Mythbusting DC

Mythbusting: The Internet was invented in Arlington?

Photo courtesy of
‘IMP Control Panel’
courtesy of ‘Erik Pitti’

This past week, just about every DC-based news outlet has picked up the Associated Press story that Arlington County is dedicating a plaque at 1400 Wilson Boulevard to commemorate the birthplace of the Internet-predecessor, the ARPANET. While there’s no question that DARPA, namesake of the network, was deeply and inextricably involved in the development of the network, can you really say that Arlington was its birthplace?

Part of this question is deeply philosophical: what exactly does it mean to invent something that spanned a continent, and then a globe? Are the wires the network? The machines that connect them?  The people that wrote the software that the machines run? There’s not going to be as clean cut an answer here as you’d like, but let’s take the opportunity to explore the region’s involvement in the creation of the second greatest technical achievement of the 1960s, shall we?

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DC Mythbusting: The Washington Monument

Photo courtesy of
‘Washington Monument, Washington, DC’
courtesy of ‘NeonGods’

George Washington was born 279 years ago today, and for the past 126 years our city’s skyline has been dominated by a tribute to him.  The Washington Monument is an iconic piece of architecture, but there are so many myths and legends about it that it could be one of the most misunderstood monuments in the city.  Here’s a collection of our five favorite myths about the Washington Monument. Continue reading

Mythbusting DC

DC Mythbusting: You’re Saying it Wrong

Photo courtesy of
‘I before E’
courtesy of ‘dharmabumx’

Neighborhood names are a touchy subject here in the District, and residents tend to get riled up about what an area is called or what a Metro station is named.  But outside of that, are we even saying these names properly? Chances are you’re actually saying or writing some of these places incorrectly. Read on for some of the most frequently mispronounced names in Washington.

Glover Park rhymes with clover park, right? Wrong. The neighborhood north of Georgetown takes its name from Charles Carroll Glover, a landowner from the 1800s, and the Washington Post tracked down his granddaughter back in 2005 and asked her about how her family pronounces its name.  Her reply?  “GLUH-ver. Please. Everybody calls it GLOH-ver, and it’s absolutely wrong. It’s GLUH-ver Park.”  But that hasn’t stopped the debate– many residents still say it rhymes with Grover, the Sesame Street character.  So either way you say it, someone will probably tell you that you’re wrong, but if you’re trying to be historically accurate it should sound like lover and not like clover.

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Mythbusting DC

DC Mythbusting: DC Flag

Photo courtesy of
‘DC Slices Flag’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

We love seeing how the District ranks against other cities (not against entire states, thank you very much), especially when we come out on top.  So here’s another first place trophy for DC: the best-designed city flag.  Back in 2004, the flag experts of North America (called vexillologists) came together and voted on their favorite city flags, and DC was voted to have the best city flag out of all of them.  We’re number one!  Interestingly,  in second place was Chicago, with a design that looks like they took ours, rearranged it, and added in another color.  And even though we’re not a state, the good old DC flag also ranked as the eighth best state/provincial flag too.

Anyway, we have a pretty cool flag.  But where did it come from?  And is it really based on George Washington’s coat of arms, as the legend goes?  Or is it the basis for the original United States ‘stars and stripes’? This week’s Mythbusting gets to the bottom of the DC flag.

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Mythbusting DC

DC Mythbusting: Museums

Photo courtesy of
‘Postal Museum — Washington, DC’
courtesy of ‘K’s Clicks’

One of the greatest things about living in DC is the proximity of so many great museums.  Always wanted to be a spy? Fascinated by textiles?  Love American military medicine?  DC is your place.  And while you might not be fighting the crowds at every museum (I don’t see huge lines at the National Museum of American Jewish Military History, for example), some museums are huge tourist attractions.  Ever wondered what the most popular museums in the city are? And how many objects, art, and specimens the Smithsonian Institution has? Or when the best time to visit a museum is?

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Mythbusting DC, The Features

DC Mythbusting: Everything You Thought You Knew About DC is Wrong

Photo courtesy of
‘The first Inch of winter 2010-11′
courtesy of ‘ianseanlivingston’

In the spirit of wrapping up the year with a nice little bow on it, welcome to a roundup of our favorite myths over the past year.  There are so many myths about the transportation, history, and culture of the District that we’ve dug into this year. So here are our favorites, all in one place! Read this through and you’ll know more about the District than most people out there.
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Mythbusting DC, The Features

DC Mythbusting: A Bus By Any Other Name

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

Welcome to another edition of DC Mythbusting.  This week we’re looking into the Metrobus system.  The rail system is easy enough to understand– it is organized by color, with five lines in total.  But there are over 300 bus routes serving the DC area, so the color system wouldn’t work (though I would love to ride the Burnt Sienna line or the Dandelion line).  So how are the Metrobus routes named?  Why do some have a letter and a number, some a number and a letter,  and others just have a number?  Read on for the answer!

