Drink George Washington’s beer

Drink the beer George Washington drank. It seems impossible, but Budweiser’s Freedom Reserve Red Lager was inspired by the first president.

It seems the brewer found Washington’s hand-written beer recipe in his military journal in 1757. George needed a brew while fighting in the French and Indian War and called it “a small beer.”

Now it’s not easy to find, though it’s sold in retail stores. But, the journey is worthwhile. Unlike Washington’s rye whiskey that is still sold at Mount Vernon that is dryer than dust, the red lager is pretty smooth and I swear I can taste the red. Sold in bottles (because that’s how beer should be consumed), it’s brewed with toasted barley grains for a sweet aroma and touch of hops with a hint of molasses.

Budweiser has donated more than $14 million from its Freedom Reserve sales to Folds of Honor that provides educational scholarships to military families. So, hoist one to the past and help young people have a better tomorrow.

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

Summerhouse been a quenching respite since 1880

Where can you go for a drink around the U.S. Capitol? Well, since 1880 or so The Summerhouse has always offered refreshment.

Water, that is.

The hexagonal red brick building on the west lawn of the Senate side has a drinking fountain for more than 13 decades. There’s even seating for 22.

Frederick Law Olmsted created arched entranceways, small windows, carvings and lots of ornate artistry with even a basket-weave exterior. The interior stone seats are underneath red Spanish mission tile for shade. The focus is a small grotto where water cascades over rocks, though there are also three drinking fountains. The water from a spring is fine, having tried it many times without a problem.

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

Wordless Wednesday: Kennedy Center balcony

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

Remembering the life of a child

The death of a child is certainly heartbreaking. It often makes for interesting memorials.

Alice May Parker died in 1861 at age 12 of typhoid fever. At Congressional Cemetery, a praying angel the size of a child prays over her grave. Nearby is a small lamb for infant John Walker Maury and a cherub named Florence.

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

Olive Risley Seward: The lady was a daughter

Olive Risley Seward

On the edge of Seward Square is a statue of a Victorian woman looking at the grassy area. Turns out it’s a long story and a good one.

William Seward was Secretary of State who not only bought Alaska for two cents an acre, but also badly injured by John Wilkes Booth’s associates while the actor killed President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. The park along Pennsylvania Ave. SE between Fourth and Sixth Sts. and North Carolina Ave. honoring Seward is just a plain green space.

But if you look in the corner lot of Sixth and North Carolina, you’ll see a statue of a woman looking over at Seward Square.

Olive F. Risley was a female companion of Seward’s over his final years. But before your tongue starts wagging over a scandal, Seward beat the gossips by adopting the woman 40 years his junior. Risley was a friend of Seward’s late wife and daughter. Seward needed a woman in his life to attend to his daily affairs and Olive (now Seward) joined him on an 1870-71 trip to Asia, Middle East and Europe.

After Seward’s 1872 death, Risley finished the former’s book “Travels Around the World” that became a best seller. She would later form the Literary Society of Washington while becoming a member of the Washington Society, American Red Cross and Daughters of the American Revolution. Risley also wrote “Around the World Stories” based on her travels with Seward. She died in 1908.

Deciding the park needed a statue, sculptor John Cavanaugh opted to honor Risley instead of Seward. Without a photo of her in 1971, Risley opted for what he envisioned a Victorian lady like Risley would look like. Amazingly, a photo of Risley, found after Cavanaugh’s death in 1985, shows the statue bears a striking resemblance.

The statue is made of lead over burlap. Ironically, Cavanaugh’s death of cancer is attributed to working with lead.

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

Wordless Wednesday: Second amendment rally on Capitol Hill

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

Upright Motive No. 1: Glenkiln Cross

It’s the accidental sculpture.

The original lies on a hilltop on the Glenkiln Farm Estate in Scotland where a shepherd once oversaw his flock.

British sculptor Henry Moore made the 11-foot tall bronze cross with a small crosspiece near the top and realized it looked like a Celtic cross. It wasn’t intentional, but it sure comes across that way.

Sir William Keswick collected artwork of Moore along with Auguste Rodin and Jacon Einstein while owning Glenkiln from 1951-76. It was the world’s first sculpture collection in a landscape setting.

This version lies by the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden on 7th and Jefferson Dr.

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

Sir John Dill worth stopping for a breather

When first becoming a guide, I wasn’t the tip-top physical specimen before you today (kidding) and needed a quick breather when walking people up to the Tomb of the Unknowns. If you don’t split to the right to see John F. Kennedy’s eternal flame, you stay left and see a man on a horse at a crossroad.

It seemed like a good place to stop. People thought I was going to talk about the statue. I was just catching my breath. But, since they regularly asked I quickly learned who it was to pretend like I was stopping for something other than being out of shape.

Sir John Dill was a key liaison between British prime minister Winston Churchill and U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War II. Dill accompanied Churchill to Washington during a 1941 meeting and stayed until his Nov. 4, 1944 death.

