as first lieutenant in the 7th Connecticut Regiment.

In September of the following year, General George Washington was desperate to determine the location of the imminent British invasion of Manhattan Island. To that end, he needed a spy for the Continental Army behind enemy lines.  Hale was the only volunteer.

During his mission, New York City fell to British forces, and Hale was captured.  Hale was convicted of being a spy, and according to the standards of the time, was sentenced to be hanged the next day as an illegal combatant.  While waiting for the sentence to be carried out, Hale requested a Bible, but his request was denied.  Sometime later, he requested a clergyman.  Again, his request was denied.  The sentence was carried out the next morning, and Hale was hanged.  He was 21 years old.

Hale is best remembered for a speech that he gave just prior to being executed.  It is almost certain that his last speech contained more than one sentence, but it is for the following sentence that he is best remembered.  His last words before facing the gallows were famously reported to be, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”  Subsequent to his execution, Hale’s body has never been found.

The original statue honoring Hale was created by American sculptor Bela Pratt in 1912, and stands in front of Connecticut Hall where Hale resided while at Yale.  The statue located at the south façade of the Justice Department building near the corner of 10th Street and Constitution Avenue is a copy of this sculpture.  The D.C. statue is also part of the “American Revolution Statuary”, a group of fourteen statues in D.C. that are scattered across the city, mainly in squares and traffic circles.  They are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

Unfortunately, despite visiting the statue and researching it later, I still have no idea why it is located where it is.  So if you know why, or have a theory, please feel free to share it in the comments section below.

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

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The Brodhead-Bell-Morton Mansion

On this lunchtime bike ride, as I was riding near Scott Circle in northwest D.C., I saw what looked like commemorative brass plaques on the side of a building.  Wanting to find out more about the plaques and the building, I stopped to look into it.  According to the plaques, the mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and once belonged to Alexander Graham Bell.  Whetting my appetite to find out more about the house, I researched it later when I got back from my ride.

Originally designed in the Victorian style by John Fraser, with construction finishing in 1879, the house was built for John. T. Brodhead and his family.  Based on a subsequent series of prominent owners, it has come to be known as the Brodhead-Bell-Morton Mansion, and is located at 1500 Rhode Island Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s DuPont Circle neighborhood.

The Brodhead family did not live there long, however,  In 1882, just three years after construction was completed, Brodhead sold the home to lawyer and financier Gardiner Green Hubbard, the father-in-law of telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell.  According to the home’s National Register of Historic Places registration form, the Hubbards “offered the house to the Bells as an inducement to relocate from the Boston area, and Bell allowed himself to be persuaded.”

However, the original house was not large enough for Bell and his wife Mabel Gardiner Hubbard, so they added a two-story addition on the northeast corner and then a third floor with a steep slated roof.  Bell also made other changes to the house, the most interesting of which was the installation of the city’s first electric burglar alarm system.  It was composed of an elaborate system of wires and bells that connected every door and window in the house to a room Bell referred to as the “central office.”  Indicators in the central office would show instantly whenever a door was opened or shut, or only partially opened.  And if anyone tried to enter the house at night, bells would sound.

It’s too bad that Bell installed a burglar alarm system rather than a smoke detector, however, because a fire destroyed much of the building in 1887. Although it was insured, the damage from the fire was more extensive than what the policy covered.  Bell was able to have the mansion restored anyway.

Then in 1889, just a couple of years after the fire, Bell sold the mansion to Levi Parsons Morton just prior to Morton’s swearing in as Vice President under President Benjamin Harrison.  Morton immediately had the building enlarged with a new east wing, that was designed by John Fraser, the home’s original architect.  Some years later, Morton remodeled the house, converting it into the neoclassical Beaux-Arts architectural style that was all the rage at that time.  Under the hand of prominent American architect John Russell Pope, who later designed The Thomas Jefferson Memorial, The National Archives and Records Administration Building, and the West Building of the National Gallery of Art, among other important buildings, Morton had the house transformed into its present-day form.

The mansion would go on to have a number of additional prominent owners and residents, including the Embassy of Russia, U.S. Secretary of State Elihu Root, Massachusetts Congressman Charles Franklin Sprague, and Count Arturo Cassini, the Russian Ambassador to the U.S.  It then became home to the National Democratic Club, who sold it to the National Paint, Varnish and Lacquer Association.  Finally, in February of last year, it was purchased by the country of Hungary, which moved the Embassy of Hungary there late last year.