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Mythbusting DC, The Features

DC Mythbusting: Pierre L’Enfant Planned DC

Photo courtesy of
‘L’Enfant’s Plan at Freedom Plaza’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

Ask just about any Washingtonian who planned the city, and they’ll know it was some French guy, or maybe they’ll even come up with his name, Pierre L’Enfant.  But that wasn’t always the case– for years, Pierre L’Enfant never got credit for designing the city.  So while we all know this ‘myth’ is true, for decades it was just that: a myth. Wondering how this all came to be? Read on for the sad story (spoiler alert: there’s a happy ending!).

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DC Mythbusting: Deep Blue DC

Photo courtesy of
‘elephant or donkey?’
courtesy of ‘ekelly80′

DC is a special place: it’s the center of the country’s political power, but it has little to no political power of its own.  And every election season, our city is cast as just about the worst possible place in the world.  The District is notoriously left-leaning, but we’re about to welcome a lot more right-leaning representatives and staffers to the area too.  This week’s Mythbusting will tackle some political myths.  Is DC one of the most liberal districts in the country?  And what about the region as a whole?

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Mythbusting DC, The Features

DC Mythbusting: Obscure Monuments and Memorials

Photo courtesy of
‘Albert Einstein’
courtesy of ‘afagen’

Having lived in the District for several years, and considering myself pretty knowledgeable about how to get around the city, I’m always happy to point tourists in the right direction when they’re wandering around lost.  But this past weekend, I was stumped– I was asked for directions to the Titanic Memorial, and I had no idea that such a memorial even existed in the District.  If I hadn’t heard about that one, what else was I missing out on?

If you know where the obscure Albert Einstein Memorial (above) is located, it’s easy to think you know where all of the monuments and memorials in the District are.  But would you believe that there’s a monument dedicated to Maine lobstermen here?  Or a park dedicated to Sonny Bono?  Or a memorial showing a fireman being run over? Let me just go ahead and confirm the myth– all these things exist.  Read on to find out what you’re missing!
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Mythbusting DC, The Features

DC Mythbusting: The Sports Curse

Photo courtesy of
‘Strasburg – Coming Spring 2012′
courtesy of ‘afagen’

We all know about the Sports Illustrated cover curse.  And we know the story of the Madden NFL cover curse.  But is the worst curse of all just being part of the Washington sports scene?  That’s what ESPN claims, saying, “A star-destroying black hole of unimaginable proportions, the Washington curse goes beyond sports, touching everything from reality TV (worst seasons ever for “The Real World,” “Top Chef” and “The Real Housewives”) to politics (the reputation of any popular pol who stays in town long enough).”  Ouch.  But does the DC area really have a sports curse?

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Mythbusting DC, The Features

DC Mythbusting: Bike Lanes Are Just for Bikes

Photo courtesy of
‘Doublemint Runners’
courtesy of ‘M.V. Jantzen’

DC is home to over 47 miles of bike lanes, and an ever-increasing number of residents are choosing to bike around the city.  But ride around the city on any of these bike lanes, and you’ll see more than just cyclists taking advantage of them. Tourists on segways, people riding motorcycles, parked or stopped cars– they all feel at home taking advantage of our city’s bike lanes. But bike lanes are meant for just bikes, right?

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Mythbusting DC, The Features

DC Mythbusting: Water, Water Everywhere

Photo courtesy of
‘Potomac River – Traffic on the Key Bridge – 04-20-10′
courtesy of ‘mosley.brian’

I went for a swim in the Potomac River this weekend, and right before I jumped in the water I heard two fellow triathletes have the following conversation:
Triathlete 1: I have a friend who signed up for this race, but he dropped out because he has an Ironman tri coming up, and he wanted to be healthy for it.
Triathlete 2: (confused look)
Triathlete 1: Oh, you didn’t know?  The Potomac River is one of the dirtiest rivers in the country, and people have caught hepatitis from it.  He wanted to make sure he didn’t catch anything during today’s swim.
Triathlete 2: Oh my God.

The triathletes then continued to discuss the poor quality of the river they were about to jump into.  I doubted that anyone could catch hepatitis from a body of water (but apparently I was wrong), but I started to wonder whether it was true that the Potomac River was one of the worst in the country.  So after swimming, biking, and running around the District, I decided to sit down and put this myth to the test.  Is DC home to the most polluted rivers in America?

