World War I remembered at Arlington National Cemetery

The Arlington National Cemetery Visitors Center remembers “The Great War” with a display commemorating the 100th anniversary of its end. The lobby is filled with World War I paintings, photos and information on the war that changed the world and launched the U.S. as a global superpower.

World War I was from July 28,1914 to Nov. 11 1918. The U.S. didn’t join the war until 1917.

More than 5,000 Americans serving in World War I are buried at Arlington. Another 30,000 are buried overseas. Some four million Americans served during the war with 116,000 deaths.
The joint exhibit with the American Battle Monuments Commission will have its official opening ceremony on March 31 at 8 a.m. The exhibit will remain until November.

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Wordless Wednesday: DC World War I Memorial

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Clara Barton’s office for missing soldiers no longer lost, too

There seems a certain irony that Clara Barton’s office for missing soldiers was itself lost for 130 years.

Seriously, how can office space in the middle of downtown Washington go unseen for more than a century? I could see one owner maybe not using the space, but four generations never took a peak? That’s just amazing. A second-story fire kept anyone from venturing to the third floor, but I find it amazing no one over a century did.

The upstairs office at 437 7th St. N.W. was discovered by a workman in 1997 as the building was nearing demolition. It was the Boyce and Lewis Shoe Store for decades before later sold to the Pennsylvania Ave. Development Corporation and then sold to the federal agency General Services Administration. The building dates to 1853 and is believed to be the last intact boarding house during the Civil War remaining in Washington.

The discovery of Room 9 for Missing Solders Office was a historical find akin to cracking open an Egyptian tomb. Barton lived there for eight years, including the Civil War. The No. 9 is still painted on the door that includes her mail slot. There are window displays at the street level.

The 2,016 artifacts documents dated until 1868 when Barton left for Europe. The first president of the American Red Cross later lived at a Glen Echo Home for the final 15 years before her 1912 death. The Glen Echo home has tours regularly. Visit Clara Barton’s Glen Echo home.

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Space Shuttle Challenger remembered at Arlington

It’s one of those moments we all remember. The Space Shuttle Challenger exploding just 73.5 seconds after leaving Cape Kennedy on Jan. 28, 1986. An o-ring in the right booster rocket leaking hot gasses that led to the fuel tank rupturing and the shuttle falling into the Atlantic Ocean.

There was no escape for the seven astronauts, who are remembered with this marker just above the Memorial Amphitheater by the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Killed were Capt. Michael J. Smith, U.S. Navy; Lt. Col. Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, U.S. Air Force; Dr. Judith A. Resnik; Lt. Col. Ellison S. Onizuka, U.S. Air Force; Mr. Gregory B. Jarvis, Dr. Ronald E. McNair and Sharon Christa McAuliffe.

Parts of all seven are interred beneath the marker, but Scobee and Smith are buried elsewhere in Arlington. Scobee is just a few feet to the left of the memorial. Smith is in Section 7A, site 208-1.

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Best Romantic Photo Spots

It’s not unusual to see weddings around the National Mall and the U.S. Capitol. Maybe the gardens, fountains, majestic buildings or being in a park draws them, but on a spring day you’ll often see the happy bride and groom posing for a photographer.

The next generation to this idea is engagement photos. They’re becoming very popular with the twenty-somethings. Indeed, both of my daughters heard the question popped in a public area in town.

Where should you go for a romantic photo spot? Here are seven good ones.

Jefferson Memorial – The Tidal Basin area has many couples posing among the trees declaring their love. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial has become popular, but the Jefferson Memorial seems more popular among the young government workers. It’s a cool building, patterned after the Panthenon in Rome and there’s water, too. I’d take someone to the edge of the water on the right side of the Jefferson to get both in the photo.

Meridian Hill Park –Maybe it’s the cascading Italianate waterfall, but I once spotted three wedding groups being photographed on a Saturday afternoon. Luckily, the place is big enough for everyone to have their own spot.

Dumbarton Oaks – There’s an admission fee for this private estate, but it’s the most beautiful grounds in town and plenty of vistas for photos. Kind of a secret garden theme.

U.S. Botanic Gardens – My oldest daughter became engaged here inside the building at a bench off the main walk. Wintertime makes this a big option since it’s climate controlled, but if you’re big into plants go for it. Feel free to use the bench idea.

