Posts Tagged ‘Old Post Office Pavilion’

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Trump Protestors Get Trumped

Today I stopped by what was formerly known as The Old Post Office Pavilion, located at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP), which reopened today as The Trump International Hotel – Washington, D.C.  Based on a 60-year lease from the Federal government, Donald Trump has transformed the building into a 263-room luxury hotel which he proclaims is “one of the finest hotels in the world.”

Beginning today, guests will be able to stay at the new five-star hotel at rates that start at $750 per night and go up to $4,800 a night for the premier “Postmaster Suite”.   After the hotel’s official grand opening, which will take place later this year, room rates will drop to around $472 a night for a “Deluxe Room”, and $9,000 for the one-bedroom “Presidential Suite”.  But the Presidential Suite is not the most expensive accommodations being offered.  For that, guests will have to book the hotel namesake’s “Trump Townhouse”.  For that, guests will have to pay $18,750 per night.

For today’s opening, the Answer Coalition and Code Pink organizations were joined by a few individual protestors to conduct a demonstration in front of the new hotel.  However, when I was there at around noon during the peak of the protest, only about two dozen protestors had shown up to display their signs and banners.  As indicated by a sign-up table and pile of mass-produced signs on the ground next to it, they had been expecting many more people to show up to participate.  It is unknown how many people the organizing groups initially expected to be part of the protest, but most likely they expected many more than I saw while I was there.  In the end, I saw more journalists and  photographers there to cover the event than the people they were there to cover.

Adding insult to injury, the protestors were often drowned out by a street preacher in a red shirt who brought his own bullhorn to their bully pulpit.  Riding around on a bicycle in front of the protestors while simultaneously broadcasting his own personal message, he often drowned out the speakers at the protestors.  At times the speakers even stopped what they were doing while they waited for him to stop talking or, at times, dancing.  But when he did stop it was usually only temporary.

However, despite the protest not being a success in terms of size or getting out their message, the protestors may eventually have the last laugh.  Trump made the deal and broke ground on the renovation before he entered the Presidential race.  At that time his brand was mostly associated with luxury amenities and quality customer service.  But now, after more than a year of campaigning, the Trump name is much more polarizing and off-putting to many people.  And how that will translate into business for the hotel is as uncertain as the outcome of the upcoming election. 

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

UPDATE (9/12/2016):  I was contacted via Twitter and advised that the protest was planned as an all-day event, and that the number of protestors had increased to approximately 75 participants by early evening.

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UPDATE (10/1/2016):  The hotel was the scene of ongoing discontent and protests when it was vandalized today with spray-painted messages of “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice No Peace” near the front entrance on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Statue of Benjamin Franklin

Statue of Benjamin Franklin

On this bike ride I stopped by The Old Post Office Pavilion, to see a statue of Benjamin Franklin. The statue, which was designed by Ernst Plassman and sculpted by American artist Jacques Jouvenal, stands on a pedestal in front of the building located at the southeast corner of the intersection of 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in the downtown section of northwest D.C.

The Carrara marble statue was a gift of Stilson Hutchins, one of the founders of The Washington Post newspaper, and was dedicated on January 17, 1889, at 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. It was eventually moved to its current site in 1982. The statue is part of group of fourteen statues called “American Revolution Statuary.”  The statues are scattered across the city, mainly in squares and traffic circles, and are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

Franklin was born in 1706 in Boston, the 10th of 17 children of soap maker Josiah Franklin, and his second wife, Abiah Folger. His father wanted him to attend school with the clergy, but he was unable to afford more than two years. Instead, Franklin attended the Boston Latin School, but dropped out at the age of ten. Although he never returned to formal schooling, Franklin continued his education through voracious reading, teaching himself to read French, Spanish, Latin, German and Italian.  Later in life, however, he received honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, the University of St. Andrews, the University of Oxford, and the University of Edinburgh.

After leaving school, Franklin became an apprentice to one of his brothers, James, who was a printer. Thus began a career which would include varying levels of success in multiple vocations and avocations. Eventually becoming one of the foremost of this country’s Founding Fathers, Franklin was one of five men who helped draft the Declaration of Independence and was one of its signers.  As a diplomat, he represented the newly emerging United States in France during the American Revolution. He was also a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Franklin was also a patriot, statesman, political theorist, and politician, as well as an author, printer, librarian, bookstore owner, scientist, inventor, composer and musician, soldier in the Philadelphia militia, volunteer firefighter, philosopher, abolitionist, and civic activist. An authentic and world-renowned polymath in the vein of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, and Nicolaus Copernicus, Franklin’s expertise spanned so many different subject areas that it is almost impossible to capture an accurate appreciation of his complexity and genius.

