Reflections of cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms, Photo by Lisa Snider

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Cherry blossoms are for the birds

cherry blossoms

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Up close with the cherry blossoms


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Cherry Blossoms are peaking

Cherry blossoms 2014

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Touring with politicians

U.S. CapitolI recently picked up a private tour of a Congressman and his staff from a far-flung state that gathered here probably to talk re-election strategy.

It was an interesting task. Normally, I like to joke about our visiting politicians being a bunch of free-spenders who get nothing done for the middle class. It’s all in fun and I don’t take sides against political parties. They’re all nuts, I say.

But now I had such a group on my bus. What to do, what to do.

I decided to have some fun with them and they laughed as much as anyone, especially over my 100-day war against eighth graders joke, probably because they’re often getting them tickets into the capitol building.

Mostly, it was young people from out of town so I taught them how to sound like a real local by saying, “War-shington.” One was only the second person in four years of touring to know Christopher Columbus is the person behind D.C. None knew the meaning of Capitol dated to Capitoline, which was one of the seven hills of Rome that Thomas Jefferson named the Hill. If you’re going to work on the Hill, at least know how to spell it. I also told them if the boss wants them to work in Washington in August, say no. It’s hot as blazes here.

Afterwards, the congressman laughed it took a newspaperman to explain much of the town to him. Hey, that’s what we do. He joked newspapermen (I’ve been one 36 years) like to hide corrections in the paper. Well, we’re not perfect. I can take a joke.

I have a new buddy on Capitol Hill now. Hope he’s re-elected.

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Wordless Wednesday: Cherry blossoms blooming

cherry blossoms

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Finding generations long ago on Vietnam Wall

Vietnam Wall namesWhenever I find a name for someone on the Vietnam Wall, I asked who this person is to them.

Often, it’s a relative. Someone they probably didn’t know like their mom’s uncle. Recently, the woman said it was her boyfriend in 1969. She couldn’t believe it took this long to come see his name on the wall . . . summon the courage to confront pain that still seemed raw. Another time it was a woman’s husband whose body was recently recovered and buried at Arlington National Cemetery that morning.

On Saturday, a 18-year-old woman with dreams of becoming a vascular surgeon and asking about local universities and hospitals, mentioned she had a relative on the Wall. I have “The Wall” app on my phone and found it.

“Who is this to you?” I asked.

“It was my great grandfather,” she said.

The man died in 1966. Could it really be her great grandfather? The men on the Wall are mostly those who would be my older brothers or one generation back. I have a neighbor who’s on the Wall. The young woman is almost a decade younger than my daughters. Maybe it was her grandfather. But no, she insisted it was her great grandfather and one of the volunteers told me just did another great grandfather relation.

We had the young lady rub her ancestor’s name to take home. As the letters appeared, it seemed to become even more real to her. That’s the beauty of the Wall.

Every day, there’s a new story on the Wall.

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Cherry blossoms are coming along


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Oh Jane, we love your magnolias


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Not cherry blossoms, but nearby Jane Magnolias are dazzling

Jane Magnolia

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George & Martha Washington with grandkids at Mount Vernon

GW family

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So when are the cherry blossoms coming?

Cherry blossomsThere’s a hint of color around the Tidal Basin.

It’s just a little wisp of red. Maybe I’m making more of it than I should, but spring seems to have finally found Washington after replacing snow with unrelenting rain for the past three days. Now we’re looking at warm temps and sunshine for a few days.

And that’s what cherry blossoms need.

The official forecast for peak bloom is April 8-12 and that’s probably true. But, you’ll start seeing cherry blossoms by midweeks. Just not the unrelenting soft pink and white blossoms they show in posters. But, head down to the Tidal Basin by week’s end if you want proof that winter is finally, finally over.

And say hi to one million new friends looking at the blossoms, too.

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14 names to be added to Vietnam Wall

Vietnam Wall namesFourteen men will be added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall on May 11 with a ceremony at 10 a.m. while another eight will have their status changed.

SSG Jerry Leon Antrich, U.S. Army

Weid, Texas

June 20, 1930 – Aug. 10, 1969

Date of Casualty: Nov. 1, 1967

SFC Frederick Joseph Baum, U.S. Army

Baltimore, Md.

Feb. 22, 1930 – Feb. 28, 1971

Date of Casualty: Unknown

PFC Henry John Drozdowski, Jr., U.S. Army


March 9, 1947 – April 30, 2011

Date of Casualty: Jan. 13, 1967

PFC Michael Noel Faherty, U.S. Army

Marlboro, Mass.

Dec. 30, 1946 – July 25, 1968

Date of Casualty: Unknown

PFC Gregory Jackson Franklin, U.S. Army

Winchester, Va.

July 19, 1949 – Feb. 12, 1979

Date of Casualty: Nov. 27, 1968

SP4 William Arthur Gabrielsen, U.S. Army

Frankfort, Mich.

April 2, 1947 – March 10, 1970

Date of Casualty: Aug. 12, 1968

PFC Ronald Hall, U.S. Army

Birmingham, Ala.

