Mt. Vernon Triangle / Judiciary Square / Penn Quarter (July 19, 2021)
Today we walked through the Mt. Vernon Triangle neighborhood. Along the way we saw some colorful buildings.
And some ‘sign of the times’ artwork
We also liked this small home tucked in between larger buildings
And this rows of townhomes
Continuing south, we walked through Judiciary Square where many of the city’s courts are located, including the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
And the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
We also passed by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine which had a quote by Einstein inscribed on its wall. It seemed, particularly, on point during these times when certain politicians and television pundits are purposely lying to the American public about the dangers of vaccines.
We ended up at the United States Navy Memorial in the Penn Quarter. At the center of the Memorial is a bronze sculpture created in 1987 by the America sculptor Stanley Bleifeld. The model for the sculpture was Dan Maloney, a Petty Officer First Class assigned to the submarine, USS Alabama.
A map of the world is etched into the concrete of the Memorial Plaza. Looking across the plaza toward The National Archives you can see the outline of the Americas.
We started out in Shepherd Park before crossing into neighboring Takoma. In an already liberal city, Takoma has a reputation as being particularly progressive earning it the nickname of ‘The Peoples’ Republic of Takoma’. It was originally developed in the late eighteen hundreds and contains many old homes in protected historic districts. However, the part we explored appeared to have been developed in the mid-twentieth century. Some streets were lined with initially identical houses that had evolved to have slightly different appearances.
But there was a wide variety of houses in the neighborhood. Here are some of the other types of single family homes that we passed.
There were also some interesting duplexes, including this one that offered an interesting contrast between the original and updated look of the same building.
There were also some impressively long and wide alleys stretching through the neighborhood.
Some residents had added artistic flourishes to their front yards.
On a scorching hot day, we dragged our friends Sally and Liz on a walk through the Petworth neighborhood. It is a residential neighborhood consisting, primarily, of terraced houses.
We came across some peace signs along the way
And this cool mural on the side of one home.
There is a large hispanic population in the neighborhood and there are a number of colorful hispanic restaurants lining Georgia Avenue, the main thoroughfare running through the neighborhood.
Speaking of colorful, we liked this outfit
And this car
Petworth is named for the 205 acre country estate that was owned by John Tayloe III and sat where the neighborhood is now located. Tayloe probably had named his estate after the town of Petworth in West Sussex, England. As befitting a walk through a neighborhood called Petworth, Liz brought along her highly worthy pet, Mason. He was surprisingly enthusiastic, considering the fact that he was wearing a fur coat on the hottest day of the Summer so far.
After a break of over six months, we returned to the streets of Washington to continue our quest to walk every street in this beautiful city. We began where we left off, on the quiet treelined streets of Shepherd Park. We started out by walking down Eastern Avenue, the pretty boulevard that forms the northeastern border between the District and Maryland.
On about as nice a Summer’s day as it is possible to get in Washington, we enjoyed our stroll through this quiet neighborhood of single family homes, built in a wide variety of styles.
In the District, it is not uncommon to see Adirondack chairs on neighborhood front lawns.
But this family had decided to take comfort to a whole higher level.
After spending the last few weeks walking around downtown we returned to the suburbs and started exploring Sherpherd Park. Tucked into the northernmost corner of the District it is a quiet neighborhood of single family homes. It takes its name from Alexander Robey Shepherd, the governor of the then territory of the District from 1873 to 1874 who lived in the neighborhood.
Shepherd Park used to be covered by restrictive covenants put in place by developers that prohibited sales to blacks and Jews. The covenants stood until after World War II when the Supreme Court struck them down as unconstitutional. At that point, speculators, in a practice called blockbusting, would move a black family into a block that otherwise had white residents. The speculators would then tell the white residents that property values would imminently fall and pressure the white families to the sell their houses to the speculators. The speculators would then sell the homes to other black families at large profits. Starting in 1958, the Shepherd Park Citizens Association led efforts to fight blockbusting and the neighborhood has remained integrated.
The vast majority of houses in the neighborhood are brick colonials or tudors.
However, there are a variety other styles as well.
Including these two side-by-side modern homes.
In most neighborhoods we have found at least one or two residents who are willing to show their individualism either by selecting unusual color choices.
Or by displaying unusual yard art.
At the heart of the neighborhood is Shepherd Elementary School. Like virtually every other school we have passed it also has undergone a recent renovation.
