Monumental: Washington Monument’s New Lighting

Flickr VideoWashington Monument Lighting
courtesy of pablo.raw

I mentioned it a few months ago, but it bears repeating: I’ve been following the Washington Monument’s scaffolding with rapt attention. And for the last two weeks we’ve had the added bonus of the Monument’s new lighting. While there have been a number of people praising the new look, I wanted to do a review of some of the great photos that have been in our pool for the past two weeks. And there have been some fascinating shots that our photographers have gotten. Please sit back and enjoy the temporary change to our city’s skyline. Continue reading


World War I Memorial Event Falls Victim To Sequestration

Special to We Love DC from our friend, Lisa King

I’m not going to argue the politics of whether the Park Service or DC should control the World War I Memorial on the National Mall. I will say it’s a damn shame that we don’t have a national memorial to the Great War, and I wish the DC World War I Memorial got more attention.

And I can’t believe that the Memorial Day events – scheduled for this Sunday (May 19th) – fell victim to a $1,000 budget shortfall due to sequestration. (Though I understand this is where the politics might come in.)

In any case, to honor my cousin James who died in the Meuse-Argonne just days before the Armistice and all the others who served and never came home, I will be at the World War I Memorial on Sunday morning at 10:30 am with a wreath. Feel free to join me.

James Willets


Memorial 2.0 Map from NCPC & NPS

There are so many monuments in DC it’s hard to keep track of them all. No, really, it’s kind of ridiculous how many statues there are in this city, not even including Statuary Hall at the Capitol or any of the interior objet d’art at various national organizations who make their home in the District. Fortunately, the Park Service and the National Capital Planning Commission have your back, and their latest effort was published today.

This google map is annotated with literally hundreds of the various statues and markers that dot our local landscape. Some of the more obscure include the Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain (on the Ellipse), Nuns of the Battlefield (at St. Matthew’s on M Street), and Jules Jusserand (Rock Creek Park). There are detailed entries on a number of the statues and markers, the result of the collaboration between the two entities. It’s worth a look if you’re going to be playing tour guide any time soon, and perhaps it’s a chance to create a cool scavenger hunt for yourself this weekend.


Monumental: White House Rose Garden

This is just about the most perfect time of year in the District, when the spring weather has sprung, the sugar magnolias and cherries are mid bloom, and the tulips and daffodils are brightening the landscape. Well, at least that’s what it looks like in proper gardens, my own space is still suffering from a surfeit of prunella and the hydrangea have yet to bloom. While my own space is in trouble, the gardens at The White House, though, are in perfect shape. This weekend, they open for their annual public tour of the Rose Garden, South Lawn and Jacqueline Kennedy Garden. Tickets, free of charge, are available on a first-come, first-served basis on Saturday & Sunday from 8am onward at 15th & E Streets at the Ellipse.

The Rose Garden (along the West Colonnade) celebrates its 100th year this year, as the original was planted in 1913 by Ellen Loise Axson Wilson after the Roosevelt remodel of the White House at the turn of the century. The original Rose Garden featured a lily pond at its center, unlike the current design, which is more in following with formal French and Italian garden styles, with defined lawn areas and defined beds for flowers. The 1960s revival of the White House Gardens under the direction of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and horticulturalist Rachel Lambert Mellon led to the gardens that are present today, dedicated by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson in 1964.

Though the roses will likely not be blooming for a few more weeks, the large flowering saucer magnolia and Magnolia × soulangeana trees along the Colonnades should be at maximum potency this weekend, which should make for some pretty incredible photos. Be on the look for daffodil, jonquil, grape hyacinth, tulips and squill, amongst other spring blooming flower bulbs, as well as the perennials hollyhock, lavender and delphinium.

Cameras are welcome this weekend, but food and drink, as well as any large bags or suitcases are not. Obviously weapons and explosives are prohibited, as is smoking. 


National Cathedral Tower Climb

Photo courtesy of mosley.brian
National Cathedral – Tower Climb – Narrow Staircase – 03-24-12
courtesy of mosley.brian

This weekend the National Cathedral reopened their central tower for the first time since the August earthquake, and Brian and I were there to climb it. Saturday’s dreary weather meant you could see clouds passing through the windows at the top; still, it’s the highest point in DC, the bells can ring in any weather, and even in the fog the views are exquisite.

First things first: This is not the tour for you if you’re claustrophobic or afraid of heights. The first half of the climb takes you up narrow winding passages, and because of people stopping in front, you might end up stranded in tight places for a bit. The last third of the climb takes you up an open spiral staircase that wobbles as you walk. In other words, don’t test your fears this way. That’s what trapeze school is for.