July 20, 1948 – Oct. 2, 1967

Date of Casualty: Unknown

SP4 Robert Kroptavich, U.S. Army

Tunkhannock, Pa.

Oct. 26, 1944 – Sept. 10, 1968

Date of Casualty: Unknown

SP4 Thomas Charles Littles, U.S. Army


Nov. 29, 1946 – June 3, 1971

Date of Casualty: Dec. 28, 1969

PFC Paul Luther Loidolt, U.S. Army

Bloomington, Ill.

Aug. 30, 1948 – Feb. 21, 1969

Date of Casualty: April 4, 1968

MSG Walter Hugh Mauldin, U.S. Army


Sept. 9, 1931 – May 8, 1968

Date of Casualty: Unknown

SPC Alan Leslie Seamans, U.S. Army

Grafton, N.H.

June 10, 1949 – Jan. 25, 1998

Date of Casualty: Oct. 13, 1967

PFC Danny Joe Wilson, U.S. Army

Florence, Ala.

July 8, 1944 – Nov. 16, 2012

Date of Casualty: Aug. 18, 1966

MM3 Chester Statun, U.S. Navy

Rayville, La.

July 4, 1943 – April 13, 1965

Date of Casualty: April 13, 1965

Status Changes

  • Army SP5 John Lawrence Burgess of Kingsley, Mich.; Panel 9W, Row 104
  • Army SSG Lawrence Woods of Clarksville, Tenn.; Panel 1E, Row 68
  • Navy PO3 Michael Barry Judd of Cleveland; Panel 22E, Row 88
  • Air Force MAJ Howard Vincent Andre, Jr. of Memphis, Tenn.; Panel 21W, Row 80
  • Air Force COL Thomas Wayne Dugan of Reading, Pa.; Panel 36W, Row 14
  • Air Force MAJ Louis Fulda Guillermin of West Chester, Pa.; Panel 53E, Row 14
  • Air Force LTC Robert Edward Pietsch of Cleveland; Panel 53E, Row 21
  • Air Force MAJ James Elmo Sizemore of San Diego, Calif.; Panel 21W, Row 86


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Washington Monument re-opens May 12

Washington_MonumentFinally, the center attraction of town is reopening 32 months after closed by an earthquake.

The Washington Monument is nearing completion of a $15 million restoration following a 5.8 earthquake on Aug. 23, 2011. The scaffolding is nearly gone from the 555 foot, 5 1/8 inch memorial to our first president that includes no cement to hold the 36,000 stones.

There will be a reopening ceremony at 10 a.m. on May 12 with public tours beginning 1 p.m. Reservations for online tickets begin April 16.

“We are delighted to be in the homestretch with the repairs to the Washington Monument almost complete, and we look forward to the re-opening on May 12 so we can once again welcome visitors to this iconic monument to our nation’s first President,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.  “We are grateful for David Rubenstein’s generous donation that funded half of the $15 million repair bill.  David’s support of the national parks and the work of the National Park Service sets a high standard for park philanthropy nationwide and is appreciated by every visitor who will learn something about President Washington or simply enjoy the view from the top.”

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Wordless Wednesday: Vietnam Wall

Vietnam Wall

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Time for our spring photo tours

Rick SniderIt’s late March. The snow is supposed to stop – right? You know, warm temperatures, cherry blossoms. Winter is over.

So we’re starting our spring photo tours on Sunday, March 23 no matter what Old Man Winter says. Actually, it should be a nice day so come out and get some sunshine, listen to some history of the National Mall’s memorials and learn how to take better photos.

We’re offering tickets at half price ($25) through our partners Goldstar, Amazon Local and starting soon Groupon. They’re all available via our Capital Photo History website so click HERE. We offer four tours — National Mall, Lincoln Assassination, Arlington National Cemetery and Capitol Hill. The tickets are for any of the four tours you wish to attend.

So come on out. It’s time to have fun.

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Wordless Wednesday: Watergate and JFK Performing Arts Center


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Mount Vernon tree cut


The spreading pecan tree is no more.

A massive tree next to the Mount Vernon mansion was recently cut down. Not because it was diseased, but because the tree threatened to destroy nearby George Washington’s bedroom and office. The risk was too great to keep the tree.

Now the tree wasn’t there during George’s time. It was planted in 1860, 61 years after the first president’s death. But, it was a cool spot to stand on a hot summer day. The wood was cut into sections that may be used for construction. The stump will be grinded.

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5+ Questions with Author Garrett Peck

Ben Franklin once said beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Garrett Peck shows that beer brewers once and still love Washington.

In his latest book on Washington history, Peck’s Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C. tells the history and people who made a heady glass of ale in town. Monumental Thoughts asks Peck 5+ questions about his must-read book.

1. The book exhaustingly details the history of the city’s brewers, but it seems a forgotten part of our history. Do you agree and why?