The neighborhood also has an attractive local library, opened in 1990, and named for Juanita Thornton, a local teacher and community activist.
On a clear late Autumn day we walked along the banks of the Potomac River which separates the District from neighboring Virginia. In fact, there are two rivers that run through Washington, the other being the Anacostia. However, the Anacostia is less well known and may be one of the country’s shortest rivers with a length of just 8.7 miles. Much more impressive is the Potomac which is approximately 405 miles long, reaching all the way from West Virginia to Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. In terms of area it is the 21st largest river in the United States. Potomac is the European spelling of Patawomeck, the Alonquian name of a Native American village on its southern bank. It means river of swans. The river was very severely polluted up until the later half of the twentieth century. However, since the enactment of the Clean Water Act in 1972 the river has undergone a massive cleanup. So much so that it is not uncommon to see people fishing along its banks or out on boats.
In prime location for views over the river is the Watergate apartment and hotel complex.
Next to the Watergate is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Kennedy Center opened in 1971 and contains a concert hall, an opera house, a theater and numerous smaller performance venues. The massive main building was designed by Edward Durell Stone. Because of its rectangular shape, it is sometimes known as the Kleenex Box.
Along the front of the Center is a beautiful terrace that overlooks the Potomac.
Etched into the marble that lines the outside of the center are a number of JFK quotes referencing the arts.
Recently, the center opened a number of new pavilions called The Reach, that include studios, classrooms and rehearsal spaces.
We loved Joel Shapiro’s monumental sculpture of a dancer, called Blue, that is on the grounds of the center.
Helicopters are a constant sight flying along on the river.
By our count, there are six bridges crossing the Potomac in the District. Hands down the most attractive is Arlington Memorial Bridge, which crosses between the Lincoln Memorial on the District side and Arlington National Cemetery on the Virginia side. Designed by architectural firm McKim, Mead and White, it opened in 1932 at a cost of $7.25 million.
It is looking particularly good at the moment having just been the subject of a $227 million renovation and cleaning.
Standing at the entrance of the Bridge on the District side are two gilded statues, called the Arts of War. They were sculpted by the American sculptor, Leo Friedlander and cast in Italy. The Arts of War consists of two statues, Valor and Sacrifice, both in Art Deco style. They consist of a bearded, muscular male nude symbolic of Mars, the god of war and a semi-nude female.
Next to the bridge is a broad flight of stairs that reaches down from the Lincoln Memorial to the river. They are a peculiar flight of stairs because they are bisected by a busy road.
The Watergate Steps were originally intended to act as a dock for visiting dignitaries and politicians disembarking off the Potomac and entering the capital. That plan didn’t work out and they then became a concert space. An orchestra would play on a barge docked in the river while the audience listened from the steps. The concerts went on from 1935 until 1965 when they were cancelled because noise from planes flying out from nearby National Airport drowned out the music. So they now stand as a set of stairs leading to nowhere. However, they aren’t completely without worth, as they are popular with exercisers using them to run up and down.
We wrote about the Lincoln Memorial in a recent post but thought we would take this opportunity to show what it looks like from the river and from the side.
Sitting near to the Lincoln Memorial is the Korean War Veterans Memorial. The memorial includes a mural wall, a Pool of Remembrance and 19 larger than life stainless steel statues depicting a platoon on patrol.
The statues were designed by the American sculptor Frank Gaylord. Gaylord served in the United States Army during World War II where he saw action in Africa, Europe and the Middle East and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for bravery.
Near to the Korean War Memorial is another War Memorial, honoring District residents who served in World War I. Built in 1931, it is a domed peristyle Doric temple.
One of the more surprising memorials that we have come upon is this one honoring John Ericcson, the inventor of the screw propeller. Ericsson was born in Sweden but was active in England and the United States. He designed the United States Navy’s first screw-propelled steam frigate, USS Princeton, as well as the USS Monitor, the ship that ensured Union naval supremacy during the American Civil War. The memorial, sculpted by the American sculptor James Earle Fraser was dedicated in 1926.
Tucked in by the river at the end of the National Mall are a number of beach volleyball courts. Normally, this is a bustling place but during these covid times they have now all be closed off to prevent close contact.
On a blustery early December day we headed back down to the National Mall. We started out on the Ellipse, a 52 acre park between the White House and the Washington Monument. It is, normally, a nice place to get a view of the south side of the White House but there are now so many security fences that you can barely see it. However, we were able to see the National Christmas Tree which, no doubt, is more impressive lit up at night but was decidedly underwhelming during the day.
