DC’s Longest Protest

Protests happen every day in Washington.  Some are big with hundreds of thousands of marchers.  Others are just one person with a sign. Regardless of size, it’s one of the things I love about this city – seeing people gather to exercise their First Amendment rights. And it reminds me that in many countries you could be arrested, … Continued

DC’s Frances Perkins: Labor Secretary and Saint

The Department of Labor building at the base of Capitol Hill in Washington, DC is nothing special to look at. Built in the 1970s, it’s about as uncreative as a government office building can be. But the person it’s named after is anything but uncreative. Frances Perkins is the first woman to hold a cabinet position, serving as … Continued

Twenty-one Women Killed in Washington Arsenal Explosion

It was hot the morning of June 17, 1864. At the Washington Arsenal munitions were being made for the Civil War. Twenty-one young women, wearing the constrictive clothing of the time, dresses with high collars and hoop skirts, were sitting at a long table in what was called the choking room. Their job was to put … Continued

Murder Bay Becomes Federal Triangle

The Federal Triangle section of Washington exudes the power of our democracy. Wedged between 6th and 15th Streets and Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues, the ten buildings of Federal Triangle are exactly what you’d expect from structures that are meant to convey strength, confidence, and stability. Influenced by the neoclassical style of the Louvre in Paris and Whitehall in London, … Continued

The Spy’s Sprinkler System

While visiting the Washington National Cathedral’s Bishop’s Garden, I came across a plaque commemorating the donation of the garden’s sprinkler system by the family of Frank Gardiner Wisner. The name seemed familiar. Frank Wisner is responsible for some of the most reprehensible actions committed by the CIA. He made it possible for Belarussians the collaborated with the … Continued

Inside the Bishop’s Garden

Washington National Cathedral is one of my favorite places to take visitors. Styling itself as a House of Prayer for All People, it is a masterpiece of gothic architecture, stained glass, music, hand carved wood, and wrought iron. Regrettably it’s closed right now but one of its lessor known spots, the Bishop’s Garden, is open for … Continued

Two Dead in Truman White House

The presidency is thrust on Harry Truman in the last months of World War II when Franklin Roosevelt dies after being president for twelve years. No one knows who Truman is when he takes over but the country warms to the feisty man from Independence, MO who provides steady leadership in tumultuous times. But death comes twice … Continued

Theodore Roosevelt Gets His Own Island

The most unusual memorial to a president in Washington, DC is the one to our 26th chief executive. Theodore Roosevelt gets an entire island to his memory. Located in the Potomac River between Georgetown and Rosslyn, Va., Theodore Roosevelt Island is a fitting tribute to this president who ensured so much of America’s natural beauty is preserved … Continued

The House Where J. Edgar Hoover Dies

J. Edgar Hoover spent his entire life in Washington. He was born on Capitol Hill and lived there until he was 43. With his mother. When Mother Hoover dies J. Edgar buys the house above in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Washington. He dies here in his sleep, his body discovered on a May 1972 morning … Continued

Mary McLeod Bethune

In Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill the life of Mary McLeod Bethune is remembered by this sculpture. If you’ve been exploring Washington, you may recognize this sculpture has the distinctive style of Richard Berks, whose also did the Albert Einstein statue outside the National Academy of Science and the bust of John F Kennedy if the … Continued

The New World War I Memorial

Until last month our country had no national memorial commemorating World War I. In 1919 Congress debated constructing such a memorial, but aside from creating the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, nothing was done. So, after the war it was up to towns and cities across the country to decide how to remember their dead. Some erected … Continued

The New Eisenhower Memorial

One of the newer sites in Washington is the Dwight D Eisenhower Memorial. It’s in a very convenient location for many visitors. Across the street from the Air and Space Museum and diagonal from the National Museum of the American Indian. And just two blocks away from the National Botanic Garden at the base of Capitol Hill. Dwight … Continued

Actors at Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is the resting place for people from all walks of life, including some accomplished actors. Lee Marvin was a popular character actor from Broadway to television to the big screen. He was in numerous movies including, The Dirty Dozen and had an Academy Award winning performance in Cat Ballou. He served in the 4th Marine Division in World … Continued

Washington Was Never a Swamp

OK, let’s end this myth once and for all:  Washington, DC was never a swamp. Only one percent of today’s city could ever be defined as swamp, and that was spread out over six different sites. That’s not to say it didn’t feel like a swamp as anyone who’s been here in August can attest. And we do have … Continued

Myths About the Lincoln Memorial

There are lots of myths and urban legends about Washington, DC’s sites. The Lincoln Memorial is the home of the myths I hear most often form visitors (and some misinformed tour guides). The first myth is that Lincoln’s hands make the American Sign Language symbols for the letters A and L. Some say this is because the … Continued

Air Mail Memorial

Washington is full of memorials to people or events. Most are big and impossible to miss. But some are rather small and almost impossible to find, like the memorial to the first scheduled air mail flight. You can find it along the river in West Potomac Park on what used to be the polo grounds. It commemorates the … Continued

The Radioactive Grave at Arlington National Cemetery

There’s only one radioactive grave at Arlington National Cemetery. It belongs to Richard McKinley who had the misfortune on being one of three soldiers to be the first casualties of a nuclear accident in the United States. McKinley had survived the fighting in Korea. He was working on the SL-1 reactor, a small nuclear power plant in … Continued

Where does the vice president live?

