Downtown / Foggy Bottom (March 17, 2020)
Having run an errand downtown, we decided to walk the streets around Farragut Square and Foggy Bottom. It was quite bizarre to be walking on streets that would normally be crowded on a Tuesday afternoon and find them mostly empty. Social distancing was definitely not a problem.
We passed the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, also known as the Old Executive Office Building. The building, which stands next to the White House, was built between 1871 and 1888 in French Second Empire style. It is currently occupied by the Executive Office of the President, including the Office of the Vice President of the United States.
Further down 17th Street we passed the headquarters of the American Red Cross. Built between 1915 and 1917, the headquarters also serve as a memorial to women who served in the American Civil War.
Next, we passed the headquarters of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), an organization for women who are directly descended from persons involved in the United States’ efforts toward independence. The organization, with over 185,000 members, promotes historic preservation, education, and patriotism. The building was being guarded by a lone dog.
The headquarters include DAR Constitution Hall. Built in 1929, it seats over 3000 people and is used for concerts, conferences, and other meetings. However, it is most famous (or should that be infamous) for a concert that did not take place. In 1932 the DAR had adopted a rule excluding African American musicians from performing in Constitution Hall. Consequently, it had refused to allow Marian Anderson, an African American opera singer, to perform. First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, resigned her membership of DAR in protest and famously arranged for Anderson to perform instead on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939. The DAR later apologized to Anderson and she subsequently performed at Constitution Hall on a number of occasions. However, it was not until 1977 that DAR welcomed its first African American member.
We also passed another building with a somewhat sad history. The Corcoran Gallery, established by William Wilson Corcoran, a cofounder of Riggs Bank, was one of the first fine art galleries in the United States. Unfortunately, after decades of financial problems and mismanagement, the Corcoran was dissolved by court order in 2014. Most of its extensive art collection was donated to the National Gallery of Art. The associated Corcoran School of Art and Design was given to George Washington University along with the Gallery building itself, a Beaux-Arts style building, constructed in the late 1800s.
Next we passed the headquarters of the Organization of American States, an international diplomatic body that promotes peace and commerce between North and South American nations. The building, made possible by a donation from Andrew Carnegie, was opened in 1910.
Sitting behind the OAS headquarters is a statue of Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan military and political leader who, in the early 1800s, led what are currently the states of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama to independence from the Spanish Empire. The statue depicts Bolivar on horseback which is apt because it has been estimated that during his various military campaigns, he rode over 123,000 kilometers on horseback.
Walking up 18th street we passed the extensive headquarters of the US Department of the Interior. The building, completed in 1936, was built as part of the New Deal under the Roosevelt administration.
Just north of the Interior Building is Rawlins Park, named after John A. Rawlins, a Union General during the Civil War and a cabinet officer in the Grant administration. The trees in the park were in blossom, making it particularly inviting on this early Spring day.