Posts Tagged ‘Woodrow Wilson House’

'Twas the Last Ride Before Christmas

‘Twas the Last Ride Before Christmas

I’m going to be taking some time off from work for the holidays, so this was my last D.C. bike ride for the year for this blog. I’m actually taking the next few weeks off because, as a Federal employee, if I do not use a specified amount of my accrued vacation time before the end of the year the government will take it away. But for this ride, I commuted to the office anyway. I then got on one of my bikes that I keep in the parking garage of the office building where I work, and spent the entire day just riding around the D.C. area to see and enjoy the Christmas decorations and holiday spirit, which can be found almost everywhere.  It was a great ride to end the year.

As I’ve stated previously in this blog, I am not a photographer. I’m just a guy that goes for bike rides on my lunch break at work, and takes a few snapshots of the places I go to and the things I see along the way. On this ride I took more photos than usual. My favorite photo (above) from this leisurely bike ride is the one of a Christmas tree and holiday wreath left at The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, with the image of both my bike and The Washington Monument reflecting off the polished granite panels containing the names of the servicemen and women who were killed or classified as missing in action during the Vietnam War. The photo seems to portray at the same time both the joy of the season as well as the solemnity of the memorial.

Some of the other photos (below) which I’ve included with this blog post show several of the places which I have already visited this year and then wrote about in this blog, as well as some other places I intend to visit again and learn more about in the coming year.  You can click on the thumbnails for full-size photos.

In order, these photos show: (1) Giant wreathes hanging at the front of Union Station in D.C., one of the busiest train stations in the country. You can get a sense of the size of the wreathes by comparing them to the size of the people standing beneath them. (2) Toy soldiers standing guard at the entrance to the Old Ebbit Grill on 15th Street, D.C.’s oldest bar and restaurant. (3) Holiday wreathes on the old Sun Trust Building on 15th Street, across the street from the U.S. Treasury Department Building. (4) Holiday garlands, wreathes and bows adorning the entrance to The Historic Willard Hotel. (5) The D.C. Fire Department’s Truck No. 3 Fire Station on 13th Street in northwest D.C., which is decorated and lit up with Christmas lights. (6) The Vietnam Women’s Memorial is one of the memorials where wreathes are laid by Wreathes Across America, the group that supplies the Christmas wreathes at Arlington National Cemetery. (7) The Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, with a tomb guard in the foreground “walking the mat.” The wreathes in front of the sarcophagus and graves are also part of the tribute at the cemetery by Wreathes Across America. (8) Some of the more than 230,000 wreathes at Arlington National Cemetery which adorn the rows of white marble headstones. (9) Wreathes were also placed by Wreathes Across America at gravesites at The John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame. (10) The Woodrow Wilson House, the home of the only President to remain in D.C. after leaving office, is also decorated for the holidays. (11) One of the several outdoor holiday markets that spring up throughout the city in the time leading up to Christmas. This one is The Downtown Holiday Market, which is currently in its 11th year.  (12)  If you’re fortunate, you can also happen upon live musiccal performances.  This one was taking place on the sidewalk in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery between 7th and 9th Streets in the city’s Chinatown neighborhood.  (13) The Krispy Kreme doughnut shop across from The Fountain at DuPont Circle is an excellent place to stop for an early morning snack when riding around the city to see the holiday decorations, especially when the “Hot Now” neon light is lit up.  And even they decorated for the season. (14) An outdoor craft show and flea market on Capitol Hill. (15) A Christmas tree stand at Eastern Market selling fresh-cut Christmas trees. (16) The White House gates included decorative bows for the holidays. (17) The National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse at President’s Park just south of the White House. (18) The Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building grounds. (19) Festively decorated Christmas trees, like this one, could be seen in the windows of stores and office buildings on almost every block.  (20) And the final photo is of a bike-themed ornament that I saw on the Capitol Christmas Tree, which seemed too relevant to not be included in this blog post.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of you reading this, whether you are here in D.C. and anywhere else around the world, a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

ChristmasDC08     ChristmasDC20     ChristmasDC03

ChristmasDC04     ChristmasDC07     ChristmasDC22

ChristmasDC09     ChristmasDC27     ChristmasDC05

ChristmasDC21     ChristmasDC30     ChristmasDC35

ChristmasDC13     ChristmasDC23     ChristmasDC10

ChristmasDC37     NationalTree07     CapitolChristmasTree01     ChristmasDC24

CapitolChristmasTree02

Calvary Baptist Church

Calvary Baptist Church

On this day in 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment and bringing an end to the era of national prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. It should be noted that the consumption of alcohol was never illegal under federal law. Prohibition focused on the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. However, exceptions were made for medicinal and religious uses. Nationwide prohibition did not begin until 1920, when the 18th Amendment to the Constitution went into effect.  Thirteen years later, what President Woodrow Wilson referred to as “America’s noble experiment” ended.

The movement for the interdiction of alcohol that eventually resulted in Prohibition actually started much earlier – in the early 19th century, when Americans concerned about the adverse effects of drinking began forming temperance societies. By the late part of the century, these groups had become a powerful political force, campaigning on the state level and calling for national liquor abstinence. The Anti-Saloon League was one of the most prominent of these organizations, and eventually spearheaded the lobbying for prohibition in this country.  Calvary Baptist Church, a bright red brick church located at 755 8th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood, is where the first Anti-Saloon League meeting was held. It was also one of my destinations on today’s lunchtime bike ride.