Everyone knows where the president lives. But few know that the vice president also has an official residence. Historically the office of vice president was rather unimportant. John Nance Gardner of Texas, known as Cactus Jack, who gave up the powerful position of Speaker of the House to be VP said the office “wasn’t worth a pitcher … Continued

Live from NPR in Washington…

The tours of NPR’s headquarters are on hold because of the pandemic. But when they come back it is a must see for those coming to Washington for more than a few days and want to do something off the beaten trail. Located in the NoMa (North of Massachusetts Avenue) neighborhood the building is what you’d … Continued

Churchill’s Statue: Feet In Two Countries

Outside the British Embassy on Washington’s Embassy Row is Winston Churchill, a statue with a foot in two countries. Churchill’s father was the Duke of Marlborough. But his mother was an American from Brooklyn, NY. So, when it came time to commemorate Churchill’s life, planting a bronze foot in both countries was an ideal way to recognize both the … Continued

Nature, Not the Festival, Determine Blossom Blooming

Washington’s cherry blossoms attract thousands of visitors (but not in 2021) to the city. But visitors BEWARE the National Cherry Blossom Festival does not necessarily coincide with cherry blossoms blooming! Make no mistake, the Festival is a blast — a parade, fireworks, entertainment, food, and a chance to see the city at its best. But while the city … Continued

Decoding the Flags on the Inaugural Stage

The only references in the constitution to installing a new president address the oath he or she must take and the date and time of the transfer of power. Everything else that takes place on inauguration day is based on the accumulation of tradition over time. The flags hanging from the Capitol’s west façade, a tradition that … Continued

Visiting the Speaker’s Office

The images from the US Capitol following the recent terrorist attack are shocking. So, to try to return to some resemblance on normalcy, I thought I’d share some photos I took last year in the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. On my way there I was fully expecting to see the typical … Continued

Motorcade Spotting

One of my favorite things to do in Washington is trying to guess who’s in a passing motorcade. The president’s motorcade is easy to spot: Two identical limousines flying the US and presidential flags with a large number of support vehicles. Unfortunately, the president (at least the current one) doesn’t leave the White House often so it’s a … Continued

The Capitol’s Christmas Tree

Since 1970 the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service has provided the Architect of the Capitol with Christmas trees. The source of the trees rotates through nine national forests with this year’s 55’ Engelmann spruce coming from the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests in Colorado. It was cut down on November 5 and then made … Continued

Rent-a-Panda

One of the highlights of any family’s tour of Washington is seeing Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, the pandas at the National Zoo. But unlike other animals there, the pandas aren’t owned by the zoo. Here’s the story of cute pandas and China’s hard-nosed “panda diplomacy.” Following President Nixon’s historic trip to China in 1972, China’s leader … Continued

Graduating from Electoral College

The National Archives is more than the place to see the constitution and the Declaration of Independence. It also has a key role managing the Electoral College. The Electoral College is a process, not a place. And the Archives has a key role in making that process work. Since given the job by President Harry Truman in 1950, … Continued

Big Blue Hahn/Cock

Here’s something you don’t see every day: A fifteen foot blue rooster. After spending eighteen months crowing over London’s Trafalgar Square, Katharina Fritsch’s “Hahn/Cock,” landed in Washington in 2016. Strutting on the roof of the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art, the popular poultry has a lot to crow about.   In an interview in the Guardian Fritsch … Continued

Hammers and Helicopters: Getting Ready for Inauguration

In Washington, we know how to do big events. Between marches and international meetings, we have lots of practice. But nothing beats an inauguration. While we’re months away from inauguration day, there’s lots to do to prepare. Above carpenters from the Architect of the Capitol’s office construct the platform where the swearing-in will take place on January 20. Closer … Continued

Memorial on the Edge of Town

You’ve probably driven by this memorial dozens of times and not noticed it. Between Memorial Bridge and National Airport (on your right heading south of the GW Parkway) is the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove. Dedicated in 1977, three years after the 36th president’s death, the centerpiece of the site is a tall, roughhewn piece of Texas granite … Continued

A NEW SACRED SPACE: BLACK LIVES MATTER PLAZA

One of the first things people ask me when they talk about visiting Washington is whether they can visit Black Lives Matter Plaza. The answer is always: Of course! The two-block stretch of 16th Street by the White House has been transformed into a vibrant but sacred space to contemplate race in America. Whoever you … Continued

EXPLAINING BASEBALL TO SOMEONE FROM OVERSEAS

Many of my guests come from overseas and one of the things I love to do with them is to go to a Nationals game. But have you ever tried to explain baseball to someone who has never grown up with it? “The ball he just threw was a ball. If he would have swung … Continued

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