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Monumental: Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial

Photo courtesy of
‘The ultimate measure of a man…………’
courtesy of ‘LaTur’

On Sunday (UPDATE: now sometime in September or October), the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial will be dedicated. As this will be the first major memorial dedicated in the Mall area since the National World War II Memorial in 2004, I thought it would be interesting to review the monument and solicit our readers’ views. For those interested in going to the dedication, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation has a FAQ page on the dedication ceremony and a handy walking directions pamphlet.

To quickly sum up my opinion: excellent, and long overdue, idea for a memorial, but it is poorly executed. Let me explain. I’ll be slightly kinder than Courtland Milloy but not by much and in some areas less (BTW: props to you, sir, on the Star Wars reference! Makings of a Millennial this one has.). Continue reading


DC Residents get first look at new King memorial

Photo courtesy of
‘MLK Memorial’
courtesy of ‘nevermindtheend’

With the newest monument on the Mall slated to open at the end of the month, to crowds of “hundreds of thousands,” District residents are going to get a free sneak preview. Tickets will be available at the MLK library in DC, as well as on the city’s website starting early next week. The memorial will be open to DC residents from 8am to 8pm on August 23rd, five days ahead of its dedication.

Ahead of the dedication on the 28th, the city is urging all city residents to turn out for a DC Full Democracy day on the 27th with a rally at Freedom Plaza, and a march from the Lincoln Memorial to the King Memorial.  We’ll have more on that in the coming days.


Happy 165th, Smithsonian!

Photo courtesy of
‘Lower Invertebrates Exhibit in West Wing, Smithsonian Institution Building’
courtesy of ‘Smithsonian Institution’

You know how you have this awesome friend, but you forgot their birthday this year, and it turns out it was a big one? Yeah. That. [Update, 11:45: As it turns out, We did cover this yesterday. So, I feel a little better, but still, birthday! Yay!]

Yesterday was the Smithsonian Institution’s 165th birthday, having been finally founded on August 10th, 1846, over a decade after Congress agreed to accept the bequest.  The original gift of approximately $500,000 was incredibly controversial when it had been initially granted, and the decade of time necessary to establish the Institution.

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Monumental, The Daily Feed

Is the District of Columbia World War I Memorial in jeopardy?

Photo courtesy of
‘World War I Memorial BW’
courtesy of ‘christaki’

There is a monument on the mall that is dedicated not to a nation’s cause, nor to a great leader, nor to a private citizen.  It is dedicated to the 499 men who gave their lives in support of their country in the Great War, from 1917 to 1918, in the European theater.  The Noyes family helped spur legislation in 1924 to authorize this monument, and it was paid for through fundraising efforts amongst businesses and prominent families in the District, to the tune of $200,000 1924 dollars ($2.5M in 2011 dollars).

The District of Columbia War Memorial, recently refurbished with a grant from the stimulus program, is in jeopardy of being scooped up by the Congress and transformed into a national memorial that may strip the local character away from the District’s fallen from the memorial altogether.

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Monumental, The Daily Feed

Memorializing Endless War in DC: Is it Possible?

Photo courtesy of
‘leaving the Senate’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99′

There was a piece in the Outlook section of Sunday’s Washington Post entitled “How we memorialize endless war?” by public-monument scholar Kirk Savage. It’s an interesting read that sparks a legitimate question on this Memorial Day weekend.

In the wake of the U.S. Armed Forces catching Osama Bin Laden after a near ten year search, the American war on terror isn’t over. Our troops are still overseas and many more never made it home. And, a good amount of the men and women who did make it home are wounded soldiers in some capacity, be it mentally, emotionally or physically.

Savage’s article begs the question: “Will Washington ever memorialize the fights these men and women fought if there is no set end date to the on-going nature of the fight against terror?” Continue reading

Essential DC, Life in the Capital, Monumental

Monumental: Taft Bridge

Photo courtesy of
‘Taft Bridge’
courtesy of ‘mgrass’

One of my first, distinct memories of DC is the long drive down Connecticut Avenue, after exiting 495 and headed to Dupont Circle. I was completely DC naive, had very little navigational or directional DC knowledge and for all I knew I could have been headed north or west or east. As I hesitantly meandered my way down Connecticut Avenue through the tree line Chevy Chase, past the sign to the National Zoo, little did I know that my first DC welcome would come from the majestic, patriotic, stone lion guardians of the Taft Bridge.

Constructed from 1897 to 1907, the arched bridge is the work of architect Edward Pearce Casey and engineer George S. Morrison, known for his steel truss bridges. The bridge, dedicated to U.S. President Howard Taft in 1931, is the largest unreinforced concrete structure in the world and in 2003 was named to the National Register of Historical Places. Continue reading

Essential DC, History, Life in the Capital, Monumental, People, The Features

Monumental: The National Mall & Memories

Photo by Rachel Levitin

My first physical encounter with the ivory American tower that is the Lincoln Memorial was at the age of 12. When I graduated from my four-year stint at American University at age 22, I maintained and continued to proclaim that the Lincoln Memorial is my favorite place to “sit and do nothing” in D.C.

