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.

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St. John’s – “Church of the Presidents”

Every president since James Madison has attended the “Church of the Presidents” just a short walk (if they could do so nowadays) from the White House at 15th and H Sts. N.W. Madison started the tradition of the “President’s Pew” in 1816. It’s No. 54, not Area 54.

St. John’s Episcopal Church was designed by architect Benjamin Latrobe, who also worked on the Capitol and DeCatur House a block away from the church and rebuilt the White House after it burned in 1814. The Neoclassical church was built like a Greek cross, but five columns in front and a Roman Doric portico later added made it into a Latin cross. The church’s yellow stucco walls and golden cupola and dome make it easily standout from adjoining buildings. The 1,000-pound bell was cast by Paul Revere’s son Joseph in 1822 and served as an alarm for the neighborhood.

The 22 stained glass windows featuring Leonardo DaVinci’s ”The Last Supper” were added in the early 1880s.

Public tours are Sundays after the 11 a.m. service.

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Native Washingtonian 101: Who you calling Washingtonian?

Wikipedia sometimes cracks me up. The online reference source by the masses has an interesting description of Washingtonian.

Washingtonian is used to refer to people from the state of Washington (see List of people from Washington) or the greater metropolitan area of Washington, D.C. (see List of people from Washington, D.C.), in the United States.

We’re second to the state out west? Guess that all depends on which coast you live. I don’t know anyone in the east who when discussing Washingtonian thinks about the Pacific-Canadian border state.

Washingtonian may also refer to:

Washingtonian (Amtrak train), a named passenger train.

Uh, pass on this one.

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A White House in Dublin?







I’ve always heard the White House was modeled after the Leinster House in Dublin because Irish architect James Hoban used the Irish parliament as a model.

Well, the truth is the White House looks like part of Leinster House. You can see the colum I don’t see a big connection between the two building aside the same architect.

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My favorite places – Washington National Cathedral

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I like Ike, his building not so much

It’s not the prettiest building in Washington.

Mark Twain called the Eisenhower Executive Office Building “the ugliest building in America” while former president Harry Truman called it “the greatest monstrosity in America.”

The EEOB is a French Second Empire style building shown by the massive amounts of steel columns. Ironically, it was considered out of fashion before finished in 1886. It was also called the Napoleon III style that included some Gothic features.

Look high at the top for the War Pediment, which looks like a Roman soldier above a window. On the north side of the building, the military symbol has a medieval suit of armor. A sword runs through the helmet while an eagle representing America sits atop it. Behind the armor are two U.S. shields that partially obscure four Roman military symbols. On the right is the fasces, a bundle of rods enclosing an axe that was a symbol of authority. To the left is the Roman standard of powerful legions. Left of the helmet is the battle axe that denotes strength and then there’s a torch that symbolizes light and knowledge. There are also spears and cannons plus cannon balls. Also, in the left corner are laurel leaves to crown victors and on the right are oak laves representing strength and stability. The whole pediment is 8 by 30 feet.

This is the third Old Executive Office Building and now named for former president Dwight D. Eisenhower. The first two burned down, including by the British in the War of 1812. The shell of the original building is still used deep inside this office.

The President’s Executive Office, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Security Council work inside this building. It was designed by Alfred B. Mullett.

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My favorite places — World War II Memorial

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Native Washingtonian 101 – Talking politics, not

My standard advice to my family when we’re traveling is to say we’re from Maryland, not Washington, D.C. Not that I’m ashamed of my hometown, but the conversation always goes the same if saying you’re from Washington. (I never say D.C.)

“That damned (name any president, senator or congress person,” they’ll say and start rambling about the federal government.

To all visiting our fair city, here’s one piece of advice – don’t talk politics with locals.

I try to explain to out-of-towners that Washingtonians do not run the government. We don’t live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. or impose unfair taxes or laws.

We’re just everyday people, some of whom work for the government. But, we’re not the government. The president is not from here. Neither is your senator or congress person. You sent them to us, not the other way around.

If you try to engage a native Washingtonian on politics, at best you’ll receive a polite dismissal because we’re tired of it. At worst, you’ll get an unwanted earful. It doesn’t matter what political party you’re discussing, we don’t care to discuss it.