The Northern Ireland native joined the First Battalion Leinster Regiment in 1901 and served in South Africa. He became a major while serving in France during World War I and commanded forces in India and Palestine in 1926-27. Promoted to general of I Corp in World War II, Dill was reassigned to gain U.S. assistance while serving in Washington.

A foreign soldier buried at Arlington is an honor. That Dill is one of two people atop a horse – joining Union cavalry office Philip Kearny – makes it even more unusual. But what really amazes me is Dill is buried in another section of Arlington instead of by the statue.

I still use Dill as a pausing point, partly to let stragglers catch up to the group. But, Dill deserves a moment for reflection.

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

Happy Fourth of July

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

Best places to see downtown fireworks?

Can I say on watching fireworks on TV from my living room is my plan and not sound like a crotchety old man?

I spent the 1980s with a million others listening to the Beach Boys concerts on the national Mall before some politician thought it was somehow un-American. I learned a few things from those days.

If you want to go down to the Washington Monument to see the best fireworks in town, go ahead. Just be prepared for massive crowds, massive delays and massive heat. Don’t worry, you’ll be home in time to go to work on Thursday.

Mostly, that’s the twenty-something crowd with no kids that can handle that mess. It’s fun when you’re young, not so much when you’re older.

But here are a few good places where you can still see the fireworks.

The Air Force Memorial in Arlington is the best vantage point on the Virginia side of the river. Great view of the entire city, plenty of free parking and you’re ahead of the departing crowd. This is much better than the Iwo Jima Memorial except the latter has a closer metro stop.

The U.S. Capitol has an Independence Day concert by the military at 8 p.m. (get there by 6 p.m.) with the backdrop of fireworks.

East Potomac Park isn’t too crowded so a picnic dinner by the water is possible.

Gravelly Point by National Airport gets crowded, but it’s a nice park setting on the Virginia side.

Naturally, anyone can say the Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial or Jefferson Memorials are great sites, but they’re virtually by the Washington Monument so all of downtown is lumped into one in my opinion. Lots of security, lines and long metro ride home. The rooftop bars are great, too, but just walking into one without reservations isn’t easy.

Like I said, my couch and remote are looking good this year.

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

Locks on bridges reach Georgetown C&O Canal

I was standing on the red pedestrian bridge across the C&O Canal in Georgetown when I spotted a lock under the rail. It contained a heart with”Corbett & Camilla 12/2/13″ attached.


Locks on bridges have become popular worldwide. I first saw them in San Francisco in 2014 and last year on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City where a sign saying not to attach locks was surrounded by them. Ironically, I saw a city worker with bolt cutters taking them off. Spoil sport.

The locks symbolize eternal love between a couple. After attaching the lock to the bridge, the couple is supposed to throw the key into the water so the lock (and their love) remains forever.


After noticing one lock, I suddenly saw five others along the bridge. Maybe they’ve been there for awhile unnoticed. Either way, I hope Corbett and Camila are doing well.

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

My 1,000th post

Eight years ago, I started this blog as a new tour guide. It chronicles much of what I learn and see as a tour guide in my hometown of Washington, D.C.

And this is post No. 1,000.

Wow, where does the time go? One thousand thoughts and photos. The blog was named a Top 5 Read by the Huffington Post, but I freely admit a blog on statues and monuments isn’t sexy reading or a required morning briefing. Still, through sheer numbers and perseverance I average about 50 readers per day. It’s about the only writing I do without pay given my 40 years as a journalist, though occasionally it leads to a private tour.

The most read post was about the stones atop graves at Arlington National Cemetery. Not else comes even close. On Memorial Day or Wreaths Across America day, hundreds of people still find me via Google to learn about the rocks.

Do I have anything more so say? Well, one thing I’ve learned as a guide is history is not static or all in the past. Things change all the time. So, I’ll keep guiding and writing as long as I can keep walking.

So watch out – I’m still on the move.

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

Sunflower maze in the calm of Southern Maryland

The McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, Md. is a great field of sunflowers. I really enjoyed it until everyone found out and the place was overrun. So I have a new alternative for you in another direction – Ladybugs Alive.

Head to Chaptico in Southern Maryland where a family farm turned a section into sunflowers for the birds to eat and people to wander. The maze isn’t too hard, but not simple either. You’ll be glad to find the end. But it’s fun to walk for a short while before finding those blessed picnic tables in the shade.

The sunflowers should peak around July 1 so head there this weekend.



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

Lobsterman gets a new spot

Sometimes you have to change fishing grounds, and in this case a new dock.

The Maine waterman, nicknamed the Lobsterman, has been moved as part of the new SW Waterfront from Sixth and Waters Sts. to the Fish Market at 11th and Maine Sts. It looks like they just lifted the statue and boulder from the previous spot and dumped it on the new grounds, though the old plaque wasn’t around. It’s all part of the ongoing building in the area.

