Taking the ALS ice bucket challenge

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A 3D map of town at your feet

Freedom Plaza may be filled with skateboarding teenagers, lost tourists or protestors, but the Pennsylvania Ave. near 14th St. N.W. median is also a map of town’s original plan.

The L’Enfant Map detailing the 1791 plan by Washington’s first city planner Pierre L’Enfant is at your feet. With the white and black stone, it’s like being on a chess board of sorts as you can see how the streets were to be layed out. Maybe the first version of the Sims City game.

L’Enfant envisioned Pennsylvania Avenue as a great ceremonial street, the symbolic link between the Capitol (which he called the Congress’s House) and the White House (which he called the President’s House). Freedom Plaza’s open space reinforces this symbolic connection.

The upper map terrace has a grass lawn where the mall occurs and inlaid bronze plans of the White House and the Capitol located at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The inlays illustrate L’Enfant’s intention to have these two buildings balance each other and symbolize two main branches of government.

L’Enfant’s plan of Washington combines two orders of scale. The giant order is the diagonal avenues that sometimes terminate in a building or a monument. This order characterizes the federal scale of the city. The minor order is the rectangular grid pattern of the local structure of the city. There are quotes from famous people about the city carved into the paving stones that surround the L’Enfant Plan.

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Baptist Alley gets overlooked

I’ve seen several tours of the Lincoln assassination as well as the one I give and one spot that’s often overlooked is Baptist Alley.

It’s the rear of Ford’s Theatre where assassin John Wilkes Booth entered and exited. The alley to the theater is called Baptist Alley because the theater was originally a Baptist church.

I don’t know of a tour that goes behind the theater aside mine. And, I only do it during the day. It seems like a security risk at night even though it’s very clean and essentially a bunch of office buildings surrounding the alley. But, you just can’t take a chance in the dark. I have no problem walking it during the day, though.

The rear wall shown above is the original wall. You can see a lot of changes by windows now bricked up. But, the doorway that Booth used is still there. Pretty cool.

The alley during the April 13, 1865 assassination was bordered by stables and shanty tents. Remember this was still the Civil War and not enough housing for the huge influx of people in the town. Booth could pass through it without notice, especially since he was a theater regular.

To reach the alley from Ford’s, walk up to F St., turn right, walk about a half block and you’ll see the entrance shown right. Just follow the alley to the rear.

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City Hall needs another makeover







Sorry, but the District’s city hall is ugly.

The John A. Wilson building is the headquarters of the District government. Across the top by windows are alternating male-female statues of Sculpture (male), Painting, Architecture and Music. Commerce, Engineering, Agriculture and Statesmanship.

The building underwent extensive renovations over several years before reopening in 2001 and has since added 200 pieces of artwork by local artists.

After opening July 4, 1908, it was renamed in 1994 for the late city council chairman John A. Wilson, who committed suicide the previous year.

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Holy Rosary Church offers Italian renaissance

The Italian-style church was established in 1913 to serve the more than 3,000 Italians in this “Little Italy” neighborhood who came here to help build the nation’s capital as stone carvers, masons and other trades.

Located at 595 Third Street, N.W., Holy Rosary Church’s exterior includes a bell tower, Christopher Columbus statue and four marble statues representing accomplishments by Italians.

Inside is a traditional Italian venue. A large oil painting on the ceiling behind the main altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Roman artist Romano Fattorini dominates the interior. There is a marble pulpit, stained glass windows and mosaic stations of the cross that are little jewels of art and devotion.

The neighborhood began giving way to federal government buildings in the late 1940s, but many of Holy Rosary’s parishioners are second and third generation and still travel to the church regularly. Indeed, Holy Rosary remains the heart of the Italian community with the feast of the Holy Rosary considered an annual holiday complete with a parade and more food than anyone can eat. The church still offers services in Italian and English every Sunday and afterwards espressos and cappuccinos. This church site opened in 1942.

James Cardinal Gibbons was the Archbishop of Baltimore decreed Holy Rosary Church as a shrine for Italian-American Catholics in 1913.

The bell tower has five bells, each dedicated to a different patron. They are the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, Saint Joseph, Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Gabriel and Saint Rita.

The church raised the money for the bells in 1943, but because of a scrap metal shortage caused by World War II they needed to wait until afterwards in 1946. The bells were cast by the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore.

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Is FDR the new E.T.?

Check out the photo. Everybody seems to be touching the finger of the main statue of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.

Do they think he’s E.T.?

Seriously, the finger is shiny like it’s brand new. No green, no tarnish. Weird.

The FDR Memorial is the overlooked gem on the mall. Kinda stuck on the side and not as easily seen as the nearby Thomas Jefferson Memorial. But, the addition of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in 2011 spilled over traffic to FDR. At least, the street traffic.


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Sphere No. 6 is . . .

Sphere No. 6 is:

a) What was left of the Death Star after Luke Skywalker blew it up.
b) The remnants of Earth after a nuclear explosion.
c) A bronze sculpture by Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro.
d) I have no idea.

