The Bunkers return to American History museum

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Torpedo Factory in Alexandria

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Carlyle House in Alexandria

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Deep thinking in the garden

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A pyramid in Washington

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Fox News knows nothing of Washington

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No bowing, she’s not the queen

You never know what kids will say. I asked some youngsters who I was standing next to and “The Queen of England?” was the first response.

Well, I must admit she does look a little like Queen Elizabeth, but it’s actually former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Its location at husband’s FDR Memorial should be a dead giveaway, but kids don’t always make the connection.

Eleanor is standing next to the United Nations symbol given her staunch support for it. She’s the only First Lady honored with a statue at a presidential memorial. Given Eleanor served the longest of any First Lady and often spoke for her husband at events, she certainly deserves it.

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Sonny Bono Park needs TLC

Sonny Bono Park

It’s a spit of land with a lot of history that’s now left to neglect.

Sonny Bono Park at the intersection of O St., New Hampshire Ave., and 20th St. about one block south of DuPont Circle is just 800 feet of fenced-in dirt that seems too small to worry about and indeed no one has in awhile.

A local friend of Bono’s spent $50,000 to renovate the land in 1998, installing benches, landscaping and even a time capsule underneath a medallion of Bono in the entranceway that reportedly includes the sheet music of Sonny and Cher’s hit song, “The Beat Goes on.” The park was ruined by city road crews in 2013 and has seen little progress since.

Sometimes, the beat doesn’t go on.

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Octagon House – when six equals eight

I have driven past the Octagon House hundreds of times because my wife worked on the same block for 30 years. I never knew its full story; just that it was an oddly-shape corner building near the White House at 18th St. and New York Ave. NW.

Designed in 1801 by William Thornton, who was the first architect of the U.S. Capitol, the house served as a temporary home to president James Madison after the British burned the White House in 1814. The British left the house alone because it was a temporary embassy for France. Today, it’s a museum of Washington’s early days.

The three-story house includes a circle, two rectangles and a triangle in its floorplan. Many building materials are local, including Aquia Creek sandstone. The decorative materials came from England. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1960.

Some say it’s haunted by two daughters of the original owner – Col. John Tayloe, a prominent Virginia planter who built the house at George Washington’s urging. In separate instances, a daughter arguing with Tayloe on the upper stairs fell to her death. Some say ghosts of slaves that once lived in the rear of the home now haunt it.

Oh, one more thing. It has six sides, not eight like an octagon. Go figure. Not the first number that was fudged in Washington.

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Ascent soars outside Udvar-Hazy Center

One of the more interesting items at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport may be outside.

Ascent is a 75-foot polished, stainless steel artwork that means, well I’m not good at interpretative art. But, some say its upward soaring image represents man’s desire to soar to the heavens.

Ascent was created by John Safer, a real renaissance man who studied law at Harvard, worked in banking and created artwork that hangs in more than 1,000 museums and embassies worldwide.

“It is my hope,” Safer told Cosmos Journal magazine, “that people who look at my work will feel uplifted and inspired. Through my sculptures, I try to make people feel more at one with themselves and the universe in which they live.”

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The history of flags by the FBI

FBI flagsSometimes the government website says it better than we can. Here is the FBI’s website explanation of the history of flags along its building on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington. The Grand Union, or Continental Colors, serving from 1775-1777, was first raised on January 1, 1776, on Mount Pigsah, Massachusetts, about the time the Continental army came into formal existence. It combined the British Union Jack and 13 stripes, signifying Colonial unity. The following below is from the FBI website.
The Flag of 1777, which had no official arrangement for the 13 stars. It was flown by John Paul Jones on the USS Ranger and was the first American flag to be recognized by a foreign power.
The Betsy Ross Flag, 13 stars, designed by George Washington, Betsy Ross, and Francis Hopkinson. Although rarely used, it was adopted by Congress on June 14, 1777–the official date of today’s Flag Day.
The Bennington Flag, 13 six-pointed stars, allegedly flown August 16, 1777, over military stores at the Battle of Bennington, Vermont, when the Vermont militia beat back a superior British force.
The Star Spangled Banner, 15 stars and 15 stripes, immortalized by Francis Scott Key in our National Anthem during the bombardment of Ft. McHenry, Maryland, in September 13, 1814.
The Flag of 1818, 20 stars, commissioned by a Congressional Flag Act that returned the design to 13 stripes and stipulated that stars be added for each new state.
The Great Star Flag, 20 stars, designed by Captain Samuel Chester Reid, U.S. Navy, at the request of New York Congressman Peter Wendover and flown over the U.S. Capitol on April 13, 1818.
The Lincoln Flag, 34 stars, raised by President Lincoln on February 22, 1861, over Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to send a message to Southern states, which were preparing to secede from the Union.
The Iwo Jima Flag, 48 stars, which was commissioned in 1912 but came to symbolize our Nation on February 19, 1945, when U.S. Marines raised it on Mount Suribachi after fearful fighting in World War II’s Pacific campaign.
The 49-Star Flag, commissioned in 1959 when Alaska achieved full Statehood. It flew for only one year, until July 4, 1960, after Hawaii achieved its Statehood and when today’s 50-star flag became official.

