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Two men carry another while a woman shows compassion. The Red Cross Men and Women Killed in Service statue in the Red Cross courtyard at 17th and D Sts. N.W. is the perfect example of what the organization means.
The seven-foot statues, dedicated in 1959 by Gen. Mark Clark, were sculpted by Felix de Weldon., who wanted to show the organization’s compassion and strength. Nobody wears uniforms to represent the group’s willingness to help everyone. Clark was there to represent World War II when 78 Red Cross workers were killed.
There’s a colonial plantation at Reagan (Washington National to locals) Airport. Or rather, there’s an airport on an old colonial plantation.
I had to check out Abingdon Plantation when first learning of it from a company specializing in unique urban sites. I’ve flown out of DCA hundreds of times since 1972 and never knew this. With some googling and help from a friend who works at the airport, I parked in Garage A and walked the sidewalk towards Garage B. And there it was. Not that you’d ever know. It can’t be seen from the road and who walks between garages?
Anyway, the plantation is best known as the birthplace of Eleanor “Nelly” Parke Custis, who was the step granddaughter of George and Martha Washington.
The estate was created in 1669 by shipmaster Rovert Howson for settlers brought to Virginia. It would be sold to John Alexander for 6,000 pounds of tobacco.
Flash forward to 1778 where John Parke Custis, son of Martha Washington by a previous marriage, bought Abingdon and 1,000 acres to be near Mount Vernon. Custis died in 1781 while serving in the Revolutionary War and Nelly along with brother George would move to Mount Vernon where they were raised by the Washingtons.
Flash forward to 1864 and a few owners later when the federal government seized the land for unpaid taxes. Two more generations and several owners later, the abandoned house burned in 1930. Soon after, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided Abingdon would make a swell airport.
Today, the brick foundation of two sites of the mansion, several signs and a few benches dot the small site. You can mostly see the main terminal in the distance and a small view of the Potomac River. It makes you imagine what a nice view it had in the day.
I’ve been to Mount Vernon countless times over a half century since growing up across the Potomac River from the mansion. But I’ve only been down to the boat ramp and far crops twice.
Yeah, that’s nuts.
Nearly all of the visitors to President George Washington’s colonial estate head for the mansion and then his tomb. It’s a fair walk overall, especially with a big hill awaiting the return to the museum. Between limited time and the walk, most people never see the far end that’s really not that far away.
On a nice fall day and no clients after a meeting at Mount Vernon, I was restless for a long walk. So, I headed to the water. It’s easy to find. From the tomb, just take the path straight down to the water’s edge where a modern dock welcomes those arriving by boat. It’s maybe a five-minute walk, but downhill.
Sit on the benches for a few minutes and watch the Potomac River pass by on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll feel a million miles away from town. It’s then a couple minutes to walk to Washington’s fields of corn, cabbage and squash. It’s just a small patch of the estate’s once 8,000 acres that fed 340 people on the plantation, but at least you see some crops. There’s also Washington’s round barn that he designed. Pretty unique.
Now, how do you get back? Well, there’s a shuttle bus every 20 minutes that will take you to the museum. For those with mobility problems, it’s a fine option. (The bus will also take you from the museum to the water.) But there’s also a path straight through the woods that will burn a few calories and end nearly at the top of the hill. You’ll feel a sense of achievement when emerging from the woods.
So if you have extra time and a desire for some extra steps, don’t stop at the mansion or tomb. Keep going.
I used to jog (really) in the Arboretum in the late 1980s while working at the Washington Times. The Arboretum had an open gate by the newspaper along New York Ave. and I ran best I could around the park. The place always seemed empty and its rolling small hills and natural setting were perfect.
Flash forward 30 years.
The last Sunday of the year before the NFL dominates my schedule (I’m a sports writer in another life) saw my wife and I wonder how we should spend a beautiful fall afternoon. We’ve kinda done everything around town so it’s not easy finding something new.
“The U.S. National Arboretum,” I said. “We haven’t been there in a long time.”
There were people everywhere throughout the 446 acres with nine miles of road. The Arboretum offers a variety of plants and trees with different ones blooming during the year. Established in 1927 by Congress, it’s used for research by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
Perhaps the most visited section is the U.S. Capitol columns. The Corinthian columns were once used on the East Portico of the Capitol dome from 1828-64 when a new dome (termites ate the old one) was constructed. The columns were stored until 1984 when relocated to the Arboretum surrounded by 20 acres of meadow with several surrounding paths letting you escape into nature. The columns lie atop stones also used at the Capitol.
Rebecca was given to President Coolidge to be dinner on Thanksgiving. Yeah, some Southerners eat it. Supposedly tastes like chicken. But, the Coolidges passed and the raccoon lived with them at the White House for several years before donated to a zoo when the Coolidges left the White House.
I teach a presidential pets class for kids at Outschool.com if you want to hear more.
It looks like odd tools in my collection, and it is.
Tool De Force is a 12 1/2-foot sculpture at the National Building Museum representing some of the tools used in the industry. It was donated to NBM by John Hechinger, Sr., who many longtime Washingtonians remember for his Hechinger hardware stores that paved the way for big box successors Home Depot and Lowe’s.
Hechinger collected art for his enormous headquarters. This one is by sculptor David Stromeyer, who liked to add color to his pieces.
I first met Glenn Brenner in 1979 at my college job fair. He was the keynote speaker. Glenn started to speak and said screw it, what do you guys want to know? He then took questions for an hour.