Its hallowed marble grounds and view of the Reflecting Pool is a unique visual shot only available in D.C. Thousands of visitors flood the site daily. It’s a nice stop for a group photo and the corner stone of an essential plot point in Wedding Crashers but at the age of 23 I have no idea why I still call the Lincoln Memorial my favorite place to “sit and do nothing” in D.C.

When you live in Washington for long enough, the tourist appeal loses its initial flare. Often times, those of us who announce residency for longer than a Presidential term are left to visit historical sites, memorials, landmarks, and museums when family or friends are here from out of town … or we’ve guilt tripped ourselves into venturing out into the District’s finest attraction – the National Mall. Continue reading


Monumental: Jefferson Memorial

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘Warren In the Weeds’

This morning marks the 71st anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of my favorite DC memorial, the Jefferson Memorial on the south side of the Tidal Basin.  The Memorial was designed by architect John Russell Pope in 1935, and was one of four that Pope designed, depending on the location that was finally chosen for the monument.  The other three sites that weren’t chosen were along the Anacostia River near where RFK sits today, at Lincoln Park, and one across from the National Archives, which Pope also designed.

The Memorial’s architectural features are, itself, a tribute to Jefferson’s style: Ionic columns, a flat dome, a Roman-style Portico, all things that are present at Jefferson’s university in Charlottesville, the University of Virginia. Continue reading


Monumental: Bladensburg Peace Cross

Peace Cross Bladensburg MD by Ron 911

Sitting at the intersection of Bladensburg Road, Baltimore Avenue and the National Defense Highway just over the border into Prince George’s County is the Bladensburg Peace Cross, a forty-foot stone cross, notes those from Prince George’s county who fought and died in World War I. Inscribed with their names, and the quote from Woodrow Wilson, “The right is more precious than peace. We shall fight for the things we have always carried nearest our hearts. To such a task we dedicate our lives,” the monument is a towering landmark just outside the District.

This weekend is Memorial Day, when we commemorate those who served our country and gave their lives in service of a nation, giving their “last fullest measure of devotion,” in service of family and friends. This is a weekend where we remember all who have died in service of nation, in addition to barbequing, watching baseball, and carrying on.

The Bladensburg Peace Cross was erected by the citizens of Prince George’s County in 1922, and was dedicated on July 13th, 1923. Ceremonies were held at the cross, and with the assistance fo the American Legion of Bladensburg, Snyder-Farmer post, which included survivors of The Great War, Fourth Maryland regiment. Representative Stephen W. Gambrill of Maryland spoke, lauding the efforts and honoring the sacrifice of those who died, saying: “You men of Prince Georges county fought for the sacred right of all to live in peace and

Enjoy the weekend, toast the departed and their memory. We’ll be back on Memorial Day with light coverage.

Monumental, The District, The Features

Monumental: Mount St. Fenty

Photo courtesy of
‘glacial dome’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99′

Rising high above the streets of DC, seen here with a height on par with the Capitol Building, is Mount St. Fenty.  The monument, in which is carved the sorrow of all District residents, was erected in the early part of 2010 by the District’s Department of Transportation on the orders of the Mayor.  While the initial monument was created as part of what should have been the art installation equivalent of a flash mob, on orders of the Mayor, the monument would stand for months to come as testament to the powers of the mother nature.

The ad-hoc architectural construction of Mount St. Fenty is a bold statement in contravention to traditional artforms, favoring chaos and confusion over structure and focus.  The confusing form has been the topic of much discussion over the past few days, and the Mayor himself has expressed incredulity at its reception.  If the avant garde nature of Mount St. Fenty is its most obvious feature, the Kafkaesque drama that it carries with it as undercurrent is its most long-lasting.  The neighborhoods are rife with frustration as the Mount is causing all manner of parking difficulty throughout the city, leaving residents with flat tires, flared tempers and a sharp increase in the alcoholism rate.

Plans to move the monument at this time are quite sketchy, as the Mayor has said that the weather will have to do the job itself, and that city funds are stretched to the limit to move the monument to its final location. The delay, though, will prove to be a campaign issue for the Mayor in this fall’s primaries.  Well, should anyone decide to run against Mayor Fenty.


Monumental: Theodore Roosevelt Island

Photo courtesy of
‘Teddy waves from on high’
courtesy of ‘snapzdc’

Theodore Roosevelt Island may not have sandy beaches and palm trees, but this little island definitely has secrets.

First, you have to know it’s there. From the frenzied lane-changing above on the Roosevelt bridge, you’d never know that a nature preserve nearly 90 acres large lies below.

