Dupont Circle (June 30, 2020)
Today we started exploring the Dupont Circle neighborhood. It is a beautiful and diverse urban neighborhood with lots to see. Since the 1970s, it has also been the center of Washington DC’s gay community. Hence, the rainbow street crossing.
Each year the neighborhood hosts the Capital Pride parade and holds the High Heel Race that pits dozens of drag queens against each other in a sprint down 17th street.
The neighborhood consists primarily of ornate and varied row houses, many of which have interesting gardens and art work. Here are some that we particularly liked.
There are also some beautiful apartment buildings. We liked this deco building.
And this ornate building on the Circle itself.
This building had an English feel with its beautiful gardens.
We liked the fact that the residents of this building had co-ordinated their Black Lives Matter message.
Perhaps the building with the most interesting history that we passed was The Cairo.
The Cairo was designed by Thomas Franklin Schneider and completed in 1894. With 12 floors, it towered over the neighborhood when it was built. In fact, its height created such an uproar among local residents that they lobbied Congress to limit the height of future residential buildings in the District. They succeeded and as a result there is still a height limit for buildings within the District. Consequently, the Cairo remains the tallest privately owned building in Washington DC.
Another historic residence that we passed and enjoyed was Whittemor House. It was designed by Harvey Page and built in 1894 and currently is the home of the Woman’s National Democratic Club.
Alongside the house, set in a garden, are some interesting statues by the sculptor John Cavanaugh (1921-85) who had a studio nearby and was known as unofficial Mayor of Dupont Circle.
In our last blog entry we mentioned the intimidating Scottish Rite of Freemasonry lodge that we passed on 16th Street. Little did we know that there would be an even more impressive Scottish Rite lodge just a little further down the same street.
Built in 1915, The House of the Temple, was designed by John Russell Pope, the same architect that designed Meridian House that we discussed in our most recent blog entry. It serves as the headquarters of the Supreme Council, 33 degrees, of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. It is modeled after the tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus. We are not quite sure what the Supreme Council gets up to, but they do have an impressive full title which is “The Supreme Council (Mother Council of the World) of the Inspectors General Knights Commander of the House of the Temple of Solomon of the Thirty-third degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonary of the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States of America”.
The building apparently contains a museum devoted to Albert Pike, who rewrote a number of the Scottish Rite rituals and headed its Supreme Council from 1859 until his death in 1891 and whose remains are entombed in the Temple. Pike has been in the news recently. On June 20, protestors tore down a statue of him in the District and set it ablaze, because of his association with the Confederacy.
There are a number of impressive buildings along this stretch of 16th Street. The Carnegie Institution for Science was built in 1908 as the administrative building for Andrew Carnegie’s Institute for Discovery. Currently, it can be rented for everything from weddings to scientific programs.
The Edlavitch DCJCC (DC Jewish Community Center) includes a theater, a preschool and spaces for various Jewish cultural and educational programs. It also includes an extensive health and fitness center that is open to Jews and non-Jews alike. It includes an indoor swimming pool and basketball courts where Lauren’s dad used to play as a young man and her mom went to dances.
It wouldn’t be 16th Street unless we also managed to pass by at least a couple of religious establishments. Today we passed the Foundry United Methodist Church
And the Church of Scientology.
Speaking of Scientology, we also passed the L. Ron Hubbard House.
The house was the home of the founder of Scientology from 1955 to 1959 during which time he incorporated the Founding Church of Scientology and performed the first Scientology wedding.
On this beautiful day, with restaurants reopening, there were a number of residents enjoying an outdoor lunch at the restaurants lining 17th and 18th streets. One of the largest and most popular is Lauriol Plaza.
We also passed iconic Kramerbooks, a popular independent bookstore and cafe that, based on a recent newspaper article, may not be at its current location for much longer.