The correct answers are c and d. The piece is one of several by Pomodoro and I’m still not sure what it’s supposed to represent after reading several stories.

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Wordless Wednesday: ANC visitors center

ANC visitors center

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Those wacky rabbits

There are two rabbits who will confuse you like some riddle out of Alice and Wonderland. There are times I’m confused which rabbit is which and I took the photos.

Rabbit Playing Cymbal is in the Hirshhorn Museum’s just a long stone’s throw from the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden that includes Thinker on a Rock featuring a similarly-looking rabbit.

Maybe it’s the same rabbit and it just outruns me from one to the next.

Thinker on a Rocker was created by British sculptor Barry Flanagan, who just loves to create rabbits in all sorts of poses. This one is a tribute to Rodin’s Thinker in 1880. It’s called a “witty and irreverent reference to one of the world’s bets known sculptures.”

Rabbit Playing Cymbal is a bust for me. I couldn’t find any information on it despite my best attempts. Maybe a reader can help out.

UPDATE – Thanks to a reader I learned Rabbit Playing Cymbal is also by Barry Flanagan. No wonder the two reminded me of each other since Flanagan did both.

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The Lone Sailor is hardly alone

For someone who’s supposedly alone, The Lone Sailor usually has plenty of tourists around him.

Part of the United States Navy Memorial at 7th and Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., The Lone Sailor is a tribute to all the personnel of the sea services. The seven-foot sculpture was created by Stanley Bleifeld in 1987.

The sailor is wearing a traditional uniform underneath his pea coat, which is a dark blue or black wool coat worn by sailors but also very popular among everyday people. He has his canvas bag for all his possessions beside him as well as the docking ring that boats tie up to when in port.

After first using honor guard personnel for models, the sculptor asked for someone more ordinary looking. Then Petty Officer 1st class Dan Maloney became the model. Made of bronze, the statue was mixed with artifacts from eight U.S. Navy ships.

A copy is also at an overlook rest stop just over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

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Wordless Wednesday: White House farmer’s market

farmer's market

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The man behind two metro stops – David Farragut

You know the person much be important when two metro stops are named for him.

David Farragut was a Civil War admiral who uttered the saying now paraphrased, “Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead.” He said it differently, but history doesn’t let facts get in the way of a good story.

Anyway, Farragut had his ups and downs in the Union Navy. He freed New Orleans from a blockade, but suffered a major defeat at the siege of Port Hudson. However, Farragut rebounded by winning the Battle of Mobile Bay on Aug. 5, 1864 that was the Confederacy’s final major port on the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite heavily mined, Farragut ordered the fleet into battle. When a mine (then called torpedo) hit the USS Tecumseh, other ships started retreating before Farragut ordered, “Damn the torpedos. Four bells, Captain Drayton, go ahead. Jouett, full speed.”

Farrgut won the battle and was promoted to vice admiral. He later became a full admiral in 1866 and served active duty until dying in 1870 at age 69.

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The Park Bench Statesman: Bernard Baruch

Sometimes those old guys sitting in the park are worth listening to their advice.

Bernard Baruch became wealthy by 1900 speculating in sugar futures on Wall Street. The son of a surgeon that served on Robert E. Lee’s staff during the Civil War, Baruch was considered a kingpin in New York financial circles.

Baruch became President Woodrow Wilson’s advisor on national defense in 1916 and later led U.S. economic moves during World War I. Baruch later advised President Franklin Delano Roosevelt over coordinating private and public financial moves in World War II and was part of the “Brain Trust” during the New Deal.

But the real interesting part of Baruch during his Washington days was a passion for discussing politics from a bench in Lafayette Park next to the Andrew Jackson statue and a short walk to the White House. In 1960, the Boy Scouts honored Baruch with a commemorative bench at his favorite spot. Today, passersby still use the bench. Baruch died in 1965 at age 94.

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Mountain and Clouds will blow your mind

My first thought when entering the lobby of the Senate Hart Office Building – was it this big piece of junk?

A few minutes later when viewing it from the seventh of nine floors, my second thought – Oh, I get it now.

My final thought – Mountains and Clouds is a pretty cool sculpture. Too bad it’s hidden in a government office building that the public rarely sees and few will appreciate from ground level.

It was the final piece created by Alexander Calder, one of the leading 20th-century American sculptors known for creating suspending moving parts called “mobiles.” This piece has four clouds hanging from the roof and five triangular mountains underneath. It’s painted black to contrast with the surrounding white marble.

Ironically, Calder’s final day was spent meeting with the Architect of the Capitol over the sculpture. He even used a pair of pliers to adjust the model. Calder then returned to his New York City home where he died that night. Mountain and Clouds was later dedicated in 1987.

Ironically, I didn’t realize my photo was from the rear until cleaning it up in Photoshop. I was photographing from up high and the lighting hid the rear. But, if I can appreciate it from the back, it sure must be a nice piece.

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Native Washingtonian 101 — Ted’s Bulletin

I have a new favorite restaurant in town – Ted’s Bulletin.