On this ride I also went by a couple of other D.C. locations with connections to Prohibition – The Woodrow Wilson House and D.C.’s Temperance Fountain – despite the fact that I have been to and written in this blog about these locations previously.

While most presidents at that time happily retired back to their home state, Wilson decided to stick around and continued to live in the national Capitol city after leaving office. His second wife, Edith, had lived in D.C. before they met and received a small fortune when her former husband, a prosperous local jeweler, passed away. Woodrow and Edith moved into their newly-acquired Embassy Row home at 2340 S Street (MAP) in 1921.  But it wasn’t an easy move. Prohibition was in effect at the time, and since it forbade the transportation of alcohol, it presented a problem for Wilson, who did not want to leave his fine wine collection behind in The White House for his successor, especially since the recently elected Warren G. Harding was known to be a heavy drinker.  Wilson appealed to Congress, and Congress passed a special law just for him that allowed one person on one specific day “to transport alcohol from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to 2340 S Street.”

My last destination for this prohibition-themed bike ride was the Temperance Fountain, located at the corner of Seventh Street and Indiana Avenue in downtown D.C. (MAP).  A temperance fountain was a fountain that was set up, usually by a private benefactor, to encourage people not to drink alcohol by providing safe and free water instead. During the earlier temperance movement, beer was the main alternative to water, and generally safer. The temperance societies had no real alternative as tea and coffee were too expensive, so water fountains were very attractive. One such fountain still exists in D.C. It was one of the ones built by Henry Cogswell, a dentist and a crusader in the temperance movement. It was his dream to construct one temperance fountain for every 100 saloons in the U.S. It is unknown exactly how many Cogswell actually built, but the fountain in D.C. is one of only four that still remain.

After the repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933, some states continued Prohibition by maintaining statewide temperance laws. Mississippi, the last “dry” state, didn’t end Prohibition until 1966. To this day there continue to be areas within states where prohibition remains in effect, commonly referred to as “dry counties.” There are currently more than 500 counties and municipalities in the U.S. that are dry, including 83 in Alaska. Nearly one half of Mississippi’s counties are dry. And in Florida, four of its 67 counties are dry, all of which are located in the northern part of the state, an area that has cultural ties to the Deep South. And although Moore County, Tennessee, is the home of Jack Daniel’s, a major operational distillery of whiskey, it is also a dry county, so the product is not available at stores or restaurants within the county.

By comparison, D.C. is not dry, and it is very different place today than it was when the Anti-Saloon League was meeting at Calvary Baptist Church and people were drinking water from the Temperance Fountain.  There are currently over 1,900 establishments and businesses that possess liquor licenses to sell alcohol to the 646,449 residents in the 68-square-mile area known as the District of Columbia.  This works out to a bar or liquor store for every 340 residents of our nation’s capitol.

ChristmasDC21     TemperanceMonument01
[Click on photos above to view full size versions]

Woodrow Wilson House

Woodrow Wilson House

While most Presidents happily retire back to their home state after leaving office, Woodrow Wilson decided to remain in D.C.   In fact, he is the only American President to select D.C. to be his home following his final term in office.  So on a recent bike ride I chose to go by the Woodrow Wilson House in northwest D.C.   Sometimes referred to as “the other executive mansion,” the house is located at 2340 S Street (MAP) on Embassy Row in the city’s Kalorama Neighborhood.

Late in 1920 after leading the nation through the first World War, winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and creating the League of Nations, the 28th President’s second and final term was nearing its end.  Needing a place to live after leaving The White House, his wife Edith Bolling Wilson began to search for an appropriate residence.  His second wife, she had lived in D.C. before they met and received a small fortune when her former husband, a prosperous local jeweler, passed away.  However, her husband made his own plans.  On December 14, Wilson insisted that his wife attend a concert.  When she returned he presented her with the deed to the Georgian style mansion on S Street.  He had bought the house despite having never even seen it.  The former President and his wife moved into the home on Inauguration Day in 1921.

The Wilsons moved into their new retirement haven, but it wasn’t an easy move.  Prohibition forbid the transportation of alcohol, and that presented a problem for Wilson, who did not want to leave his fine wine collection in the White House for his successor.  The recently elected Warren G. Harding was known to be a heavy drinker.  He appealed to Congress, and Congress granted an exception to Prohibition by passing a special law just for him, which allowed one person on one specific day “to transport alcohol from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to 2340 S Street.”

Wilson, partially paralyzed from a stroke he suffered in 1919, spent his few remaining years in partial seclusion at the house, under the continuous care of his wife and servants.  It was from the balcony of this house that Wilson addressed a crowd in November of 1923 as his last public appearance.  On February 3, 1924, he died in an upstairs bedroom.  He was laid to rest in Washington National Cathedral, becoming not just the only President to remain in D.C. after his presidency, but also the only President to be buried in D.C.   Mrs. Wilson continued to live in the residence until her death in 1961.   She bequeathed the property and all of its original furnishings to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which designated it a National Historic Landmark in 1964.  The National Trust continues to own the house, and currently operates it as a museum.

I think President Wilson would have approved of my adventures biking around and exploring D.C.  He cycled regularly, including several cycling vacations.  However, as President he was unable to bike around D.C. for security reasons.  Unable to ride, he took to playing golf with equal enthusiasm.  In fact, Wilson holds the record among all U.S. Presidents for the most rounds of golf, having played over 1,000 rounds, or almost one every other day.

WoodrowWilsonHouse04     WoodrowWilsonHouse02     WoodrowWilsonHouse03