Sitting next to the Christmas tree is the Zero Milestone marker monument. It was originally intended to be the initial milestone from which all road distances in the United States would be measured. However, at present, only roads in the Washington DC area have distances measured from it.
Sitting on the grounds of the nearby National Academy of Sciences is one of our favorite and least known Washington memorials. The Albert Einstein Memorial is a monumental bronze statue by sculptor Robert Berks that was unveiled in 1979. It is situated just off Constitution Avenue in an elm and holly grove, so it is not easy to see from the road. In a city of formal memorials this one is much more approachable and has become a favorite spot for people to take photos sitting on his knee.
Along the back of the bench, behind the statue, are famous quotations from the scientist. A couple of them seemed particularly relevant to current times.
“As long as I have any choice in the matter, I shall live only in a country where civil liberty, tolerance, and equality of all citizens before the law prevail.”
“The right to search for truth implies also a duty; one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.”
The statue and bench are at one side of a circular dais. If you stand at the center of the dais where a number of lines meet, Einstein appears to be looking directly at you and when you speak your words are notably amplified.
The National Academy of Sciences is a United States non-profit, non-governmental organization. Members are elected based on their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Election to the academy is one of the highest honors in the scientific field. Founded in 1863, as a result of an Act of Congress that was approved by Abraham Lincoln, the NAS is charged with “providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology. … to provide scientific advice to the government whenever called upon by any government department” Unfortunately, the current government does not appear to be seeking that input.
Across Constitution Avenue from the Einstein Memorial and even more hidden from the road is the Vietnam War Memorial. It is one of Washington’s simplest but most effective memorials. Designed by American architect, Maya Lin, it was completed in 1982. It consists primarily of a memorial wall made up of two long granite walls that are sunken into the ground. At the highest point where the two walls meet, the walls rise to over ten feet. At the lowest point at each end to they taper to just eight inches. The wall includes the names of 58,320 American service members who are either classified as “declared dead” (denoted by a diamond next to the name) or are missing in action (denoted by a cross). It is not a complete list because some names have been omitted at the request of families.
Perhaps Washington’s most iconic memorial stands at the western end of the National Mall.
Taking the form of a neoclassical temple, the Lincoln Memorial was designed by Henry Bacon and dedicated in 1922.
Sitting inside the Memorial is a large sculpture of Lincoln sitting in contemplation. It is by the American sculptor, Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) and is another popular selfie spot.
A beautiful porch surrounds the Memorial supported by 36 columns, representing each of the states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death.
From the front steps of the Memorial there is a beautiful view over the Reflecting Pond back over the National Mall toward the Washington Monument.
The Memorial has become a symbolically important venue, especially for the Civil Rights movement. The African-American singer Marian Anderson sang there at the suggestion of Eleanor Roosevelt, after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow her to perform before an integrated audience at their nearby Constitution Hall. On August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Memorial to an estimated 250,000 people.
It has also been included in numerous books, films and televisions show. In the 1994 movie, Forest Gump, Forrest (Tom Hanks) gives a speech from the memorial steps before wading into the reflecting pond to reunite with his friend Jenny.
Near to the Memorial is the Headquarters of the United States Institute of Peace. The building, noted for its unique roof, conveying a dove’s wings, was designed by architect Moshe Safdie.
The Institute is an American federal institution tasked with promoting conflict resolution and prevention worldwide. It provides research, analysis, and training to individuals in diplomacy, mediation, and other peace-building measures. To that end it is well located, because it is very close to the headquarters of the Department of State.
We made a mental note to return to the Department of State in the springtime because they were in the middle of planting thousands of tulip bulbs.
We completed the walk, passing by the headquarters of an organization that has been much in the news of late. The Pan American Health Organization serves as the regional office for the Americas of the World Health Organization. This year the PAHO has filed for landmark status for its Modernist headquarters which were built in 1965. The building was designed by the renowned Uruguayan Modernist architect Roman Fresnedo Siri.
A guest from California joined us on today’s walk. Kylie had never been to Washington D.C. so we took her for a tour around the National Mall.
First off, we passed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Founded in 1862, the Bureau produces American bank notes (coins are made by the United States Mint). The Bureau has two locations, the other is in aptly named Fort Worth, Texas.
We also passed the rather formidable Department of Agriculture.