I’m glad I noticed the house during this bike ride, and then looked into it later.  The house turned out to have quite a history.  Of course, D.C. is full of history and interesting stories, if you just take the time to look for them.

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

Alexandria City Hall

Alexandria Market Square and City Hall

On days when I want to go on a longer than usual lunchtime bike ride, one of my favorite destinations is Old Town Alexandria.  And that is where I rode to today.  And it was during this ride I visited the Alexandria Market Square and City Hall, located at 301 King Street (MAP).

The site of the Alexandria Market Square and City Hall originally began as a market beginning in 1749.  Then in 1752, lottery proceeds funded the building of a town hall and courthouse on the site. George Washington served as a justice in this court.  Later, in 1817, a new three-story brick building was constructed, including a town clock tower designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe.  But an extensive fire in May of 1871 gutted the building.  Given the importance of the building, the townspeople raised enough money to pay for an exact replica of the former building.  And that building, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in March of 1984, is still standing today.

The current Second Empire-style building was designed by Adolph Cluss, was a German-born American immigrant who became one of the most important architects in the D.C. area, in the late 19th century.  He was nicknamed the “Red Architect” based on red brick being his favorite building material, and his early communist sympathies, though later in life he became a confirmed Republican.  Cluss is responsible for designing scores of major public buildings in the D.C. area, including at least eleven schools, as well as markets, government buildings, museums, residences and churches.  His designs include the Franklin School and the Sumner School, as well as other notable public buildings in the capital, including the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Building, Calvary Baptist Church, and two of the city’s major food markets, Center Market and Eastern Market.

The original city hall was something of a complex, containing the court facility, both the principal police and fire stations of Alexandria.  The Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge also had its headquarters located in the building until 1945, when it moved out of City Hall and into the new George Washington Masonic National Memorial on nearby King Street.  Today the City Hall building houses many of the Alexandria government offices, including the City Council Chambers on the second floor.

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The Historic Town of Occoquan

With traffic and transit changes anticipated in D.C. because of the long Columbus Day holiday weekend, for this bike ride I chose to go outside of the city.  For this excursion I chose the historic town of Occoquan, located approximately 23 miles south of D.C. in Prince William County, Virginia (MAP).  It is situated on the south bank at the fall line of the Occoquan River, and directly across the river from the Occoquan Regional Park and the Lorton Correctional Facility Beehive Brick Kiln.  With access available via road, river and the East Coast Greenway, it is accessible by car, boat, foot traffic, and by bike.

The town derives its name from an Algonquian Doeg Indian word, meaning “at the end of the water”.  And throughout its existence the river has been its lifeblood.  It was its location on the water which attracted and then sustained its original occupants, indigenous people who relied upon the river for fish and sustenance.  Similarly, for the British and subsequently American colonists who came after them, the river provided an ideal site to for transportation and trade.   A tobacco warehouse was built as early as 1736, and an industrial complex began in 1750.  Within the next several decades Occoquan had iron-manufacturing, a timber trade, quarrying, river-ice, shipbuilding, a bake house, saw mills, warehouses, and Merchant’s Mill, the first automated grist mill in the country.  It operated for 175 years until destroyed by fire.  Later, during the Civil War, the Occoquan Post Office passed letters and packages between North and South.  But eventually river silting and the shift in traffic to railroads reduced ship traffic to Occoquan and ended its days as a port.

Reflecting the rich history of Occoquan, a number of structures in town, including a number in the downtown commercial area, are part of the Occoquan Historic District which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  One of the more prominent examples of these structures is Rockledge, the former house of the town’s founder, which sits on an overlook above the town.

But the town has not only survived.  It has thrived.  Today, it is a restored artists’ community, with an eclectic collection of over one hundred specialty shops offering everything from antiques, arts, crafts, fashions, to unique gifts.  The town also offers a public park complete with a gazebo, a town boat dock, a museum, guided ghost walks, and a full array of dining choices, from ice cream and snack stands to a five star restaurant.  And everything is within walking distance, with much of it adjacent to the river.