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Mythbusting DC, The Features

DC Mythbusting: Back to School Edition

Photo courtesy of
‘Field trip’
courtesy of ‘clio1789′

It’s back to school time here at DC Mythbusting!  Our pencils are sharpened and we’ve got our Trapper Keepers ready (they still use those, right?), and we’re ready to bust some school-related myths.  The District’s schools get a bum rap: they’re often cited as the worst-performing schools in the country, and there’s an impression of hordes of students leaving the system for greener pastures (which are typically the suburbs or DC charter schools).  But are the country’s worst schools here in DC?  And is DC the worst school district in the country?  And finally, are students really leaving in hordes?

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DC Mythbusting: Most Extreme Weather Ever

Photo courtesy of
‘seems so long ago’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99′

We’ve seen fire, and we’ve seen rain. We’ve also seen earthquakes, heat waves, blizzards, floods, and, of course, thundersnow. The DC region has seen more than its fair share of crazy weather this year, leading many people to say that this is the most extreme year of weather on record for DC. But in a town where the summer always feels like the most humid ever, and the winter always seems like the most miserable ever, has this year really been out of the ordinary?

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DC Mythbusting: Tourist Tips

Photo courtesy of
‘Souvenir City 1086′
courtesy of ‘yospyn’

Dear DC Tourists, Interns, and Other Newbies,

Welcome to the District!  While we love to complain about you, we’re actually really glad you’re here.  Many of us were in your shoes at one point, and DC can be a little overwhelming when you first get here.  So we’ve compiled a special DC Mythbusting just for you!  Read on for the little secrets that DC residents know, including the best ways to get around the city, the real can’t-miss destinations you’ve never heard of, and the best way to see the Mall.

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Mythbusting DC, The Features

DC Mythbusting: Stand to the Right!

Photo courtesy of
‘Stand on the right?’
courtesy of ‘karthikkito’

It’s probably the number one gripe about tourists: they stand on both sides of the escalators on Metro, blocking the left side that is generally understood to be for walking.  We Washingtonians understand that you stand to the right and walk on the left– there are even Facebook groups and t-shirts supporting the concept– but there are no formal signs on or near the escalators that say so.  Why not?  Rumors range from the theory that having people walk on one side and stand on the other leads to an unequal balance of weight and causes escalators to break down more frequently, or the theory that Metro doesn’t want to formally endorse a ‘stand right/walk left’ policy for liability and safety reasons.  But what’s the real reason there aren’t signs telling tourists to stand to the right?

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DC Mythbusting: Parks

Photo courtesy of
‘Rock Creek Foliage’
courtesy of ‘Rukasu1′

Welcome to another edition of DC Mythbusting! One of the greatest things about living in the District is the access to parks: the National Mall, several triangle and square parks, the fort system of parks, and the enormous Rock Creek Park.   But even with these parks, it seems like DC can’t compete with the scale of other urban parks like Central Park in New York City, right? But would you believe that Rock Creek Park is larger than Central Park? How does DC compare to other comparable cities in terms of parkland? These questions and more are answered in this week’s Mythbusting!

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DC Mythbusting: Highway to Heaven

Photo courtesy of
‘Three Churches, One Corner, Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C.’
courtesy of ‘adcristal’

I love that after several years of living here, I keep finding out new things about the District. Just last week while on a run with a friend along 16th Street, she told me that she had heard that 16th Street was known as the Highway to Heaven because of the concentration of churches, synagogues, and mosques along it. I had never heard of that, but it sounded like an interesting myth to investigate. Does 16th Street really have more religious institutions than any other corridor in the city? And is it called the Highway to Heaven?

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DC Mythbusting: Danger!

Photo courtesy of
‘Nacho #19′
courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

I was born and raised in the suburbs, and when I decided to become a city planner and move to a major city, I heard from many people in my parents’ generation about how dangerous Washington DC was.  “It’s the murder capital of the country!” But is it really?  How does DC’s crime rate compare to that of other cities?  These sound like some good myths to bust.  Let’s get to it!

So is DC the murder capital of the country?  This claim may have been true at one point, but that was about twenty years ago.  The District went through a trying time in the early 90s, when crack cocaine took over the city and murders peaked at 479 in 1991 (an astounding 78.92 murders per 100,000 residents, Borderstan points out).  But last year, there were 143 homicides in the city, continuing a decades-long downward trend.  So yes, at one point the District may have had the highest murder rate in the country, but that’s definitely not the case now.

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