Remembering JFK at Holy Trinity church

Trinity ChurchHoly Trinity Church (3513 N. St. NW) was the city’s first Catholic church in 1792. In the early years, parishioners either rented space on the pews or brought their own chair. But don’t worry, today’s 10,000 parishioners have ample room to sit.

In 1862, 200 military wounded and sick were treated here after the Second Battle of Bull Run. The government used the church for one year before returning it with a $350 payment.

This plaque remembers John F. Kennedy worshipping here regularly until his 1963 death. Indeed, it was the last service he attended before assassinated.

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Remembering Fala – the First Dog

I’ve been a tour guide since 2010. I know a lot, but there are so many experienced guides who are walking encyclopedias of knowledge of our town. Still, one incident involving Fala the dog at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial made me realize some tour guides aren’t as smart as they think.

Standing at the FDR when a guide brought an eighth grade class to Fala’s statue, he asked if anyone know where the dog got its name.

Naturally, there was a silence. Kids that age won’t even say how they got their name even if they’re a junior.

The guide says, “He was a present at Christmastime and you know the song, fala la la la.”

My jaw hit the ground in amazement.

Fala was FDR’s dog and the only presidential pet honored by a statue. But, he was named after Roosevelt’s ancestor John Murray of Falahill, a place in Scotland which is only fitting given Fala is a Scottish Terrier. He was also named Murray the Outlaw of Falahil. Fala was indeed a Christmas present from FDR’s cousin.

Fala (April 7, 1940 – April 5, 1952) was a constant companion of FDR before the latter’s 1945 death. He then lived with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who said the dog merely tolerated her while waiting for its master to return.

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Wordless Wednesday: Flooding along Tidal Basin

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Cherry blossoms first glimpse

Cherry blossoms

It’s that time again.

The end of February has us longing for spring and with that the cherry blossoms to signal warm weather is here to stay. Not that it has been a bad winter in Washington, but who doesn’t wish for nice spring days before the humidity turns summer into a steam bath?

Trees along the Tidal Basin have started to bud, but just barely. My guess, which is as good as anyone’s given forecasters changed their official estimates three times last year, is peak bloom will be early. I’ll make the over/under March 23.

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The best view in town is . . .

Tourists ask this all the time.

It’s not from the top of the Washington Monument despite being the highest point in town. Ditto for the Old Post Office Pavillion or the National Cathedral. And while the porch at the Newseum is great for seeing Capitol Hill, all these points aren’t as good as two places across the Potomac River.

The best daytime view of Washington (above) is from the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. The whole town is layed out in front of you. The same essential view can be seen from nearby Arlington House. Both require a moment to catch your breath after climbing a steep hill, but it’s worth it.

The best nighttime view is from the nearby Netherlands Carillion between Arlington National Cemetery and the Iwo Jima memorial. You can line up the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol. The cemetery is closed at night so this is your best stop, though the Air Force Memorial on the other side of ANC is pretty good, too.

The most picturesque view from street level is M St. in Georgetown. Just a nice glimpse of the old days. But, Embassy Row along Massachussetts Ave. with its flags runs a close second. Of course, the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin is the best, but only lasts a week or so.

What are your favorites?

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Wordless Wednesday: Jefferson Memorial

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When a reporter killed in the Capitol

Bloody Capitol steps

The press and politicians have always had an uneasy relationship. But, it was deadly once inside the U.S. Capitol.

Louisville Times reporter Charles Kincaid wrote a story on Kentucky Congressman William Taulbee cheating on his wife while in Washington. The scandal was enough for Taulbee not to seek a third term and become a lobbyist.

Taulbee and Kincaid became enemies over the next three years with Taulbee often bumping the reporter when passing. The two finally came to blows on Feb. 28, 1890 and were separated by House doorkeepers. Taulbee warned Kincaid to arm himself. So, Kincaid went home for his gun and returned to shoot Taulbee on the east staircase of the Capitol. Taulbee died on March 11. Kincaid was later acquitted of charges on the grounds of self-defense.

The enduring part of the tale is Taulbee’s blood is still splatted on the stairs 127 years later. Marble is very porous and stains are hard to remove. And in this case, it remains a reminder not to mess with the press.

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Wordless Wednesday: National Cathedral

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Visit our sister site –

What is a tour guide and sports writer doing with wine website? Telling stories, of course.

Southern Maryland is undergoing a wine awakening. More than a dozen wineries now dot the landscape where tobacco was once king. I’ve lived in Southern Maryland since 1962 and seen the changes from open fields to housing developments and wince every time green hills are converted to blacktop.


But the Big Tobacco settlement 20 years ago induced some farmers to give up tobacco. And, the really smart ones started wineries that led to others doing so. And now there are great stories to tell and an emerging market to follow.

Southern Maryland really isn’t that far, though I remember when Waldorf couldn’t even make the weather on local TV. Too far out. In reality, a Saturday trip from the U.S. Capitol to Brandywine, Md. where four wineries begin  your trip into wine country takes about 30 minutes. They’re much closer to town than the ones in Virginia. Tasting rooms combined with farm life make a nice staycation.

Visit Southern Maryland Wine  to see all the great stories plus the latest news in the wine industry.

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Lincoln at the National Cathedral

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Remembering a terrorist act on Embassy Row

The first impression is it’s some sort of fire plug. Instead, it remembers a terrorist act along Embassy Row.

Chilean exile Orlando Letelier and co-worker Ronni Moffitt were killed by a car bomb on Sept. 21, 1976 where the monument now lies along Sheridan Circle on Massachusetts Ave. Ronni’s husband Michael Moffitt suffered only minor injuries because he was in the back seat.

A car bomb on Embassy Row? Hard to imagine.