Capitol Gardens – There are several excellent venues for the Capitol. The Senate Fountain on the north side near Union Station is an excellent view. Water and a building, always a great combination. There’s a red brick springhouse on the west side of the dome along the path that’s perfect in warm weather. And, you can’t go wrong by the rail on the west side that overlooks the National Mall.

Lincoln Memorial – The most visited attraction in town is an attractive backdrop. I’d stand either near the bottom one flight above street level so the rising building is in the background or at the top with the National Mall as the background. For the latter, go to either end of the building for more privacy and use the columns as borders of your photo.

Grace Episcopal Church – That wedding couple by the red door featured above is an active church just below Wisconsin Ave. and M Sts. NW in Georgetown. My great grandparents were married there. The red door and gardens make for a great photo within sight of the sidewalk.

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Mary Surratt boarding house now Chinese restaurant

Mary Surratt was one of four people hanged in the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865. She was the first woman in U.S. history to be executed despite cries of mercy for such an old woman. Uh, she was 42, which if I called someone an old woman who’s 42 today there would be a lynching and it would be me.

Anyway, Surratt was said to have hatched the nest of conspiracy. I think that went a little too far. (Disclaimer: Surratt and I are third cousins a few generations removed.)

Surratt certainly knew John Wilkes Booth (Another disclaimer – Booth’s also a cousin of mine. Lesson here is don’t mess with me.) Surratt knew Booth was up to something with Lincoln. She helped in some ways. But I’m not sure Surratt truly knew what was up. That’s what the movie is supposed to help us decide.

The photo above is the ground floor of the old Surratt board house in Washington on 6th and F. St. N.W. just a block above Verizon Center. If you stand by the left side at the alley, you’ll see the original exterior wall. The top two floors are untouched. It’s maybe a 10-minute walk from Ford’s Theater.

Now, don’t get this confused with the better known Surratt House in Clinton, Md. where Booth fled after killing Lincoln to pick up supplies. That was Surratt’s former home before opening the board house six months before the killings. Her husband died and Surratt rented out the then rural house to John Lloyd while she operated the downtown board house. The Clinton house is still open for tours.

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Welcome to Baptist Alley and Booth’s plan

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Wordless Wednesday: Life at Mount Vernon

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My Lincoln assassination tour snippets

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Modern Head requires standing still to catch meaning

I walked past Modern Head several times and didn’t see him.

I took this photo and still didn’t see him.

But once I looked at the photo in the right angle — there he was. Wow, it sure took me long enough, but there’s the face, the mouth – it’s art that you have to hold still for a moment to get.

On the corner of the American Art Museum at 8th and F Sts. across from the Spy Museum, the blue painted stainless steel sculpture is by Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) who created it in 1989, 15 years after first conceiving the piece.

Modern Head is part of Lichtenstein’s belief that man and machine are interwined. It has some of that 1930s art deco influence. The first one was installed in 1996 in Battery Park and survived the 2001 fall of the Twin Towers. It’s illustrated in a sign by the Modern Head here in Washington.

Our Modern Head was donated by Jeffrey Loria in honor of his late sister Harriet Loria Popowitz. I know Loria best as the former owner of the Florida Marlins.

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Wordless Wednesday: Mount Vernon

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Hahnemann: Hero of Homeopathy


No way you know what this monument is unless you’re a pharmacist.

Wandering in Scott Circle where Massachusetts Ave. and 16th St. N.W. meet is one of the widest monuments away from the mall. Four bas relief panels each four feet tall by 10 feet wide. In the middle is a robed statue beneath a mosaic amid a granite background.

Dr. Samuel Hahnemann created the science of homeopathy as a German physician. This actually made Hahnemann quite unpopular among druggists, who forced him to flee to Paris in 1821, but inspired the American Institute of Homeopathy to erect the memorial in 1900. It was later refurbished in 2000.

The four panels depict Hahnemann’s life as a student, chemist, teacher and physician. The life-sized bronze statue between panels depicts Hahnemann pondering deep thoughts. It was sculpted by Charles Henry-Niehaus.

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Reagan welcomes you to National airport

I still think it should be called (George) Washington National Airport. Indeed, there’s a sign on the north side that still says so.

