There is no average week

It’s the busy time of tour season when endless buses of school children clog the monuments while adult visitors wonder what’s all the chaos?

When people ask me what tour guiding is like, the past week is my perfect example. Fifth graders from Kansas, ninth graders from North Carolina, a private tour for a local group, diplomats from Europe and a seniors group.

Where did we go? Scaled the Lincoln Memorial and the major memorials four times, Arlington National Cemetery thrice. Entered the U.S. Capitol and National Cathedral. Saw Georgetown and Embassy Row.

The weather included a three nice days between a day-long rain in 51 degrees and another that felt like 95 degrees.

Welcome to Washington.

Things will calm slightly in a few weeks when the school kids are replaced by families. Tour requests will trickle from the current flood of requests. And guides tired from three months of serious money making will get a slight reprieve.

Yes, it’s my favorite time of year, especially before the excessive humidity finds us.

Posted in Washington life | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Jesus at Arlington National Cemetery

JesusJesus on the cross always makes you stop and think.

You would think that some depiction of Jesus would be commonplace at Arlington National Cemetery. But the only one I’ve seen is next to the Crook stairs heading up to Arlington House. Maybe there are others around the cemetery, but I’ve walked nearly the entire place and not seen another.

The large headstone with Jesus nailed to the cross, shirtless and eyes closed with “NOT MY WILL BVT THINE BE DONE” is above the grave of Rear Admiral William Hemsley Emory, his wife and children.

A son of an Army Brigadier general of the same name, Emory graduated the U.S. Naval Academy in 1862 after being appointed to it by President Abraham Lincoln. Emory held commands throughout the world before retiring in 1908 after 56 years of service. He died in 1919. Perhaps his most famous mission was saving the Greeley arctic expedition. He was also a naval attache at the Court of St. James’s.

Posted in Arlington National Cemetery | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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.


Posted in Memorials | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Shutterbugs – this sculpture’s for you

It seems only fitting that a sculpture of the first photographer rests outside the National Portrait Gallery on 7th St. N.W. just steps from the Verizon Center.

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (November 18, 1787 – July 10, 1851) was a French artist known for the daguerreotype process of photography. He teamed with Joseph Niepce in 1827 because Niepce was a printer who Daguerre thought could speed up the process. Unfortunately, Niepce died in 1833 so it took Daguerre another six years to perfect the process. The French government then bought the invention and declared it a gift to the world.

The sculpture was first dedicated on August 15, 1890 at the Arts and Industries Building. It was moved outside from 1897 to 1969 before moved to storage. It was relocated to its present location in 1989.

Posted in Monuments and Statues | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arlington National Cemetery’s old amphitheatre and rostrum

Before the Memorial Amphitheatre by the Tomb of the Unknowns opened in 1921, this small amphitheatre behind the gardens of Arlington House served as the main gathering place.

Built in 1868, the circular colonnade was once filled with vines. The roof still has them while roses are planted in front. In the middle is a white marble dias called the rostrum with “E Pluribus Unum” inscribed. The 1,500-seat venue saw Gen. James A. Garfield (my sixth cousin) speak at its dedication.

Posted in Arlington National Cemetery | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Adams Memorial proves haunting in a graveyard

You will stop. Stare hard. Start to feel the grief. It’s an amazing memorial — the Adams Memorial.

Located in Rock Creek Cemetery (though this photo is of a copy at the American Art Museum) is a bronze marker dedicated to the memory of Marian “Clover” Adams who committed suicide by drinking film developer chemicals. Prone to depression, she feared illness and was overcome by her father’s recent death.

Clover’s husband, Henry Adams, grandson of U.S. president John Quincy Adams, asked leading American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create a family memorial.

And that’s when it gets really weird. The sculpture was an “abstract personification” that was finished in 1891. The six-foot cloaked figure is neither gender with a lowered head indicating grief. It is haunting, thought-provoking and one of the greatest sculptures you’ll find in a cemetery.

Posted in Memorials | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Spanish American War nurses remembered

The large granite boulder remembers the nurses of the Spanish America war, which was the first to have nurses organized by the military.

