John Carroll still overseeing his campus

John CarrollBishop John Carroll grew up in Upper Marlboro, Md., educated in Europe and returned to become the leader of American Catholics and establish Georgetown University.

Why do students put toilet seats under the bronze statue on campus and place jack-o-lanters atop his head? Kid these days. Well, actually, the pranks have been ongoing since the statue’s 1912 dedication on the center of campus at 37th and O Sts. N.W.

What’s next — taking the hands off the tower clock?

The six-foot statue of Carroll seats atop a marble base was sculpted by Jerome Connor. Ironically, it wasn’t ready for the official dedication so a plaster cast was painted brown to fool everyone. Weeks later, the real one was swapped under the cover of darkness.

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Wordless Wednesday: DAR staircase

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Off The Record – for a drink

Some new folks to town wanted to see the sights . . . and some bars. So, why not start with Off The Record at the Hay Adams Hotel?

It’s a little tricky to find, which is probably how some folks like it. Go through the lobby to the left and take the stairs down to the bar. The lobby staff is so professional that someone will surely show you the way. (By the way, you can take the elevator up to the lobby, but not down to the bar.)

Off The Record is a real stunner when you walk through the door. Like bam- here’s a bar. An old-school place where people go to have some privacy. Legends says that’s why it’s named off the record. And, right on cue some White House staffers came in after work.

The cool thing is the pads for your drinks. There are drawings of many famous folks like those on the wall. So, try something different with an air of class.




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A walk in a French forest . . . kinda

Linden treesMost people walk through Meridian House and come away impressed with the shear size of the Beaux Arts mansion designed by the renowned John Russell Pope in 1919.

Me – I liked the trees in the back.

U.S. ambassador Irwin Boyle Laughlin built the house at 1630 Crescent Place N.W. by Meridian Park after retiring from the Foreign Service, though he would later become ambassador to Green and Spain over the 1920s and ‘30s. Oriental porcelains and 18th century French paintings fill the house.

Boyle imported 40 Linden trees from France where many ancient southern villages use them for shade and fragrance. The leaves are dried to create tea.

You feel a little like Robert Frost wandering through these trees. They have a calming effect even in winter minus their canopy. Sounds perfect for an ambassador’s retreat.

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Wordless Wednesday: Joan of Arc has her sword back

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Final salute for the Sergeant at Arms

The simple white marker surrounded by a small black metal fence shows someone special lies below in the center of Congressional Cemetery.

Montjoy Bayly was more than a captain in the 7th regiment of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War as his stone states. He was also the doorkeeper and the second Sergeant at Arms of the U.S. Senate.

A newspaper death notice following his March 22, 1836 passing stated, “On the 22nd instant, General Mountjoy Bayly, an officer of the Revolution, in the 82nd year of his age. His friends are requested to attend his funeral from his late dwelling on Capitol Hill this evening at 4 o’clock.”

That dwelling is now the Bayly Building at 122 Maryland Avenue, NE. The 1822 structure includes both Second Empire and Federal styles. The American Civil Liberties Union now occupies it. The property is a National Historic Landmark.

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Congressional Cemetery: an overlooked jewel

After driving past Congressional Cemetery countless times, I finally decided to tour it. Maybe it was the abundant street parking that convinced me, but what a jewel I’ve been missing.

The 35-acre cemetery on Capitol Hill was established in 1807 as the Washington Parish Burial Ground. Soon it would be called the “national burying ground” for the congressmen, justices, military leaders and prominent citizens that now number 55,000.

The famous folks interned there include military band composer John Phillip Sousa, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, Capitol architect William Thornton and Civil War photographer Matthew Brady.

But the really curious attraction is the 166 sandstone cenotaphs. Eighty U.S. Congressmen and Senators who died in office were buried there until 1870 when Massachusetts Senator George Frisbie Hoar said the strange markers gave new meaning to the “terrors of death.” However, Congressman Stephen Joshua Solarz was buried there in 2010, though with a traditional black marble stone.

