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

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Featured Photo

Have you been following the slow rise of the scaffolding around the Washington Monument? I sure have, and I’m fascinated by it! A cool little factoid about the world’s tallest obelisk: it was the world’s tallest structure for five years, from 1884-1889. Think about that: it is one of the world’s tallest structures and it is now covered in scaffolding. My mind is blown every time I think about that.

Kevin has a great shot here of the scaffolding topping out. He did a very nice color conversion to a slightly off black and white tone, which creates a great contrast between the stone and metal (and it gives a great look to the clouds too). Kevin’s been following the ascent of the metal girders just like me and has some other great shots here, here, here, and here. This is an all around excellent shot, and one to cherish as a piece of history.

Featured Photo

Featured Photo

With each passing day the scaffolding around the Washington Monument moves higher and higher. If you will recall, the world’s biggest obelisk is getting the treatment to fix a number of cracks that occurred during (or were found after) the 2011 Earthquake. Even though we’ve lost being able to go into the monument until some time next year, the small benefit is that we get to see it wrapped up in the scaffolding again (look here for an idea on what it will look like completed).

Kim’s picture does a great job of capturing this time in the life of the monument. First, we have the crisscrossing lines of the scaffolding to draw the eye. Then the black of the night sky and the metal scaffolding, combined with the brighter white of the illuminated monument, create a great contrast. The flags provides a nice splash of color to the whole photo; as well as providing an interesting tell that this is a long exposure shot. All around, an excellent shot.

Mythbusting DC, The Features

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, The Features

DC Mythbusting: Monumental Myths

Photo courtesy of
‘TJ, from above’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99’

It’s officially tourist season here in DC, and our once-serene monuments and memorials are again overrun with school groups in matching t-shirts and families pushing strollers the size of SUVs.  They’re here to see the monuments and memorials all over the city, and to educate future generations about the founding of our country and important historic events.  But there are so many myths about the monuments and memorials in the District that can’t possibly be true, so I set out to bust some of them, just in time to set those tourists straight.   Read on to find out whether there’s an extra hand of God on the Iwo Jima memorial, whether the number of horse’s hooves on the ground of a statue relates to how a person died, and what’s really buried beneath the Washington Monument.

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The Daily Feed

Why the Washington Monument is Two-Toned

Photo courtesy of
‘In the Shadow of the Obelisk’
courtesy of ‘william couch’

Did you know that the Washington Monument is the tallest stone structure in the world?

That from the time the cornerstone was laid, it took 40 years, three months and five days for the monument to open? (The original marble became unavailable after a delay. This is why the monument changes color partway up.)

Or that it is now half an inch shorter than in 1884 due to repeated lightning strikes?

Find a wealth of fun facts like these in yesterday’s post on National Parks Traveler.

The Daily Feed

DC in the Mist

Photo courtesy of
‘This is a color photo’
courtesy of ‘erin m’

I just drove home through the city, and it’s such a beautiful night out there that I wanted to share. After all this rain, a half moon is now shining brightly against a dark sky and a diagonal swath of white cloud. The air itself is clear, but a ground fog is welling up in front of the White House, on the Mall, and near the Washington Monument.

Near lights, the air looks diffused with haze. In the shadows, it seems more defined. A white mist rises up a foot or two off the earth, topping off in an even white line. In a way, it looks magical, like DC is set for the movies with manmade special effects. In another way, it looks primeval, like the “swamp” DC was built on (or not) is coming back to life, nature taking over.

In the midst of it all, I saw two children running alongside the base of the Washington Monument, their arms and legs flailing and the spotlights throwing their shadows up high against the stone. I imagined they were here to see family and on their first trip to our nation’s capital. How exciting must that be?

Happy Thanksgiving, DC!

Mythbusting DC, The Features

DC Mythbusting*: Washington Monument On Axis

The Washington Monument is not on axis!

The Washington Monument is not on axis!

 I admit it, I’m definitely a perfectionist.  I’m a big fan of symmetry and straight lines and order.  I think that’s one of the reasons I like DC so much– L’Enfant’s plan is so orderly, with the important sites marked by radiating avenues, and the clear axis of power coming straight down the Mall.  But something has always bothered me– the center of the White House doesn’t look like it lines up with the Washington Monument.  Why, in a city so based on order and symmetry and strong axes, does the Washington Monument not line up?!

Because the ground right at the intersection of the center of the White House and the center of the Capitol was not strong enough to support such a giant structure.  Originally, L’Enfant had proposed a small equestrian statue of George Washingon at the intersection of the east-west axis of the Capitol and the north-south axis of the White House.  But plans changed, and the Washington Monument went there instead.  The Monument was larger and heavier than anything that L’Enfant had envisioned, so it had to be shifted off axis to avoid less solid, marshy ground.  The Monument now rests “about 300 feet southeast of the crossing point of L’Enfant’s two primary vistas” (from Grand Avenues, page 271).  Mystery solved!