But lawmakers renamed it Reagan-Washington National Airport in 1998. That name lasted five minutes as many now call it Reagan Airport. Now there’s a statue of the 40th president at the entrance of the old A terminal.

The statue itself is a pretty nice piece. It was unveiled Nov. 1, 2011 on Reagan’s 100th birthday, The nine-foot president with a 38-foot stainless-steel wall behind him has a bald eagle etched next to his name. The $900,000 statue was privately funded as one of four of Reagan. Sculptor Chas Fagan also created Reagan statues at the U.S. Capitol, London’s Grosvenor Square and the Reagan Library.

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Mary Surratt signs from Lincoln assassination

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Eastern Market offers history and halibut

At Eastern Market, your job’s not your credit. You gotta pay cash for the produce.

Well, that’s funny if you’re a local because Eastern Motors  used to run a commercial nonstop. Otherwise, you’re thinking I’m nuts.

Anyway, Eastern Market opened in 1873 at 7th St. and North Carolina Ave. SE as a shopping district for Capitol Hill residents. It was designed by Adolf Cluss, whose red brick style included Cavalry Baptist among six churches.

A fire badly damaged South Hall on April 30, 2007. It re-opened June 26, 2009 complete with air conditioning.

The farmer’s market offers meats, fish, poultry and dairy products. On weekends there are arts and crafts vendors and then a nearby flea market that really brings in the crowds. It’s essentially a town hall for the many government employees who live near the U.S. Capitol.

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Whispering to Yoko Ono

I’m a sucker for outdoor sculptures. Indeed, I’d rather be outside than inside so Washington is a great town for tour guiding since most monuments, memorials and statues are outdoors. In another life, I’d like to be a U.S. Park ranger.

The Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden at Jefferson and Seventh St. SW is filled with great pieces like the Burghers of Calais showing town elders surrendering, ropes around their necks in expecting death.

Mostly, the garden is a green oasis and quiet area despite being smack dab in the middle of downtown. It’s a nice break from crowds or the grind of touring. That’s where I connected with Yoko Ono. If you’re at least 60 years old, you probably hate her as the reason for the Beatles breaking up.

Ono donated the Wish Tree in 1997 that is filled with slips of paper with wishes written on them. Uh, the sign says you’re supposed to whisper your wish, but for some reason people use slips of paper. A lot of them want world peace, but one person wished its animal wasn’t quarantined at the airport. Wish more of that story was written.

What did I wish for? If I tell you it won’t come true. Oh wait, maybe that’s birthday cake.

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Wordless Wednesday: Georgetown canal still dry

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Sometimes attractions are in the bank

You can’t miss the gigantic vault door in the lobby of the Courtyard Marriott Washington Convention Center on 9th and F Sts. N.W.

The one-time home of Riggs Bank was built in 1891. It was quite the place with vaulted ceilings and colorful murals of men holding bags of money. Twenty-three U.S. presidents and many foreign embassies put their money in Riggs. Even Confederate president Jefferson Davis and counterpart Abe Lincoln deposited money there. It later merged with PNC Bank in 2005.

When this bank was converted into a 188-room hotel, there was one problem – the vault. It’s massive and couldn’t be moved. No problem. The vault itself is still below. A pretty cool attraction in itself while the steel door remains, too.

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Dog Tag Bakery – Georgetown’s finest

There’s no shortage of bakeries in Georgetown and no shortage of opinions on which is the best.

The long lines outside Georgetown Cupcakes following its TV show a few years ago leads to many tourists stopping by. Their cupcakes are good, especially the frosting.

But locals often told me Dog Tag Bakery was the best. Finally, I decided to stop by when I had some rare free time. It’s on Wisconsin Ave. below M St. NW and on the south side of the canal on Grace Street, which is across Grace Episcopal Church.

The cafe itself is more welcoming than others in town simply because there’s room for more than a few tables. A few students with laptops sat inside while groups of friends gathered at tables.

I bought three slices of pie for a family gathering. (Really, I didn’t eat them myself.) The most unusual was cranberry, which as expected was tart but interesting. My grandson loved the oreo pie. The gingerbread was fresh and tasty.

I won’t crown a bakery champion, but Dog Tag is definitely the most relaxed one to stop for a snack.

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Wordless Wednesday: Grace Episcopal Church

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