I’m not quite sure how to describe the old-style eatery on 8th & E Sts. SE. Parts of it feel like the 1930s, others like the 1960s. Either way, it’s old-school from the photos of the neighborhood years ago to the projector showing films from way back.

To me, restaurants are about three things – quality of food, service and price. Sounds simple, but getting all three at once is a rare treat that Ted’s delivered.

First, the service was superb. I made a reservation online for 5:45 p.m. and arrived at 5:35 with a few people waiting in the smallish lobby. Sure enough, we were seated by 5:40. The two servers brought the food quickly and didn’t forget us afterwards.

The menu is amazing. First, I’d heard of the homemade pop tarts and ordered two for five of us to try. They pretty much tasted like the ones I grew up on from the box, which is a compliment.

Next, we tried milkshakes despite knowing they were filling. I recommend the banana peanut butter.

Two of us tried Rachels (turkey version of a Reuben) plus grilled chicken, lasagna and a Reuben. Nobody was disappointed. My Rachel was huge. I loved their boardwalk-like fries.

The price was a reasonable $115 given five people ate a lot of food.

Would I go to Ted’s again? Absolutely. But at a busy time, I would make a reservation.

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Second to none: the Second Division Memorial

Between the White House and the Washington Monument, the Second Division Memorial on Constitution Ave. approaching 17th St. is another overlooked sculpture. It’s something people just pass by.

The memorial commemorates the U.S. Army’s Second Division’s dead during World War I. The flaming sword in the center blocks the Germans approaching Paris.

The west (left) wing was added to honor those who died during World War II. The east wing remembers those dying in the Korean Conflict.

Overall, the Second Division has lost 15,000 in combat, the most of any U.S. division.

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Horse and Rider trots along

It looks like me ready to fall off, but sculptor Mario Marini’s Horse and Rider is considered an example of a man in control.

Sure, if you say so.

The seven-foot tall sculpture outside the Hirshhorn Museum is another of Marini’s works that were influenced by ancient Etruscan sculptures. They’re nothing fancy, which is the point.

The Italian artist studied under Picasso and was considered a big deal in the 1950s and ‘60s before passing away in 1978. His most famous work is a horse and rider called The Angel of the City in Venice.

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Washington National Cathedral inspires

Want to see an old Roman church in Washington, D.C.? The Washington National Cathedral is the closest thing I’ve found since touring Italy.

You may recognize the world’s sixth largest church from televised events like late president Ronald Reagan’s funeral or Christmas masses attended by presidents. I attended a funeral for a basketball player so it’s a working church for everyone.

The church has an old world feel through its stone work, gargoyles and sweeping views. It is 100 yards long, the length of an American football field. Lots of stained glass with a real moon rock embedded in one midway on the right. Plenty of side rooms, eight floors and wonderful grounds.

The church is Episcopalian, though it has a non-denominational feel. Clergy from all denominations preach. It’s an older crowd with few kids, which is nice for those who like mass without a crying baby. The church is so large there are always seats. I especially like when the clergy enters for the mass and their prayers resonates throughout the church. It feels very spiritual.

There are free guided tours, but you can wander about yourself. Here are a few things to see.

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Lunar Bird makes your imagination soar

Like many things in the Hirshhorn Museum’s Sculpture Garden, Lunar Bird is a bit of a mystery. The best guess is it’s an imaginary bird with a symbol of the moon for a head, small wings and thick legs.

A bronze sculpture by Joan Miro of Spain, it was originally made in 1945 but recast larger in 1967. It’s 89 3/8 inches by 88 1/2 inches by 58 1/4 inches.

Overall, it’s pretty cool and in a quieter section of the garden. Worth a moment’s rest while walking the mall.

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Who’s the boss? Why ‘Boss’ Shepherd, of course

George Washington may be the father of our country and namesake for the our town, but Alexander Robey Shepherd, better known as “Boss Shepherd,” is considered “The Father of Modern Washington.”

Shepherd actually stopped an 1870s movement to relocate the capital to St. Louis after national politicians were upset over Washington’s poor infrastructure. Washington’s governor from 1873-74, Shepherd modernized the city’s infrastructure and even planted 60,000 trees to make it more attractive. However, these costly moves nearly put the city into bankruptcy and forced Shepherd from office amid corruption scandals. Shepherd’s plan to keep Washington as the capital city worked, though.

Boss Shepherd was such a controversial person that Mayor Marion Barry removed this statue when taking office in 1979 and exiled it to the city’s impound lot. I guess Mayor Barry figured there was only one boss in town and he was it. However, in 2005, Shepherd’s statue was returned to its original 1909 spot on the right side of the John Wilson Building entrance on Pennsylvania Ave. near 15th St.

The bronze statue is 18 feet tall, including the 18-square foot pedestal made of Vermont granite. It could use a good cleaning, turning green like many statues. It was created by Washington sculptor Ulric Stonewall Jackson Dunbar, who was better known for his statue of baseball pitcher Walter Johnson and death masks.

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