There are soldiers from the Revolutionary, War of 1812 and Civil Wars with an occasional sprinkling of those white marble stones more often seen at Arlington National Cemetery.

The cemetery offers free tours on Saturdays at 11 a.m. from April through November. It’s open every day with access through the gate to the right of the house. Maps are in a mailbox to the right just inside.

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Wordless Wednesday: Capitol Hill walkways

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A local delicacy – mom’s peanut butter cups

I’m about to start a fight in your family because it has repeatedly caused friendly disputes in mine over the years.

Mom’s peanut butter cups may not be Velatis fudge that prompted lines at 9th & G Sts. NW for 116 years before metro construction closed the store, but my mom gives personal bags nowadays instead of leaving out a plate of her homemade peanut butter cups.

Normally, I write about statues around town, but the blog is about Washington life so I thought I’d share her recipe. If you make them, be warned they’re half the size of the Reese’s peanut butter cups so you’ll gobble them down. I’ve seen cousins eat a dozen at once.

And, you owe me two from the first batch as a royalty.


1 stick butter
12 oz. peanut butter
3/4 lb. powdered sugar
2 lbs. chocolate

1. Melt chocolate on stove.
2. Spoon into greased cups for base.
3. Mix other ingredients in bowl.
4. Form into balls and place into cups
5. Pour chocolate over top.
6. Let cool.

Serves: 70 peanut butter cups

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The face behind the grave

I’m partial to grave markers that include an etching of the person buried there. It’s one thing to read about them, but pretty cool to see what they looked like.

Green Clay Smith is among a handful of large markers that include portraits of those buried in Section 1 in the rear of Arlington National Cemetery.

Smith was a brevet major general during the Civil War. He was also a Kentucky congressman and territorial governor of Montana. He ran for president on the Prohibition ticket in 1876 after becoming a Baptist minister in Washington.

The gravestone says Smith was born in May 1832, but other sources say July 4, 1826. Smith died on June 29, 1895. His marker says “Wise in state: brave in war: zealous in church.”

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Wordless Wednesday: Three Soldiers Statue at Vietnam Wall

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Drink George Washington’s beer

Drink the beer George Washington drank. It seems impossible, but Budweiser’s Freedom Reserve Red Lager was inspired by the first president.

It seems the brewer found Washington’s hand-written beer recipe in his military journal in 1757. George needed a brew while fighting in the French and Indian War and called it “a small beer.”

Now it’s not easy to find, though it’s sold in retail stores. But, the journey is worthwhile. Unlike Washington’s rye whiskey that is still sold at Mount Vernon that is dryer than dust, the red lager is pretty smooth and I swear I can taste the red. Sold in bottles (because that’s how beer should be consumed), it’s brewed with toasted barley grains for a sweet aroma and touch of hops with a hint of molasses.

Budweiser has donated more than $14 million from its Freedom Reserve sales to Folds of Honor that provides educational scholarships to military families. So, hoist one to the past and help young people have a better tomorrow.

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Summerhouse been a quenching respite since 1880

Where can you go for a drink around the U.S. Capitol? Well, since 1880 or so The Summerhouse has always offered refreshment.

Water, that is.

The hexagonal red brick building on the west lawn of the Senate side has a drinking fountain for more than 13 decades. There’s even seating for 22.

Frederick Law Olmsted created arched entranceways, small windows, carvings and lots of ornate artistry with even a basket-weave exterior. The interior stone seats are underneath red Spanish mission tile for shade. The focus is a small grotto where water cascades over rocks, though there are also three drinking fountains. The water from a spring is fine, having tried it many times without a problem.

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Wordless Wednesday: Kennedy Center balcony

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Remembering the life of a child

The death of a child is certainly heartbreaking. It often makes for interesting memorials.