What about the large banner streaming from the corner of 9th and Penn? It and its twin on 10th and Penn have been flying since May 29, 2004, after we were invited to be part of the dedication of Washington’s World War II Memorial this past Memorial Day, honoring the 16 million who served and the over 400,000 who died in World War II. This banner, of course, uses the 48-star format of The Iwo Jima Flag.

And that flag around the corner, on 9th street? It’s the 50-star flag, which our FBI police reverently raise each day at 5 am and take down at dusk.

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Albert Gallatin – the man in front of the Treasury

After taking their zillion photos of the north side of the White House, many tourists walk to 15th St. to catch their bus. They pass the Treasury Building along the way and always ask who’s the statue.

When I say Albert Gallatin, the response is usually a blank stare. And, I really can’t blame them.

Created by James Earle Fraser, the bronze statue was erected in 1947. The inscription on the base tells his story:

 

 

SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
GENIUS OF FINANCE
SENATOR AND REPRESENTATIVE
COMMISSIONER FOR THE TREATY OF GHENT
MINISTER TO FRANCE AND GREAT BRITAIN
AND STEADFAST
CHAMPION OF DEMOCRACY
1761-1849

Gallatin was the fourth and longest-running Treasury Secretary who later founded what’s now NYU college. A young orphan of rich parents, the Swiss-born Gallatin arrived in the U.S. at age 19. Gallatin endured mixed success as a businessman before entering politics. He was a pretty good Treasury Secretary, overseeing the Louisiana Purchase for $15 million and financing the War of 1812 with Britain. However, the national debt grew under his stewardship.

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Visit Mount Vernon

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A tree grows in Washington

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Ice skating on National Mall

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Happy 12th anniversary to Monumental Thoughts

Willard Hotel gingerbread house

Well, another year passed as Monumental Thoughts is just a year short of becoming a teenager. Wow, the years go quickly.

I wish I could tell you how many visitors we had in 2012 like other years, but the website aged out of Google analytics. It probably wasn’t anything big as the pandemic crippled tourism for the first five months. Visitors picked up heavily in the fall and still going stronger after Thanksgiving than usual so here’s hoping next year will return to 2019 levels.

Personally, it was a tough year. I had a physical setback in January and didn’t get cleared to tour for many months. Luckily, it was just a nerve in my back causing the trouble and has been fine since. I got lucky again.

I turned 62 and opted for Social Security and a part-time workload. After the pandemic crippled my sports writing career (still working some at 44 years), it was time to concede defeat and work more on projects than everyday grind. My wife and I moved deeper into Southern Maryland with a new home and three acres that is a reward for a lifetime of work for us both.

I’m working on more videos for my Rick Snider’s Washington on YouTube. More than 10 million views across social media over two years. It’s a mixture of local sports and history. Check it out. I’m still working as a tour guide, but more specialty items like Smithsonian museums than those daylong death marches across the National Mall. Did a 20,000 step one with Europeans in their 70s recent, though. They didn’t flinch, but I almost did.

Anyway, thanks for reading and watching. Let’s meet back here next year.

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World War I Memorial

General Pershing

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Merry Christmas

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Santa came early to my house

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General Grant watches over us

General Grant

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