The Maltese cross, symbol of The Society of Spanish American War nurses, sits high on the marker with “To our comrades” written underneath. The palm leaves in the middle represent the tropical climate in which the war was fought along with the traditional laurel leaves. The Maltese Cross is also on the back of the megalith.

Graves of nurses who died in the conflict surround the memorial, which is just yards from the mast of the Maine behind the Memorial Amphitheater.

Posted in Arlington National Cemetery | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

On the Trail of John Wilkes Booth: Edman Spangler grave

Whatever happened to the men and women that conspired to kill Abraham Lincoln?

This is Edman Spangler’s story.

Spangler worked at Ford’s Theater as a carpenter and scene shifter. He helped set up the President’s box for that evening; moving furniture and removing a partition between another box to make it bigger. He then had a drink with assassin John Wilkes Booth and other stagehands.

Booth returned around 9:30 p.m. and asked Spangler to hold his mare. Spangler was too busy so another theater employee did so. Supposedly, Spangler later told another stagehand not to say which way Booth fled, which led to his arrest as an accomplice. Spangler was given the lightest sentence among conspirators – six years at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas off Key West, Fla.

Continue reading

Posted in On the Trail of John Wilkes Booth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wordless Wednesday: D.C. Court of Appeals

Posted in Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Go on tour by yourself (with me)

The Sniders and LincolnsNo, I haven’t been drinking . . . lately. I’ve recorded three audio tours in conjunction with

Voicemap combines GPS technology with the audio tour so when you come within 30 feet of the site the audio begins playing on your iPhone. Of course, you can also choose each site manually.

The Lincoln assassination tour takes you from Lafayette Park to Ford’s Theatre with 10 stops along the way. It’s an easy walk at your pace. The audio tour allows you to do so in less than one hour. I’ve also done Kennedy homes of Georgetown and Lafayette Park plus another on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.

It’s like having me on tour whenever you like. You can even listen to it at home if you like the story but can’t make it to Washington.

Posted in Abraham Lincoln | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

56 reasons to come to Constitution Gardens

Constitution Gardens

They were sons of liberty, the ones brave enough to put their name to paper and tell King George to go to Hell. America was free.

Today, we remember the founding fathers with 56 Signers Park where each of their signatures is shown in granite. John Adams, Thomas Stone, Ben Franklin and yes, John Hancock’s signature is the biggest. Each of the 56 blocks contain a signature, occupation and hometown.

Constitution Gardens

Oddly, there was no remembrance to the men who risked their wealth, health and very necks by signing the Declaration of Independence until July 2, 1984 when the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration created the memorial.

“We sometimes forget the magnitude of their action,” said Virginia Sen. John Warner (Liz Taylor’s last husband) at the dedication, “the courage and moral strength needed to take that first great step.”

John Hancock

The 50-acre lake is just steps from the World War II Memorial on the National Mall. The best access point to the memorial is from 19th St. and Constitution Ave. The entire area was a swamp until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged it a century ago. For years, it was the site of the Main Navy and Munitions Building where even President Richard Nixon served. Nixon later ordered it destroyed and turned into a park.

Today, it’s a fine oasis in the middle of the mall that many people walk by unnoticed. Surely Hancock would have commanded their attention in his day. And that’s why you should stop by.

Posted in Memorials | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cemetery marker: ‘Gunshot wound in the brain’

Posted in Arlington National Cemetery | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fort Lincoln Cemetery: Defending Washington during Civil War

Cannons in Fort Lincoln Cemetery?



Two cannons rest amid earthworks in Fort Lincoln Cemetery just past the city’s eastern border, remnants of the Civil War defense. Ironically, they’re only a couple hundred yards from the Battle of Bladensburg in 1814 where the British overwhelmed local forces and marched into Washington largely unmolested to burn the White House.

Anyway, the fortifications were created in 1861 at the start of the Civil War and commanded by Major Gen. Joseph Hooker. The site was named Fort Lincoln after President Abraham Lincoln, who was known to meet with Union troops just a few feet away by the spring house that’s still there.