Alice May Parker died in 1861 at age 12 of typhoid fever. At Congressional Cemetery, a praying angel the size of a child prays over her grave. Nearby is a small lamb for infant John Walker Maury and a cherub named Florence.

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Olive Risley Seward: The lady was a daughter

Olive Risley Seward

On the edge of Seward Square is a statue of a Victorian woman looking at the grassy area. Turns out it’s a long story and a good one.

William Seward was Secretary of State who not only bought Alaska for two cents an acre, but also badly injured by John Wilkes Booth’s associates while the actor killed President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. The park along Pennsylvania Ave. SE between Fourth and Sixth Sts. and North Carolina Ave. honoring Seward is just a plain green space.

But if you look in the corner lot of Sixth and North Carolina, you’ll see a statue of a woman looking over at Seward Square.

Olive F. Risley was a female companion of Seward’s over his final years. But before your tongue starts wagging over a scandal, Seward beat the gossips by adopting the woman 40 years his junior. Risley was a friend of Seward’s late wife and daughter. Seward needed a woman in his life to attend to his daily affairs and Olive (now Seward) joined him on an 1870-71 trip to Asia, Middle East and Europe.

After Seward’s 1872 death, Risley finished the former’s book “Travels Around the World” that became a best seller. She would later form the Literary Society of Washington while becoming a member of the Washington Society, American Red Cross and Daughters of the American Revolution. Risley also wrote “Around the World Stories” based on her travels with Seward. She died in 1908.

Deciding the park needed a statue, sculptor John Cavanaugh opted to honor Risley instead of Seward. Without a photo of her in 1971, Risley opted for what he envisioned a Victorian lady like Risley would look like. Amazingly, a photo of Risley, found after Cavanaugh’s death in 1985, shows the statue bears a striking resemblance.

The statue is made of lead over burlap. Ironically, Cavanaugh’s death of cancer is attributed to working with lead.

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Wordless Wednesday: Second amendment rally on Capitol Hill

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Upright Motive No. 1: Glenkiln Cross

It’s the accidental sculpture.

The original lies on a hilltop on the Glenkiln Farm Estate in Scotland where a shepherd once oversaw his flock.

British sculptor Henry Moore made the 11-foot tall bronze cross with a small crosspiece near the top and realized it looked like a Celtic cross. It wasn’t intentional, but it sure comes across that way.

Sir William Keswick collected artwork of Moore along with Auguste Rodin and Jacon Einstein while owning Glenkiln from 1951-76. It was the world’s first sculpture collection in a landscape setting.

This version lies by the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden on 7th and Jefferson Dr.

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Sir John Dill worth stopping for a breather

When first becoming a guide, I wasn’t the tip-top physical specimen before you today (kidding) and needed a quick breather when walking people up to the Tomb of the Unknowns. If you don’t split to the right to see John F. Kennedy’s eternal flame, you stay left and see a man on a horse at a crossroad.

It seemed like a good place to stop. People thought I was going to talk about the statue. I was just catching my breath. But, since they regularly asked I quickly learned who it was to pretend like I was stopping for something other than being out of shape.

Sir John Dill was a key liaison between British prime minister Winston Churchill and U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War II. Dill accompanied Churchill to Washington during a 1941 meeting and stayed until his Nov. 4, 1944 death.

The Northern Ireland native joined the First Battalion Leinster Regiment in 1901 and served in South Africa. He became a major while serving in France during World War I and commanded forces in India and Palestine in 1926-27. Promoted to general of I Corp in World War II, Dill was reassigned to gain U.S. assistance while serving in Washington.

A foreign soldier buried at Arlington is an honor. That Dill is one of two people atop a horse – joining Union cavalry office Philip Kearny – makes it even more unusual. But what really amazes me is Dill is buried in another section of Arlington instead of by the statue.

I still use Dill as a pausing point, partly to let stragglers catch up to the group. But, Dill deserves a moment for reflection.

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Happy Fourth of July

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