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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The Daily Feed

Keep Living in the Past

Photo courtesy of
‘Drawing of proposed National Airport’
courtesy of ‘DC Public Library Commons’

The District has a very cool history, and it’s amazing to think how it has changed over the years. One of the coolest parts of this history is how DC has physically changed since it was planned. We talked a little bit about this when I busted the myth that DC was built on a swamp, but here’s an even cooler way to see it: historical map overlays in Google Maps!

There are two maps you should really check out, DC in 1851 and DC in 1861. You can make these layers transparent and see how the landscape of the city has changed since then. Hains Point, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial were all water back then, but places like Georgetown look exactly the same. Take a look and leave a comment with anything cool you find!

History, Mythbusting DC, The Features

DC Mythbusting: Boundary Stones

Photo courtesy of
‘Takoma 1791 Boundary Stone’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Welcome to another week’s DC Mythbusting.  This week we’ll talk about a myth I heard when I first moved to DC– that the city’s boundaries are marked off, every mile or so, with stones.  I heard that these stones had been placed long ago when Andrew Ellicott and Benjamin Banneker were surveying the city, and that they’re mostly still there.  I’d never seen them or heard of them outside of that once, so I assumed it was a myth. But I was wrong– this myth is confirmed!

Back in 1791 and 1792, Andrew Ellicott and friends went around the 10-mile square of the planned City of Washington and placed a boundary stone every mile.  The stones had four sides– facing inward towards DC (which read “Jurisdiction of the United States” and a mile number, facing outward (which showed the name of the bordering state, either Maryland or Virginia), and the other sides showed the year the stone was placed and the compass variance at that point.
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History, Mythbusting DC, The District, The Features

DC Mythbusting: “Lobbyist” Coined at Willard Hotel

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courtesy of ‘chantoozie’

Welcome to another edition of DC Mythbusting!  This week we’ll be busting the myth of the term ‘lobbyist’.  The legend that I’ve heard countless times in the District is that the term ‘lobbyist’ originated at the Willard Hotel when Ulysses S. Grant was in office (1869-1877).  Apparently President Grant would frequent the Willard Hotel to enjoy brandy and a cigar, and while he was there, he’d be hounded by petitioners asking for legislative favors or jobs.  It is said that President Grant coined the term by referring to the petitioners as “those damn lobbyists.”   The legend has been forwarded by the Washington Post, The Hill, the American Society of News Editors, and, of course, the PR director of the Willard Hotel.

It’s a fun story to tell tourists, and it makes the Willard Hotel even more of a landmark, but the legend is just not true.  Sure, President Grant visited the Willard Hotel and enjoyed his brandy and a cigar, but he did not coin the term ‘lobbyist’.

The verb ‘to lobby’ first appeared in print in the United States in the 1830′s, at least thirty years before Ulysses S. Grant came to Washington.  The term is believed to have originated in British Parliament, and referred to the lobbies outside the chambers where wheeling and dealing took place.  “Lobbyist” was in common usage in Britain in the 1840′s.  Jesse Sheidlower, editor-at-large for the Oxford English Dictionary, believes the term was used as early as 1640 in England to describe the lobbies that were open to constituents to interact with their representatives.

So there you have it: President Grant may have used the term to refer to all those hangers-on at the Willard, but the term was around long before he arrived in DC.