Scores of people zip past it daily in their cars on the George Washington Parkway, too, or on bike or foot on the Mount Vernon trail–only a single footbridge lets people across from near Rosslyn.

And when you do find and wander onto the island, all you see at first is trees. It’s a bit of a surprise when you come upon the hidden plaza, with a moat, fountains, and a 17’ statue of Teddy Roosevelt towering overhead.
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Downtown, History, Monumental, Penn Quarter, The Mall

Monumental: Freedom Plaza

Photo courtesy of
‘Freedom Plaza’s Mini Scale’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

“Put yourself in the map”. That’s what I always tell my friends when they’re feeling turned around and lost. But not everyone has the appreciation for maps that I do, which is why I was so excited that I could literally put myself in the map at Freedom Plaza, and maybe take a friend or two with me to show them how it’s done.

Located just east of the White House at 14th and Penn between the Ronald Reagan building and the National Theatre, Freedom Plaza is one of those places in DC that you’ve probably already been to and never really noticed. The first time I was there was for the “Light the Night” walk for blood cancers which used the plaza as the basecamp for the start of the walk. It was dark out, and I had that feeling of: “This is probably somehow important – I mean it IS in the heart of Washington – but I can’t really tell in the dark.”

Different colored stones and brass inlays create a smooth, flat, and rectangular depiction of L’Enfant’s plan. The layout, the inscriptions, and the history are subtle and easily missed – unless you know why you’re there. Similarly, ironically shaped patches of grass stand out as awkward additions to the plaza until you realize they symbolize the National Mall.

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History, Monumental, The Features

Monumental: Robert Emmet

Dublin Emmit Statue
Emmet statue in DC by Corinne Whiting

On a recent return trip to Dublin, Ireland, I happily killed some time strolling through the city oasis of St. Stephen’s Green. On my way out of the lush park, I meandered past a statue so familiar it brought me to a screeching halt. There stood a petticoat waistcoat-clad Robert Emmett (1778-1803)–bold jaw, foot forward, ready for battle. Now where I had seen this Irish patriot before?

But, of course. Where else but in DC, where memorials and monuments are so ubiquitous that many get passed without so much as a second glance. I too had been guilty of repeatedly strolling by this mystery man who reigns over a cozy triangular park near Massachusetts Avenue and 24th Street NW, having never stopped to learn his story. I vowed to visit him next time I found myself on embassy-lined Mass Ave.

Nestled beneath the branches of a Yoshino cherry tree, the DC Emmet stands on a granite pedestal just a few blocks from the Irish Embassy. This “boy martyr of Erin” appears mid-speech, one hand open in rhetorical gesture, the other somewhat clenched to display his “revolutionary spirit.” Emett’s father instilled in his sons a passion for Irish independence at a time when men and women-Catholic and Protestant-fought for freedom from Britain. Trinity College expelled the young Robert for his involvement in the 1798 rebellion and, in 1802, Emmet traveled to France as a member of the United Irishmen’s Party. Here he unsuccessfully appealed for French aid from Napoleon and Talleyrand. The following summer Emmet led an uprising outside of Dublin that British troops swiftly crushed. Emmet was executed (either hung or beheaded, accounts vary) on September 20, 1803 at the ripe age of 25.

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Monumental, The Features

Monumental: Albert Einstein

Photo courtesy of
‘Albert Einstein Memorial Statue’
courtesy of ‘bbmcder94′

Tucked across the street near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall and completely overshadowed by the nearby Lincoln Memorial sits a memorial to Albert Einstein. Located on the grounds of the National Academy of Sciences on Constitution Avenue, the bronze statue lounges in a small grove of elm and holly trees on a circular-stepped dais.

The statue honoring the physicist was unveiled in 1979 on the centennial of Einstein’s birth. The figure weighs four tons, sits twelve feet high and holds a paper with three of the scientist’s most important mathematical equations: the photoelectric effect, the theory of relativity and the equivalence of energy and matter. Three of his more famous quotations are engraved on the bench where the statue is seated. Continue reading

History, Monumental, The Features

Monumental: Fort Marcy


Driving the George Washington Parkway north along the Potomac, you can almost miss the entrance to Fort Marcy Park. It’s not a well-known Civil War fortification, not being a sight of one of that war’s destructive battles, but it was one of the key components of the Union’s defense of the capital. (It’s also known as the place where White House Counsel Vince Foster’s body was discovered in 1993, but that’s not really relevant today.)

At the beginning of the Civil War, there was only one operational fort (Fort Washington, over in Maryland) to defend against Confederate encroachment. A huge effort was made to establish a defensive ring of forts around the capital, eventually resulting in a ring of eight enclosed forts and over 90 gun batteries by 1865. These preparations made DC one of the most heavily fortified cities in the world at that time.

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