Commercial brewing in the DC area goes all the way back to 1770 in Alexandria. That’s earlier than many other cities. We have an extensive, rich history in brewing, and lager beer was absolutely essential to surviving a hot summer here. (In fact, I’d argue that it still is.) But Prohibition destroyed much of the brewing industry, and only the Christian Heurich Brewing Co. successfully reopened. When the Heurich brewery closed in 1956, we were without a brewery for 55 years. People simply forgot that brewing was one the second largest employer in DC after the federal government. And now we marvel at the craft brewing resurgence (the first craft brewers, Port City and DC Brau, opened in 2011), as if somehow locally produced beer is a new thing. It isn’t!

2. When the city allowed brewers to resume, it sparked a micro trend. Do you think the major beers are too hard to overcome or will the locals gained a significant marketplace one day?

D.C. changed its laws in 1991 to allow brewpubs, and the next year Capitol City Brewing opened, becoming the first brewpub in the city since before Prohibition. But it wasn’t until 2011 that the city got its first production breweries (DC Brau was first, followed by a slew of small breweries). People immediately embraced these local brewers. It’s great to see how passionate people have become in a very short time, eager to try the latest creation and to support our local businesses. And there’s been a big resurgence in the number of bars that specialize in craft beer, such as ChurchKey, the Iron Horse and Meridian Pint. You can even get local beer now at Nationals Park to go with your hotdog.

I think the local brewers have made a dent in the marketplace. There’s still plenty of room to grow: beer is half of all the alcoholic beverages that Americans consume. Craft beer is growing rapidly, and it’s taking a lot of market share from the big national breweries, which offer dumbed-down beer. Still, I  shake my head at all the hipsters who order Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR). It’s crappy beer, and they know it, but they’re drinking it to be ironic. If only they’d spend their money on drinking quality local beer instead.

3. Tell us more about Fantastic Mrs. Dentz. She seemed like an amazing person in your book. Maybe a future book on just her?

Oh yes, Mrs. Katherine Dentz. She was the first documented woman commercial brewer in D.C.; she ran a small brewery in Georgetown in the 1870s to early 1880s. Her brewer husband died, leaving her as a 25-year old widow, and she did what she had to do to put bread on the table for her small children. I found her story so compelling. She was also in constant legal trouble, as she broke the law numerous times, selling beer and cigars on Sunday in an era of blue laws. Her attorney was one of her best friends, tried to marry her, and probably fathered one of her children. It’d be great if someone wrote a book about her. It’d need a lot more research: what I dug up on her was largely through the newspapers of the time. I couldn’t find when she died or where she’s buried.

I should add that women in brewing was not a new thing: women were the brewers for much of human history (and pre-history), as it was a cottage industry. Only when brewing left the home to become a commercial produced beverage did men take over.

4. Christian Heurich also seems like a compelling person as the city’s major brewer more than a century ago. Tell us something that’s not in the book.

Christian Heurich’s story is pretty incredible. He was the largest brewer in the city with about 50 percent market share. After suffering several fires at his Dupont Circle brewery, he decided to massively rebuild – with a huge, 500,000 barrel a year brewery in Foggy Bottom, right along the Potomac River. It was where the Kennedy Center stands today. This brewery opened in 1895, and was built of concrete and steel so it couldn’t burn down. When it was demolished in 1961, the ice house alone took three days of dynamiting to take it down. These were buildings built for the ages.

Heurich himself was quite the entrepreneur. He invested heavily in real estate, a wise move as D.C.’s population was growing, and between strong beer sales and development he became very rich. Heurich’s mansion, the Heurich House Museum (also known as the “Brewmaster’s Castle”) on Dupont Circle, is our lasting legacy to historic brewing in DC. And incredibly, Heurich died in 1945, just shy of his 103rd birthday. Longevity seems to run in the family: his youngest daughter, Karla, died in January 2014 at the age of 106.

5. You’ve worked behind the bar. Are Washingtonians beer drinkers or more for the hard stuff and wine? What’s the most popular request?

Actually, I haven’t worked behind the bar (except at home when I throw a party). But I always watch to see what people are ordering, and it really depends on the bar and its demographics. D.C. has long been known as a cocktail and wine town, largely because of the absence of good beer choices until recently, but I’ve seen a pronounced shift since the Great Recession. Beer is an affordable luxury, cheaper than wine by the glass, and often you can have two beers for the price of one martini. Overall, I’d say that D.C. matches what the rest of the country drinks. That is: men tend to prefer beer, women prefer wine, and both equally like cocktails. Though you definitely see more women drinking beer these days.

5+. What’s the next book?

I’m working on a history of Walt Whitman in Washington, D.C. He was the poet laureate of the Civil War, volunteered for two years as a one-man USO to help hospitalized soldiers, got hired as a federal clerk, and composed poems that would finally put him on the literary map during his decade in the nation’s capital (1862-1873). I’m hoping to have the book out by spring 2015. Whitman’s partner, Peter Doyle, was in Ford’s Theatre and witnessed Lincoln’s assassination. Next year, 2015, is the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s death and the end of the Civil War.


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Wordless Wednesday: U.S. Capitol


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