The two cannons were not among the site’s original four. However, they are original bronze medium 12-pounder boat howitzers designed by John Dahlgren, considered the father of American naval ordinance. These cannons were forged in 1863 during the Civil War and placed at Fort Lincoln in 1921 by the Dept. of Defense.

Posted in Abraham Lincoln | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Rock Creek Cemetery markers for memories

Wandering through Rock Creek Cemetery is a lesson is historic architecture. It’s probably the best cemetery in Washington for angels alone. The rich and famous from former Washington territorial mayor “Boss” Shepherd to president Teddy Roosevelt’s iconic daughter Alice are buried in this northwest cemetery that is not actually in Rock Creek Park, but along the road to it.

Researching this unusual marker above shared by sisters Dorothy Moran Worthington and Kathleen Lewis Martin found nothing on the latter. But, Worthington is a relative newcomer to the three-centuries-old cemetery after dying in 2011. The Mississippi native worked in New York where she was the executive secretary to NBC president Brandon Tartikoff before moving to Georgetown in 1990 to be near Martin. The opera and theater lover often signed off on the phone by telling callers, “Hello! I must be going!” made famous by Groucho Marx.

Posted in Monuments and Statues | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Wordless Wednesday: Ford’s Theatre

Posted in Abraham Lincoln | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Lincoln

It’s a Tweetup, a flash mob to remember Lincoln.

Saturday morning saw a trickle grow to 20 people as a man with yellow tulips in one hand and a retriever’s leash in the other placed flowers on the stoop of Petersen House precisely at 7:22 a.m. to remember the 152nd anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s death.

Each year, a small group gathers at the old boardinghouse across the street from Ford’s Theatre where the final shot of the Civil War killed the president. A re-enactor announces Lincoln’s death. A moment of silence and reading of Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!” follows.

And then the group disperses into the early morning for another year.


Posted in Abraham Lincoln | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How to find your state at the World War II Memorial

The first thing tourists look for at the World War II Memorial isn’t the magnificent fountain, the stars that each represent 100 dead U.S. soldiers, bas relief art by the entrance or names of the battles.

No, they want to take a photo by their state columns.

Fair enough. But then they try to figure out where it is, thinking it’s by region. Sorry, doesn’t quite work that way, but there is a method of the madness.

Military ceremonies always have the lead officer’s next in command to the right and their No. 2 to the left. With your back to the wall of stars, the first state in the country is Delaware on the right, the second state is Pennsylvania to the left. It then alternates – No. 3 on right, No. 4 on left and so on.

Most people don’t know what number their state was when entering the union, but they have a general idea so early states are on the stars side, later states and territories by 17th St. There are 48 states and eight territories at the time of World War II represented. Hawaii and Alaska have since become states, but the number is still the same.

Posted in Memorials | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Wordless Wednesday: Pagoda at the Tidal Basin

Posted in Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Wandering along Embassy Row: Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Mustafa Kemal AtaturkA walk along Embassy Row found a new statue since my last stroll. is in front of the Republic of Turkey embassy’s official residence. “The Father of Turks” was a World War I military officer who later served as Turkey’s first president in 1920-21.

Washington donated space for the statue in 2013. The capital of Turkey, Ankara,, and Washington became sister cities in October 2011. The statue was dedicated on the 90th anniversary of the founding of Turkey. Its sculptor was Jeffery L. Hall.

Posted in Monuments and Statues | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Motherland hugs the American Red Cross

American Red Cross


In appreciation of U.S. aid to Armenian earthquake victims, sculptor Friedrich Sogoyan created an oversized mother hugging her child based upon a woman who survived several days in the rubble with her child.

The Dec. 7, 1988 earthquake killed more than 30,000 and injured more than 200,000.

A native Armenian who was a famous sculptor of Russian monuments, Sogoyan created the bronze statue and donated it to the American Red Cross building on 17th St. N.W. in 1990. It’s to the right of the main entrance.

Posted in Monuments and Statues | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment