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Growing up near the fort just south of town, I remember walking Fort Washington’s steps and hills down to the Potomac River with great joy.
Then for some reason, I went 30 years without visiting until a beautiful sunny afternoon last week. And, it looked the same.
Fort Washington dates back to 1809 yet never fired a shot before finally given to the Dept. of Interior in 1946. Not even during the War of 1812 when the British fleet approached from the south while soldiers marched from the east.
Fort Washington’s stone and brick walls and a deteriorating drawbridge provide a rare and insightful look at an old fort without restriction. Sometimes you might be the only person around. You’re free to wander about nearly the entire fort. My brother always threatened to leave me in the dungeons when we were kids.
Originally called Fort Warburton, the post was completed on Dec. 1, 1809, but the first guns weren’t mounted until 1846. Soldiers from the First, Third and Fourth Artillery manned the only guns protecting the capital until the Civil War.
You’ll see plenty of cannons on the grounds. The 15-inch Rodman guns arrived between 1873-75, but they were never fully installed. Instead, concrete bunkers below the fort were built in 1886. But, the post was abandoned in 1891. Then new guns were mounted in 1896 before removed a decade later.
Fort Washington became a staging area for troops headed for France during World War I. The post was again abandoned in 1939 to become the site of a new bridge that instead went a few miles north 20 years later. During World War II, the post became the U.S. Army Adjutant General’s School.
And once again, the fort was abandoned in 1946 and is now run by the National Park Service. There are free self-guided brochures on the left after passing through the gate.
Nowadays, Fort Washington is a great park that’s pretty crowded on summer weekends, but otherwise has plenty of parking for a visit. It’s about 10 minutes from the beltway off Rt. 210 South. You can see the Wilson Bridge and the city easily from the fort. The 95-foot flagpole with a 36 by 20 foot flag can be seen from Alexandria.
The lighthouse built below the fort in 1882 is 28 feet tall. You’ll often see people fishing along the shoreline or nearby boats. There’s excellent fishing along this part of the river.
But that’s the way Roosevelt wanted it.
Shortly before his 1945 death while barely into his fourth term, Roosevelt told Justice Felix Frankfurter to erect a basic white monument the size of his desk. It wasn’t erected until 1965, but still sits by the National Archives along Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. The white marble cost $12,000 and paid for by admirers.
Ironically a commission began planning the larger memorial in 1955, 10 years before this memorial opened.
It has probably been 40 years since I last saw the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and it wasn’t even completed then. A recent visit showed I’ve been away too long.
The Shrine on the outer edge of Catholic University on 400 Michigan Ave. NE is far more than a Catholic church that has seen Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict visit. It is a place of unique architecture as well as worship with nearly one million visitors annually.
It was a long journey towards completion, starting with a 1910 request to build it that took 10 years before the cornerstone was layed. The lower (crypt) level was completed by 1931, but the death of a bishop, the Great Depression and World War II halted construction until 1959. It was completed in 1990. More than 70 chapels and oratories fill it.
The beauty and peace that fills the Shrine certainly make it a must see. And, there’s even guided tours, free and ample parking and a cafeteria.
It’s not often one monument can essentially tell the history of the U.S., but the Torch of Freedom gives 12 scenes from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam.
Located in front of the Veterans of Foreign Wars building at Constitution Ave. and Second St. N.E. the three-sided bronze marker features relief scenes of major events.
The 35-foot marker was erected in 1976 and sculpted by Felix de Weldon, who is more famous for the Marine Corps War Memorial commonly known as the Iwo Jima Memorial.
OK, I admit knowing nothing of Eleftherios Venizelos when coming across the statue along Embassy Row on Massachusetts Ave. by the Greek embassy. But that’s the cool part of being a tour guide – you learn, learn and learn.
Venizelos was prime minister of Greece from 1910-20 and 1928-32. During his time, Venizelos helped re-unite Crete and Greece, aligned with the Allied forces during World War I despite the monarchy’s opposition and doubled overall population and geography by gaining Macedonia, Epirus and the Aegean islands.
If you fly into Athens nowadays you’ll see its named for Venizelos.