Now back to talking about the weather, cherry blossoms and rotten traffic.

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James Garfield Memorial – my 6th cousin

The only thing I knew about James Garfield was he was once U.S. president. I would have struggled to write a fifth-grade report on him

But coming across Garfield’s memorial on the U.S. Capitol grounds intrigued me into learning more. Turns out he was shot three months into his presidency in 1881 by a failed job applicant and died three months later at age 50.

And you thought today’s economic times was tough.

The only clergy member to serve as president, Garfield is also the only person in U.S. history to be a Representative, Senator-elect and President-elect simultaneously. He was not only left-handed, but known to simultaneously write in Latin in one hand and in English with the other. (My handwriting looks like Latin, but is really English.) Garfield was related to a Mayflower passenger later convicted of murder.

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All aboard the U.S.S. Barry

One of the things I enjoy about being a tour guide is learning about things I’ve passed all my life without knowing what they are.

But after asked enough times on tours when entering town what the ship was at the Navy Yard, I finally learned it’s the U.S.S. John Barry, a retired destroyer now serving as a museum ship. Commissioned from 1955-82, it came to Washington in 1984 so I’ve only not known what it was for 27 years. It’s highlights of service was serving as part of the blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis and earning two battle stars during the Vietnam War. It was the third ship named for Barry.

And who was John Barry? Seems he’s the “Father of the American Navy” who served in the Revolutionary War. He was the head of the Navy until his 1803 death.

OK, can knock that off my Bucket List of things to learn. The list never gets shorter, though.

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Wordless Wednesday: Georgetown canal

Georgetown canal

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Remembering Fala – the First Dog

I spent nine months readying to become a tour guide. I enrolled in an excellent tour guide class, passed the city’s licensing exam and spent the winter continuing to study monuments before tour season began in March.

I’m no expert. Not even close after meeting so many experienced guides who are walking encyclopedias of knowledge of our town. But one incident involving Fala the dog at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial made me realize some tour guides aren’t as smart as they think.

Standing at the FDR when a guide brought an eighth grade class to Fala’s statue, he asked if anyone know where the dog got its name.

Naturally, there was a silence. Kids that age won’t even say how they got their name even if they’re a junior.

The guide says, “He was a present at Christmastime and you know the song, fala la la la.”

My jaw hit the ground in amazement.

Fala was FDR’s dog and the only presidential pet honored by a statue. But, he was named after Roosevelt’s ancestor John Murray of Falahill, a place in Scotland which is only fitting given Fala is a Scottish Terrier. He was also named Murray the Outlaw of Falahil. Fala was indeed a Christmas present from FDR’s cousin.

Fala (April 7, 1940 – April 5, 1952) was a constant companion of FDR before the latter’s 1945 death. He then lived with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who said the dog merely tolerated her while waiting for its master to return.

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Patentees Memorial remembers founders

It’s the most nondescript marker in town. You’ve probably walked right by it on 15th St. N.W. by the many tourist trucks just short of Pennsylvania Ave. and never noticed it.

The Patentees Memorial is a simple six-foot granite marker commemorating the 18 original landholders of the District and their occupations up to 1700. It was erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1935.

It has names on all four sides of the base starting with Robert Troope in 1663. Each side of the monument contains a relief panel carved with a symbol of the early pioneers’ agricultural pursuits.

On the east side is a tobacco plant. It was the cash crop of the American colonies. On the south is a wild turkey, which were abundant back then and has since become an American tradition to eat on Thanksgiving. On the west is a stalk of corn, which native Indians showed colonists how to use as food and fertilizer for crops. On the north is a fish. The Potomac River was even closer nearly and fish were a staple food.


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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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The longest line in town

With unemployment at 9 percent and millions of Americans suffering through the recession, the bread line at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial seems even more relevant.

The bread line statues are men waiting in line for food during the Great Depression of the 1930s during FDR’s presidency. It’s one of the more interactive pieces on the mall. Adults always seem to know what to do – get in line for the photo.

Students are always a little slower to join the line. But, once they do I nearly have to pry them away. I always have a sense those photos will be on facebook within hours. The kids just love this statue once they understand it. The key is not hogging it too long so the next group that always seems to be coming can have their time, too.

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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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