Day 109

The National Mall (November 3, 2020)

It being election day here in the States, we decided it would be appropriate to walk along Constitution and Independence Avenues that border the National Mall. The Mall is not a shopping mall. Rather, it is a large landscaped park that is also home to a number of the city’s most famous buildings, museums and monuments.

Sitting at the center of the Mall is the iconic Washington Monument. Commemorating George Washington, it is the world’s tallest obelisk, standing at around 555 feet tall. When it was first built in 1884 it was the tallest structure in the world.

Various reporters were stationed around the city using the city’s monuments as backdrops as they reported on the election.

Sitting directly across Constitutional Avenue from the monument is the White House. It used to be that you could get relatively close to it but these days temporary fencing has been raised completed encircling it. More than one person has commented that the President has, successfully, constructed at least one wall.

A number of large government buildings line Constitution Avenue, including the headquarters of the following agencies

The Federal Reserve
The Environmental Protection Agency
The Department of Justice
The Internal Revenue Service
The Federal Trade Commission

Mal worked for many years at the Federal Trade Commission, including a few years working in the Headquarters building pictured above. On both sides of the FTC building are two monumental statues created by the American sculptor Michael Lantz. Standing about 12 feet tall, they both depict a man attempting to restrain a horse, symbolizing the FTC restraining runaway monopolies and trusts. Hence, they are called “Man Controlling Trade”.

Lining both sides of the Mall are a number of large museums and art galleries, including the following.

National Museum of African American History and Culture
National Museum of American History
National Museum of Natural History
National Archives Museum
The National Gallery of Art (West Wing)
The National Gallery of Art (East Wing)
National Museum of the American Indian
National Air and Space Museum (currently being renovated)
National Museum of African Art
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
National Museum of Asian Art

All of the above museums, apart from the National Gallery of Art, are part of the Smithsonian Institution. The fortune of the British scientist, James Smithson, passed to the United States to found at Washington “an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men”.

The first building constructed for the Institution was the Smithsonian Institution Building (“the Castle”) which was designed by architect James Renwick, Jr. and opened in 1855. Smithson’s crypt now stands in the Castle.

Smithsonian Institution Building

The Institution now consists of 20 museums and galleries as well as the National Zoo. Eleven are on the Mall. They are truly an amazing part of the City, particularly since they are all have free entry.

Sitting directly across from the Castle is a completely different type of building, housing the United States Department of Energy.

We stopped in a the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden for lunch in it’s Pavilion cafe. The Garden is home to an incredible collection of modern sculpture including “Graft” a life size metal tree sculpture by Roxy Paine.

“Amor”, by Robert Indiana

And a beautiful stone and glass mosaic by Marc Chagall called “Orphee”.

The smallest and oldest building on the Mall is the Lock Keeper’s House. Erected about 1835 it stood at the eastern terminal of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The canal now terminates in Georgetown but back then continued on as far as the Mall before flowing into the Potomac River.

Just off of the Mall on Independence Avenue is Washington’s newest memorial, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial. Designed by Frank Gehry, its main features are a series of bronze statues by Sergey Eylanbekov and a large transparent tapestry by Tomas Osinski.

At the eastern end of the Mall is the United States Capitol. It is the home of the United States Congress and the seat of the legislative branch of the United States federal government. The original building was completed in 1800 but was damaged during the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States. It was fully restored and enlarged later on, including the addition of its massive dome.

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