It was still dark when I arrived this morning, but I found a place named Mom’s Apple Pie Bakery that was already open.  So I indulged in a piece of Shenandoah Peach Pie, which I took down to the waterfront and enjoyed for breakfast as the sun was coming up.  I also purchased a jar of locally-made fresh pumpkin butter to take home.   The bakery, the riverfront, and the entire town were all fun to explore, and a great way to begin Columbus Day, named after a great explorer.

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

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Statue of Brigadier General Thaddeus Kościuszko

On this ride I went to Lafayette Square Park, located just north of the White House between Pennsylvania Avenue and H Street, and between 15th and 17th Streets (MAP).  I went there to see one of the four statues which anchor the four corners of the park.  Today, I went to see the statue of Brigadier General Thaddeus Kościuszko, located at the northeast corner of the park.  The other three statues, which all outrank Kosciuszko, are of Major General Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette, Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, and Major General Comte Jean de Rochambeau.

The four corner statues located in Lafayette Square honor foreign volunteers who fought for the new nation during the American Revolutionary War.  As such, they are four of a total of fourteen statues known collectively as the “American Revolution Statuary”, which are scattered throughout D.C., mainly in squares and traffic circles, and are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Kościuszko statue was designed by a Polish sculptor named Antoni Popiel as part of a competition in 1907 to design a monument for the park.  Popiel’s design placed second in the competition.  For unknown reasons, however, President Theodore Roosevelt selected Popiel’s design for implementation.  It is unknown what happened with the design of the contest’s winner.  Kościuszko design was then erected in 1910, and dedicated by President William Howard Taft that same year.

The Kościuszko statue honors the Polish army officer, military engineer and statesman who gained fame both for his role in the American Revolution, and his leadership of a national insurrection in his homeland.

Born to a family of noble origin sometime in February of 1746,  Andrew Thaddeus Bonaventure Kościuszko began his rise to prominenace when he attracted the attention of King Stanisław II Augustus Poniatowski while working as an instructor at a military academy in Warsaw.  The king was so impressed, in fact, that he sent him to Paris for further study.  Upon his return to Poland, he taught the daughters of General Józef Sosnowski.  During this time he fell in love one of the daughters, Ludwika, and rather than ask her father for his daughter’s hand in marriage, he tried unsuccessfully to elope with her.  Facing the wrath of her father, Kościuszko fled to France, and in 1776 he came to America, where he joined the colonial forces in their fight for independence.  At the end of the war he was given U.S. citizenship.

In 1784, however, Kościuszko returned to Poland.  But because of his association with the Czartoryski family, then in opposition to the king, he could not secure an appointment in the Polish army.  So for the next five years he lived in poverty on a small country estate.

With the advent of reforms in Poland in 1789, Kościuszko returned to military service. Under the protection of his former love, Ludwika, now the wife of Prince Lubomirski, and with the support of local nobility, he was granted the rank of general major.  Then in March of 1794, Kościuszko organized an uprising against Russia which, under the rule of Catherine the Great, had invaded Poland in an attempt to end Polish internal reforms designed to liberate the nation from Russian influence.  While serving as commander-in-chief of the uprising, Russian forces captured him at the Battle of Maciejowice in October 1794, which led to the defeat of the Kościuszko Uprising.

In 1796, following the death of Catherine the Great, Kościuszko was pardoned by her successor, Tsar Paul I, and he emigrated back to the United States.  It was then that be became a close friend of Thomas Jefferson, with whom he shared many ideals of human rights.

After receiving news of fresh possibilities to promote Poland’s cause in France, Kościuszko  secretly left the United States on May 5, 1798.  But his return to France was a disappointment when he could not gain Napolean’s support for Poland’s independence, nor later on, that of Alexander I of Russia.  Hence, Kościuszko retired from public life, and for the rest of his life remained in exile from Poland, living first in France and later in Switzerland.  It was not until after his death in 1817 that Kościuszko was finally able to return to his native Poland, when his remains were carried to Kraków and buried among the kings’ tombs in the cathedral.

Kościuszko was not only a supporter of American independence and a Polish national hero, but also a believer in social equality.  Kościuszko wrote a will in 1798 dedicating his assets to the freedom and education of American slaves.

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

Note:  If you want to learn even more about Thaddeus Kościuszko, I would recommend a visit to the foundation named after him.  Founded in 1925, on the eve of the 150th anniversary of his enlistment in the American revolutionary cause, The Kosciuszko Foundation is a national not-for-profit, nonpartisan, and nonsectarian organization dedicated to promoting educational and cultural exchanges between the United States and Poland, and to increase American understanding of Polish culture and history.  It is located about ten blocks from the statue, at 2025 O Street (MAP), in northwest D.C.’s DuPont Circle neighborhood, just a block down the street from Sonny Bono Memorial Park.

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The 10th Precinct Station House and Harry Houdini

From the outside, the 19th-century sandstone building at 750 Park Road (MAP), just off Georgia Avenue in northwest D.C.’s Park View neighborhood, appears to stand out for its architectural excellence and aesthetic beauty. Designed by the architectural firm of A.B. Mullett & Company and completed in 1905, there don’t appear to be any other buildings of similar style and quality in that area of the city.  But as interesting as I found the appearance of the building to be when I happened upon it on this lunchtime bike ride, it’s what happened in the building that gives it even more character.

The building was originally built as the 10th Precinct Station House for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).  And at the time touted by Police Chief Major Richard H. Sylvester as having some of the most modern and secure jail cells in the city.  In fact, Chief Sylvester had so much confidence in his newest jail cells that he invited escape artist Harry Houdini, who happened to be in town performing at Chase’s “Polite Vaudeville” theater for his first ever show in the nation’s capitol, and had been bragging about his escape skills, to come visit the 10th Precinct Station House and try one out.

With a reputation to uphold and welcoming the publicity, Houdini readily accepted the challenge.  And on New Year’s Day of 1906, he turned himself in to be incarcerated, albeit for an indeterminate amount of time, at the 10th Precinct.  Despite attempts to stymie his escape by changing the locks after Houdini had already examined the cell, locking him behind five separate locks, stripping him of his clothing and locking them up in an adjacent cell, and handcuffing him with handcuffs from the Secret Service rather than police handcuffs, Houdini walked out a free man less than twenty minutes later, fully clothed and smirking.

Although Chief Sylvester was surprised and disappointed to see Houdini escape, he could take some consolation in the fact that it was the 62nd jail cell from which Houdini had escaped.  But Chief Sylvester would become more concerned when Houdini went on later that same week to escape from an even-more secure cell in the Fifth Precinct jailhouse, as well as “the Guiteau cell” on Murderers’ Row at the United States Jail, which had formerly housed Charles J. Guiteau, the man who assassinated President James Garfield.  However, Chief Sylvester would learn from Houdini’s escapes, and make his jail cells even more secure in the future.  Houdini was not invited back to test the improved cells though.

Still standing today, the 10th Precinct Station House is listed on the District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places.  However, after a number of redistrictings and reorganizations over the years, it is now home to the MPD’s Fourth District Substation, serving the city’s Park View, Petworth, Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights neighborhoods.

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

Note:  After the three successful jail breaks in D.C.’s jails in January of 1906 helped solidify his reputation as the “Handcuff King and Prison Breaker”, Houdini frequently scheduled shows in D.C. during his tours.  Over time, and as his fame increased, he drew larger and larger crowds when he performed here.  Ten years after his escape from the cell in the 10th Precinct Station House, he performed an escape while hanging upside down in a straitjacket outside B.F. Keith’s Theater, which attracted a crowd of over 15,000 spectators.  At that time, it was the largest crowd in the national capitol city’s history aside from a Presidential inauguration.  And another ten years after that, Houdini came back again to testify before Congress on the subject of spiritualism and D.C.’s fortune-telling laws.

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

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President Lincoln’s Cottage

On this lunchtime bike ride I visited what’s now known as President Lincoln’s “cottage”, which is a national monument located on the grounds of the “Old Soldiers’ Home,” known today as the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home.  Located in northwest D.C. near the Petworth and Park View neighborhoods (MAP), the Gothic Revival-style residence, a style considered particularly appropriate at that time for country cottages, has a very interesting history.

Originally known as the “Corn Rigs” cottage, it was built in 1842 by wealthy D.C. banker George Washington Riggs, at his 250-acre summer retreat.  The word “cottage”, however, is somewhat of a misnomer inasmuch as it is actually a 34-room country home.  Almost a decade later, Riggs offered to sell his property to the Federal government, which was looking for a place to create a home for retired and disabled Army veterans.  An army committee purchased the estate in 1851 and utilized the house to create the Old Soldiers’ Home later the same year.  Six years later, in 1857, the retired soldier residents moved into a newly-built large stone Gothic building near the cottage. 

With the cottage now vacant, the Old Soldiers’ Home invited President James Buchanan to make his summer residence there.  Accepting the offer, President Buchanan spent a few weeks out of at least two summers at the cottage during the remainder of his presidency.

Presumably on the recommendation of President Buchanan, the next president, Abraham Lincoln, first visited the Old Soldiers’ Home just three days after his first inauguration.  Later, President Lincoln and his family would escape to the cottage between June and November in 1862, 1863, and 1864.   The family would almost certainly have returned in 1865 if President Lincoln had not been assassinated in April of that year.  In all, President Lincoln and his family spent over a quarter of his Presidency there. Each summer the White House staff transported some 19 cartloads of the Lincoln family’s belongings to the cottage. Unfortunately, there is no record of exactly what they brought.

With the Civil War officially commencing just a month after he was inaugurated, Lincoln could not escape the Civil War and his burden of leadership, even at the cottage. Every morning the President rode by horseback to the White House to carry out official business, returning to the cottage every evening.  Today, the drive down Georgia Avenue takes just a few minutes, but in the 1860s the commute through what was then a mostly wilderness area was a little slower and more dangerous.  The cavalry units that were to eventually accompanied him on his commute, as well as the encampments, hospitals, and cemeteries he passed on his was to work served, as constant reminders of the war.

It was while staying at the cottage, in fact, that President Lincoln came his closest to the war.  On July 12, 1864, when Confederate General Jubal Early attacked Fort Stevens, the President brashly went to observe the nearby battle, even though his family had been evacuated to the White House for the four days of the battle.  It was during this time that President Lincoln became the only president ever to come under hostile fire while in office.  During the second day of the battle, as he stood on atop the parapet of the fort to witness the battle, the President came under direct fire of Confederate sharpshooters.  Perhaps saving his life, a young officer named Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who would eventually go on to serve as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, shouted to the President, “Get down, you damn fool!”

Other interesting events for which President Lincoln’s cottage served as the backdrop include the fact that the President was staying at the cottage when he wrote the final draft of the Emancipation Proclamation in September of 1862.  And in August of 1864, a sniper attempted to assassinate the President as he traveled back to the cottage alone late at night.  The lone rifle shot missed Lincoln’s head by inches, but during the attempt the President lost the hat he was wearing.  The following day, two soldiers went looking for the hat.  They discovered it on the path, with a bullet hole through the side.  Also, in the summer of 1864, John Wilkes Booth, who would later in April of 1865 successfully assassinate President Lincoln, formulated his original plot, which was to kidnap the President during his commute from the cottage to the White House.

President Lincoln reportedly made his last visit to the cottage on April 13, 1865, the day before his assassination.  But he was not the last president to take advantage of the healthy breezes at the cottage.  Rutherford B. Hayes spent the summers of 1877 to 1880 there.  And Chester A. Arthur stayed at the cottage during renovations at the White House in the winter of 1882, and spent summers there as well.

In more recent years, the cottage has been recognized for its historical significance. The Secretary of the Interior designated the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home, which includes the pre-Civil War cottage, as a National Historic Landmark in November of 1973.  President Bill Clinton declared the cottage and 2.3 surrounding acres a National Monument in July of 2000.  To this day it holds the distinction of being the only national monument in the country that operates with no Federal funding.  The following year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation began a thorough restoration of the cottage, restoring it to the period of Lincoln’s occupancy according to standards established by the National Park Service. The restoration was completed in 2007.  President Lincoln’s Cottage was then opened to the public for the first time in history on President’s Day in 2008. It remains open today, and is managed through a cooperative agreement between the Armed Forces Retirement Home and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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

LincolnCottageTour

Click on this photo to take a virtual tour of the inside of The Lincoln Cottage.

PierceMill01

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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