So has anyone besides me noticed and been bothered by this?  Or am I the only one who will be sleeping easier tonight knowing that there’s a reason behind the off-axis placement of the Monument?

* Ok, so I realize this isn’t a myth exactly.  But it’s something that’s always bothered me about DC that I couldn’t figure out.  If you have a DC myth in mind that you’d like me to bust/confirm, please e-mail me at shannon (at)  Thanks!

The Daily Feed

Street Car at Washington Monument, 1938

Streamliner: 1938

Streamliner: 1938

From Shorpy, the historic photo blog: a DC street car near the Washington Monument in 1938. The view seems to be looking west from 15th St, and could almost be a modern view, aside from the street car, rails, and old-timey automobiles parked on the ramp — right up to the base of the Monument, something you couldn’t do today, what with the ha-ha wall.

Featured Photo, Life in the Capital, The District, The Mall

Featured Photo

Presidential Helicopter Passing the Washington Monument by realkevin

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. This perfectly framed shot of what could be Marine One flying in front of the Washington Monument makes me wonder what George was up to. Was he coming back from Andrews AFB? Was he on his way to Camp David? Was he giving some Saudis a tour of the city or just out for a joy ride? We’ll never know.

According to my trusty sources on The Google:

As a security measure, Marine One always flies in groups with identical helicopters, sometimes as many as five. One helicopter carries the president, while the others serve as decoys for would-be assassins on the ground. Upon take-off these helicopters begin to shift in formation (sometimes referred to as a Presidential shell game) regularly to keep the location of the President secure. Also, Marine One reportedly is equipped with standard military anti-missile countermeasures such as flares to counter heat-seaking missiles and chaff to counter radar-guided missiles. To add to the security of Marine One, every member of HMX-1 is required to pass a Yankee White background check before touching any of the helicopters used for presidential travel. Marine One is always transported (as is the president’s limousine) wherever the president travels, within the U.S. as well as overseas.

I find anything and everything to do with the presidency fascinating. For example, “Air Force One is the call sign for any fixed-wing aircraft that the President of the United States may happen to be in at any given time. Should the aircraft happen to be a rotary-wing aircraft, it is referred to as ‘Marine One’.” Also, “A Marine Corps aircraft carrying the Vice President is designated ‘Marine Two’.” Who came up with these call signs? Why not call them ‘Big Bird’ and ‘Little Bird’? Or ‘Dumb’ and ‘Dumber’? I guess there’s a reason they didn’t consult with me on this decision.

I haven’t been lucky enough to be near the Mall or the White House with my camera when one of these choppers is flying around, but I know that no matter the occasion, one of our talented photographers will be on the scene.

All Politics is Local, Comedy in DC, Entertainment, Special Events, The Daily Feed

Ron Paul DC March

Ron Paul, the anarcho-capitalist cryptolibertarian neoconfederate survivalist Texas congressman and sometime presidential candidate who published a racist newsletter and opposed a medal for Rosa Parks, civil rights, MLK Day, Tibetan freedom, DC voting rights, and the 14th and 16th Amendments, and enjoyed endorsements from such greats as the John Birch Society, Stormfront White Nationalists, and the Ku Klux Klan, is having a march and rally today! Continue reading


Why I Love DC: Don

If you think I’m wrong, say so, but I’d suggest that it’s a lot easier to talk about why you dislike something than why you hate something. Hate or simple dislike is easy. One or two things bug you enough that it outweighs your enjoyment, and identifying them is simple. After all, they’re eating at you. Love and like are harder. People, meals, paintings, songs, places… we love them not for that one trait, that particular spice, that bassline, but because they add up to something more.

I’m having that problem telling you what it is that I love about DC. I could fill your screen with all the things here that delight me, but I don’t think that would really answer the question. Besides, so many things you could respond by saying “you could have that lots of places.” For instance – having grown up in Miami, I can put seasons near the top of the list. I think those of you who grew up seeing fall colors don’t fully grasp the magic. There’s a subtlety to the change that sneaks up on me. Perhaps it’s different for some of you, but every April I have a moment where I suddenly realize I can’t see through that cluster of trees – where’d those leaves come from all of a sudden?

Some things are a little more specifically regional, like Maryland Blue Crab. More specific to us, I love the Smithsonian, not just because it’s wonderful, but because it has completely ruined me for museums everywhere else I travel in the world. Wait, I have to pay to get in? Are you nuts? The way I feel when I look down the mall and see the Washington Monument, which in my six years here I don’t think has ever failed to make me smile… can I even claim that a feeling is a reason? That’s like saying I love DC because I love DC.

Maybe that is the reason. I love it because it’s never stopped giving me things about it to love. Weather, museums, scenic vistas, music, theater, sports, events… Its no different than loving a person – you could certainly get some or all of those things elsewhere, but that entire package together in that ratio is unique, and it keeps giving. The most recent treasure DC gave me was that my darling girlfriend agreed to become my darling fiancée here – on the under-appreciated Roosevelt Island – and that’s going to be a hard one to top.

But I’ve got faith.