But mainly we passed by the numerous museums that line the Mall, including the following
In a city full of sculpture, our favorite sits at the entrance of the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art.
Knife Edge Mirror Two Piece was sculpted in 1976-78 by the British sculptor, Henry Moore.
Between the two wings of the National Gallery of Art is a plaza that includes some mirrored sculptures. They bring light to an underground passage way and cafeteria that links the two buildings.
Sitting between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial is one of the Mall’s newest Memorials. Opened in 2004, it is dedicated to Americans who served in the armed forces and as civilians during World War II. It consists of 56 granite pillars, arranged in a semicircle around a plaza with triumphal arches on opposite sides. Each of the pillars is inscribed with the name of one of the states of 1945, as well as the District of Columbia, the Alaska Territory and Territory of Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Northern arch is inscribed with “Atlantic”, the southern one “Pacific”, signifying the two theaters of war.
Just off the Mall and on the shore of the Tidal Basin is the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Opened in 2011, it consists of a massive granite statue of the civil rights leader, carved by Chinese sculptor, Lei Yixin.
From the Memorial there is a beautiful view over the Tidal Basin to the Washington Monument.
Just around the Tidal Basin from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is a memorial to another great American. The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is dedicated to the 32nd President of the United States. Dedicated in 1997, it spreads over 7.5 acres through a sequence of four outhdoor rooms, one for each of FDR’s terms of office. There are a number of statues depicting the President and scenes from the Great Depression.
Throughout the Memorial are carved FDR quotes. Many seemed particularly poignant during these times. They reminded us what it was like to have a President who can speak in complete sentences.
Downtown / Penn Quarter / Chinatown (November 20, 2020)
There is a mix of modern and traditional buildings in this part of the District which makes for some interesting juxtapositions.
One beautiful old building in the neighborhood is the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. The building was dedicated in 1908 by the Adas Israel Congregation. However, when the congregation moved to a larger space in 1951 the building was sold to the Turner Memorial A.M.E. Church. The church, in turn, moved fifty years later and three local Jewish developers purchased and restored the building to its original roots as a synagogue. It was rededicated and reopened in 2004. The synagogue offers Jewish programs but it is more well known in the District for its cultural events and live entertainment. Famous speakers, writers, musicians and comedians have all performed there. A while back we saw the Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk give a reading there followed by an interview. If you don’t know his work, we suggest you check it out. To our minds he is one of the world’s great living writers. The Swedish Academy obviously agree because they awarded him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006.
The synagogue at Sixth & I is not, in fact, the oldest synagogue in the city. That honor goes to a modest brick building that was constructed in 1876, and was the original home of the Adas Israel congregation. Much like the Jewish people, it has spent many years finding a permanent home. It was moved in 1969 from its original location to make way for the new Metro headquarters. Then in 2016 it was again moved to make way for a new development. Finally, in 2019, it was moved to its current position.
Over the years, the small synagogue has played a number of roles. As well as being a synagogue, it has been an African American church, a Greek Orthodox church, a deli, a barbershop, a barbecue restaurant, a bicycle store and a coffee shop. Next the synagogue will be encased by a new $34 million facility and reimagined as the Capital Jewish Museum, dedicated to Jewish life in Washington. It is slated to open in 2021.
We passed another red brick building, although one that was slightly larger than the synagogue. The National Building Museum is dedicated to “architecture, design, engineering, construction, and urban planning. The building, completed in 1887, initially housed the United States Pension Bureau but was converted into a museum in the 1980s.
It is a massive building. Inside is an atrium so large (96×35 meters), that model planes have been flown around inside it. Over the years, it has been a popular place to host inaugural balls.
Another structure with a beautiful atrium is the building that houses the National Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum. The building was originally the Old Patent Office Building but was turned into museums in 1968. In 2000 the building closed for a massive renovation that included enclosing the central courtyard with a glass roof designed by Norman Foster, the famous British architect.
Every year, a holiday market springs up on F Street in front of the museum. It’s a great place to find holiday gifts.
There are a large number of residential buildings in the neighborhood. One of our favorites is this building. And it’s not just that our good friend Rob lives there, although it does help.
Passing through Chinatown, we noticed that the pedestrian crossings included the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac.
Aptly, in a year dominated by a pandemic that has extended to the four corners of the world, 2020 is the year of the rat, an animal forever linked with the Black plague, the deadliest pandemic in modern history.