Letelier, 44, was a high-ranking official under Chilean president Salvadoe Allende, whose three-year government was overthrown in a coup by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Allende was killed during the takeover.

Letelier spent one year in a concentration camp before exiled from Chile. He came to Washington to work for the Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank that allowed Letelier to travel worldwide lobbying for sanctions against Pinochet’s government.

Moffitt, 25, was a fundraiser at the Institute for Pubilc Policies. The Maryland graduate earlier worked as a teacher for underprivileged children.

Pinochet tired of Letelier’s efforts and reportedly ordered the assassination. Moffit was unfortunately next to Letelier. Michael Townly was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for his part of the murders. He was released after five years and entered the U.S. witness protection program after testifying against two Cuban accomplices who received life sentences. Pinochet was implicated, but never indicted for the murders.

Today under a shade tree is the small monument with images of Letelier and Moffitt along with “Justice * Peace * Dignity.”

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I’m now a certified National Cathedral guide


Ever want to visit one of those old European cathedrals without needing a passport? Come to the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Washington.


Commonly called National Cathedral because the Episcopal church welcomes all and serves the nation for major events like presidential funerals and remembrances, it’s the closest thing you’ll get locally to those church abroad. Built from 1907 to 1990, the church has 150,000 tons of limestone from Indiana built in a Gothic style for soaring heights. There are 216 stained glass windows in the church built like a 14th-century cathedral.

President Woodrow Wilson and his wife Edith are entombed there as the church in 1924 sought to become like Westminster Abbey in England and be the resting place of great leaders. No other presidents since have chosen the cathedral with the latest trend having them buried at their libraries.


I decided to become a certified Cathedral guide this year to expand my knowledge of the city. Oh, I’ve been to services and funerals at the cathedral over the years, but like becoming a guide around town I’ve found you really don’t know much about places unless you study them. I passed both written and oral exams to become a guide. (Yeah, it’s weird taking tests at my age, but still feels good when passing.)

If you’re interested in a private tour of the cathedral, please contact me. There is so much to know about the place like what statue is the only one showing a president kneeling, what other famous folks are buried there, why a building is a cathedral and where is that Darth Vader grotesque? Don’t worry, you can take all the photos you like and we can spend as long as you like as a private tour versus 30 minutes on student tours.


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Eisenhower Executive Office Building

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Stephen DeCatur House remains special

Stephen DeCatur must have been one cool cat, if not an unlucky one.

After fighting in the War of 1812 and later facing pirates off the Barbary Coast, DeCatur used the “prize money” from Congress to build this three-story brick house within sight of the White House in Lafayette Park at the corner of Jackson Place and H St. N.W.

Too bad he only lived in it only 14 months before – bam – dying in a duel. Seems Commodore James Baron objected to DeCatur court martialing him and shot him in a one-on-one satisfaction of honor.

DeCatur’s wife moved out immediately. It has since been the home of one vice president, three secretaries of state, five congressmen, a British prime minister and the French and Russian delegations. Nowadays it’s a naval museum open to the public.

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What’s on the radio?

During the dark days of the Great Depression and World War II, Americans huddled around their radios hoping for the latest news and a little inspiration.

The fireside chats by Franklin Delano Roosevelt were staples of listening from 1933-45. The series of 30 talks dealt with economic recovery and war over 15 to 45 minutes. Roosevelt spoke in a simple style so everyone could understand him. Indeed, 80 percent of the most commonly 1,000 words were used in his speeches.

TV eventually replaced the radio as the dominant medium, but every president since FDR has continued regular radio broadcasts. Indeed, it has been a weekly staple by recent presidents, including President Obama.

This sculpture of a farmer listening intently to the radio is in the FDR Memorial not far from the breadline.

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Daughters of the American Revolution

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What’s the most photographed statue in town?

Nobody really knows, but if it’s not Abraham Lincoln at his memorial than it’s surely Andrew Jackson here in Lafayette Park.

Why? First, it’s a great statue. Second, it’s right by the White House. Third, it’s a dynamite shot, especially at night with the White House as the backdrop.

Our seventh president, Jackson is shown aboard his horse wearing the uniform as a major general of his Tennessee militia while reviewing his troops shortly before beating the British in the Battle of New Orleans in the last battle of the War of 1812. “Old Hickory’s” fiery temper is shown by his horse’s front two hooves raised, but Jackson has a snug grip on the reins while tipping his cap to the troops.

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The Awakening now entertains tourists

For 36 years, a 70-foot statue has been trying to get up in the morning. Guess I’m not so slow after all.

The Awakening is a 70-foot statue of a man trying to get up from the earth. There are five aluminum pieces in the ground with the left hand, right foot, bent left leg and knee, right arm and hand and his head showing.

It was created by J. Seward Johnson, Jr. in 1980 at the southern end of Hains Point in Washington, D.C. across the Potomac River from National Airport. Johnson sold it to National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. in 2007 for $750,000.

It’s closer together than the Hains Point version. Steps from the water, it’s a popular stop for tourists to climb on him. There’s also the nation’s only Peeps store just steps away. Check out the chocolate-covered peeps.

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Nighttime at the Willard Hotel

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A winter’s peek at Sir John Dill

Sir John Dill

Why would anyone walk Arlington National Cemetery in January? It’s the best time for photos.

This photo above of Sir John Dill would be impossible when leaves are on the trees. By looking for the statue from a non-traditional angle, you get memorable photos.

I noticed sitting by the grave of Robert Todd Lincoln (Abe’s son) that I could see the eternal flame of John F. Kennedy’s. I never noticed that before. Didn’t think they were close enough.

So on a fair winter’s day, get some exercise and fresh air and walk Arlington National Cemetery. You’ll get some great photos.

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