Sculptor Victor Kahill modeled the bronze sculpture atop a Maine granite boulder after a real waterman – H. Elroy Johnson, who died in 1973 just one year after being used for the statue. Three copies were made and the one at the Maine State Museum and Library was transferred to Washington in 1983.

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

Ahoy there – stop by the U.S. Navy Memorial

Washington has many wonderful fountains. The World War II Memorial’s may be the best at night. The Library of Congress’ Court of Neptune is akin to Rome’s Trevi Fountain. The ones on the sides of the U.S. Capitol are interesting.

But one that often gets overlooked amid its setting is the U.S. Navy Memorial on 7th and Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. across the National Archives. The metro stop literally comes up to the fountains.

The Granite Sea plaza has two shades to show land and sea areas. The scale of the world map is as seen by a spaceship 800 miles above Earth.

The west pool honors international navies, the eastern pool remembers those serving in the U.S. Navy. The cool part is the pools are annually salted by water brought from each of the seven seas.

In the  plaza’s rear is The Lone Sailor. The bronze is made from artifacts from eight U.S. Navy ships. The seven-foot sculpture was created by Stanley Bleifeld in 1987 and modeled after Petty Office 1st clas Dan Maloney. The sailor wears a pea coat over his uniform with his canvas bag holding his possessions while waiting to board his ship.



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

Wordless Wednesday: FLOTUS china over the years

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

Sons of Revolutionary War at Arlington National Cemetery

While Arlington National Cemetery didn’t open until 80 years after the Revolutionary War, there are 11 veterans interred there. Nine are in Section 1 in the cemetery’s rear near the Fort Meyer gate while Pierre L’Enfant and Hugh Auld are in Section 2 near Arlington House. This makes Arlington the nation’s only cemetery with veterans from every war.

James McCubbin Lingan was one tough hero of this country who survived a bayoneting and 3 1/2 years as a prisoner of war during the Revolutionary War only to be beaten to death by a mob in 1812 while defending the freedom of the press.

Lingan was a prisoner on the British ship “Jersey” where he refused an offer of $10,000 and a commission to switch sides. Lingan also defended a dead prisoner from soldiers sawing off the dead man’s legs to fit into a smaller casket.

A general by war’s end, Lingan was well regarded by George Washington and appointed a collector in the port of Georgetown, which is now part of the nation’s capital. Lingan later became a founding member of the Society of the Cincinnati.

When a Baltimore paper published an editorial opposing the War of 1812, Lingan defended his friend Alexander Hanson from those claiming the stance was unpatriotic. Lingan and Hanson were escorted to the local jail for protection, but the mob broke in and beat Lingan to death.

Lingan was buried in Georgetown, but later re-interred at Arlington on Nov. 5, 1908.

Posted in Arlington National Cemetery | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

New perspective can make you feel like an idiot

I wrote about a tree in Arlington National Cemetery that nearly overtook a grave. But I came upon the tree from the opposite angle recently and there was a second grave tucked in the other side of the tree I hadn’t seen. Wow, how did I miss that?

So this is the story of Corporal Charles Ippel, whose headstone is nearly completely covered by the oak tree. That Ippel died on July 26, 1863 and Michael Burns died on Feb. 20, 1864 means the tree in between grew afterwards. At least, I hope so.

Ippel was a member of the 82nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry, which was all German, and Company C, which was all Jewish. He enlisted in Sept. 26, 1862 with papers saying he was from Chicago, married and worked as a cooper. Ippel immigrated from Antwerp, Germany on Nov. 4, 1848 at age 21 through the port of New York.

Military records show Ippel died on July 26, 1863, three weeks after the “Second Hecker Regiment” fought at Gettysburg after an earlier engagement at Chancellorsville. No reason was given.

As written earlier, Burns buried on the other side of the tree was in the Union Army’s 36th Regiment, A Company from Buffalo. Born in Ireland in 1834, Burns enlisted May 13, 1861. The private received a disability discharge on Oct. 30, 1862 in Washington, D.C. The separation papers list “Surgeon’s CTF at Washington, D.C.” as the reason. I wasn’t able to determine what that meant. He died on Feb. 20, 1864.

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

Wordless Wednesday: Turning walls into wallpaper

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

The curious tale of Socrates Hoffin, uh Hofius

Wandering Arlington National Cemetery’s back regions, I came across a grave that just struck me. Socrates Hoffin – sounded like a cool name. Figured I’d look him up.

And there began the journey. After searching military records that list him as Hoffin, I finally found his real name was Hofius when researching on ancestry.com. I later confirmed it on the regiment’s muster rolls.

The saddest part – he was in the army only three months at the end of the Civil War and died shortly before its conclusion.

A miner born in Hickory, Pa. on March 16, 1842 to farmer George Hofius, Socrates enlisted in the 87th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company H on March 13, 1865. The private was killed June 2, 1865.

Records say the 87th fought several battles in Northern Virginia while Hofius was with them, but nothing on June 2. The regiment lost 202 men during its four years with 90 killed in battle and 112 dying from disease.

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