Glenn died in 1992 at age 44 of a brain tumor. It was so sad. I crossed paths with Glenn often, including one time when he came flying over a sand dune at a golf course driving a cart like a lunatic and laughing as we scrambled. Anyone who knew Glenn has 10 funny stories.
Glenn is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown. It’s a historic hilly cemetery filled with many Civil War notables, including Abe Lincoln’s right-hand man Edwin Stanton whose marker is steps from Glenn’s grave.
RIP Glenn. Everyone still misses you.
My wife and I were walking Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown when we heard honking in the distance. Wonder what that was?
Driving through Georgetown, we quickly learned Joe Biden won the presidential election. People were flooding the streets, cars were honking. So, what the hell, we drove by the White House where it was one big party.
I’ve lived in Washington 60 years, voted in 10 presidential elections. (I’ve never missed even an off-year primary.) I have never seen anything like the celebration over Biden’s victory. Not even Obama’s. The crowd was mostly people in their 20s, having a good time, signs saying goodbye to Donald Trump. Given 93 percent of Washington’s vote was for Biden plus a beautiful 70-degree day, it’s not surprising people came to party.
If this post offends you, well, my blog is free and you’re free not to read it. I don’t take sides publicly very often, but I support Biden largely because I feel he’ll have a better plan moving forward to end the pandemic. I don’t care to argue over whether the election was stolen or if we’re heading towards socialism. That’s your opinion and people don’t listen to each other anymore so I’ll save the keystrokes.
But, it was nice to see the young generation charged over helping our country’s future. We have plenty of heavy lifting and will need their energy. I still think this is the greatest country on Earth, but not so blinded that we can’t use some new ideas. Every generation has them and that’s a good thing.
Leaders will decide on the inaugural ceremonies soon. They’re already building the platform at the capitol because it takes three months. With the pandemic, I expect a small crowd at most. Otherwise, it would be one million people or more as most recent inaugurals have been. But like Ronald Reagan cancelling 1985 outdoor festivities and the parade because it was seven degrees and dangerous for people to be outside for extended periods, Biden could limit the day’s activities. Just another tourism hit in a year of zero for tour guides. Oh well.
When Arlington National Cemetery opened to the public in 1864, everyone passed through the McClellan Arch, which is about 150 yards to the left of the current entrance.
Named for Union Gen. George B. McClellan, whose Civil War headquarters was on the cemetery’s grounds, the 30-foot arch was originally a tribute because its namesake wasn’t dead. McClellan later died in 1885. He isn’t buried in Arlington, though his son George McClellan, Jr. is.
On the east side (facing Washington) of the arch inscribed in gold is: “On fame’s eternal camping ground, their silent tents are spread, and glory guards with solemn round, the bivouac of the dead.”
The west side has: Rest on embalmed and sainted dead, dear as the blood ye gave, no impious footsteps here shall tread on the herbage of your grave.”
Alexander Shepherd was one of the key people responsible for Washington being what it is today, but few know who “Boss” Shepherd was even if his statue is to the right of City Hall’s steps. Indeed, Shepherd is known as “The Father of Modern Washington.”
Shepherd headed the D.C. Board of Public Works from 1871-73 before becoming governor of the town in 1873-74. Basically, Congress threatened to leave for St. Louis if Shepherd didn’t start paving roads, creating sidewalks and sewers and making it a more hospitable place that led to among other things the modern Embassy Row.
Shepherd did all that, but bankrupted the town doing so. Shepherd was called a “Boss Tweed” of his time and left town after going bankrupt himself in the mid-1870s. Shepherd later became rich as a silver miner in Mexico where he died in 1902.
“Boss” was buried at Rock Creek Cemetery down the street from the Lincoln Cottage along Rock Creek Church Road. His tomb is one of many in the cemetery, but Shepherd gained a good location looking down the hill. The tomb remains in good shape along a small road off the main path.
But few remember his son Robert A. Taft whose accomplishments earned an impressive 100-foot bell tower near the base of the Capitol at Constitution, New Jersey and Louisiana Aves.
A graduate of Yale and of Harvard Law, Taft was a member of the Ohio House of Representatives from 1921-26 and a U.S. Senator from 1932-53, serving the last six months as Senate Majority leader until his death.
The bronze statue of Taft is 11 feet and sculpted by Wheeler Williams. The memorial was dedicated in 1959 and accepted by vice president Nixon, who was also president of the Senate. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and former president Herbert Hoover attended the ceremony.
The general is surrounded by four lions paws. A sword for his military career, cross for Christian faith, wreath symbolizing victory over death and winged hourglass are still seen, though a butterfly with a circled snake for eternity has since faded because of air pollution, according to James Goode’s “Washington Sculpture.”
A side panel states Macomb was honored “for distinguished and gallant conduct defeating the enemy at Plattsburg (N.Y.)” when pushing British soldiers back across the Canadian border during the War of 1812. Another panel states:
Major General. Commanding-in-Chief
United States Army.
Died at Washington
The Seat of Government
25 June. 1841
Macomb was the son of a wealthy Irish immigrant. Goode writes that Macomb declined his father’s desire to run the family’s 3 1/2-milion acre estate in New York to join the Army at age 16. His gallantry during the Battle of Niagara and Ft. George in 1814 earned a promotion to brigadier general before later winning again at Plattsburg to become major general, the highest ranking officer at the time. He was promoted to commanding general in 1828. Macomb earned disdain in 1829 by recommending the end of soldiers’ daily whiskey ration.
Today, Macomb Street meets Connecticut Ave. in the Cleveland Park neighborhood.
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.