In addition to his many more well-known accomplishments, Franklin was also instrumental in founding the first hospital in America; establishing the colonies’ first circulation library, founding the University of Pennsylvania, and organizing the first insurance company in the colonies. And as a prolific inventor, Franklin invented the rocking chair, the concept of Daylight Savings Time, the odometer, the Pennsylvania fireplace which is now more commonly known as the “Franklin Stove,” the flexible urinary catheter, the lightning rod, swimming fins, writing chair school desks, a new kind of ship’s anchor, a musical instrument known as a glass armonica, bifocal eyeglasses, and a pulley system that enabled him to lock and unlock his bedroom door without getting out of his bed.

Although Franklin could have made enormous sums of money for many of his inventions, he purposefully chose not to patent any of his inventions.  He explained why in his autobiography, in which he wrote, “… as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.”

Other interesting albeit unrelated facts about Franklin include that at the age of 16, after reading a book about vegetable diets, he decided to become a vegetarian.  He wrote the first known “pro vs. con” list as a method for contemplating and making a decision.  Franklin thought the turkey should be the national bird, rather than the bald eagle, because he thought the turkey was more respectable than eagles and a true native of the United States.  Also, while working in London, he was given the nickname “Water-American” because he would rather drink water than beer, unlike the vast majority of people at that time. Lastly, Franklin liked to take “air baths,” in which he would sit naked in his bathtub and let the cold air from an open window clean away germs.

Oddly, Franklin also had two birthdays during his lifetime. His birth certificate reads that he was born on January 6, 1706. However, in 1752, the British colonies changed to a different calendar. Over time, calendars no longer line up with seasons and adjustments must be made to help synchronize the calendar year with the solar year so that seasons happen in the right month. That is why we now have leap year.  Anyway, at midnight on September 2, 1752, it legally became September 14th, and previous dates were adjusted for the new calendar.  Franklin’s new birthday from that point forward became January 17th.

Franklin was also a postmaster, having been appointed the British postmaster for the colonies by King George III before the Revolutionary War. Then on July 26, 1775, the Second Continental Congress established The United States Post Office and named Benjamin Franklin as the first U.S. Postmaster General. This may explain why the statue was placed in its current location in front of the Old Post Office building.

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The Old Post Office Pavilion

Located approximately halfway between The White House and the U.S. Capitol Building, at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP), is the Old Post Office Pavilion, an historic building of the Federal government.  Also known as the Old Post Office and Clock Tower, the Romanesque Revival style building is an iconic structure and one of the most recognized buildings in D.C.  Built between 1892 to 1899, upon its completion it was used as the U.S. Post Office Department Headquarters and the city’s main post office until 1914.  It has been used primarily as an office building since then.

At 315 feet tall, the Old Post Office’s clock tower ranks third in height among the buildings in the national capital city, behind the nearby Washington Monument and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. From an observation deck at the 270-foot level, the tower offers incredible panoramic views of D.C. and the surrounding area. Beneath the observation deck is the tower clock, which is now more than a century old. Below that, on the tenth floor, are the Bells of Congress. These bells are replicas of those at London’s Westminster Abbey, and were a gift from England during the U.S. Bicentennial celebration in 1976, commemorating friendship between the nations.  They are rung at the opening and closing of Congress and for national holidays.

At times the building has had a precarious existence, and came close to being torn down on more than one occasion.  It has also undergone a number of changes and renovations over the years.  In the 1920’s the building was nearly demolished during the construction of the Federal Triangle complex.  In 1964, the President’s Council on Pennsylvania Avenue recommended the demolition of all but the clock tower.  The recommendation was subsequently approved by Congress. But as a result, local citizens banded together, and with the help of advocates in Congress, were able to convince Congress to reverse its decision.  Helping to ensure its future, the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.  It is also a contributing property to the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site.  Despite this, it again faced demise when it was nearly torn down in the 1970s to make way for completion of massive Federal Triangle development project.  However, it was once again spared.

Major renovations to the building occurred in 1976 and 1983, with the last renovation resulting in the addition of a food court and retail space on the ground level, and private and government office space in the upper levels. At that time, this mixed-use approach garnered national attention as a innovative approach to historic preservation.  Most recently, in 1991, an addition was added to the structure which contained more retail space.  However, the biggest change to the Old Post Office Pavilion is yet to come.  At the beginning of this year the food court and stores were closed down.  And earlier this month the remaining offices in the building and the clock tower closed.  This was done to begin the next chapter in the building’s life.

In 2013, the U. S. General Services Administration leased the property for the next 60 years to Donald Trump.  The Trump Organization said it would develop the property into a 250-plus room luxury hotel, to be named Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C.  Along with the hotel, the development is slated to include an upscale spa, art gallery, café, bar, three high-end restaurants, a fitness center, library, lounge with fountain, several luxury retail shops, and a large-scale meeting and banquet facility.  The company also pledged to create a small museum dedicated to the history of the building, and to maintain the Bells of Congress and the building’s historic exterior.  The National Park Service will retain control over the clock tower and observation deck and it will keep them open to the public for tours.

It is hoped that the building’s next incarnation will help spark an economic renaissance in D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood.  But much like the history of the Old Post Office Pavilion itself, only time will tell.

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