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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wordless Wednesday: D.C. Court of Appeals

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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.

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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.

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Cemetery marker: ‘Gunshot wound in the brain’

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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.

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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.

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Wordless Wednesday: Ford’s Theatre

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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.


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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.

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Wordless Wednesday: Pagoda at the Tidal Basin

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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.

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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.

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Cherry blossoms at MLK

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Air Force Memorial rises above Washington

Air Force Memorial


It lies between Arlington National Cemetery, Navy Annex and the Pentagon, but the Air Force Memorial can be seen many places around town. Indeed, you can also see much of Washington from the memorial.

Built in 2006 to remember the 53,000 that died serving in the Air Force and its 1909-1947 predecessors serving under the U.S. Army, the memorial has three spires rising 201, 231 and 270 feet respectively. They are the contrails of the Thunderbirds during bomb blast maneuver. Stainless steel covers the 600 ton concrete spires created by Zenos Frudakis. Below the spires is the Air Force star that is its symbol since World War II. Nearby is a U.S. Air Force Honor Guard.

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Blossoms in bloom

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Springtime and the living is easy

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