Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Washington, DC Trip

We recently returned from a trip to Washington, DC. There is so much to see and do in Washington! We didn't begin to see everything, and the following posts cover only a portion of what we did see. The emphasis in these posts is on history, architecture, and art. We also saw three live performances: a military band and parade, a symphony, and a Shakespeare play.
Following is a brief history of the founding of Washington.

It took a few years after the American Revolution ended in 1783 for the Thirteen Colonies to develop an effective national government. The Constitution of the United States was drafted in 1787 and ratified in 1788. The first president and the first members of Congress elected under the new Constitution took office in 1789 in New York City, the seat of national government at the time.

The Constitution authorized a "District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States" – but it left the details up to Congress.

Congress passed the Residence Act in 1790 which said that the national capital would be created on the Potomac River, and that the federal government would temporarily move to Philadelphia for the decade 1790-1800 while the new capital was being built. This led to the creation of a new federal city, Washington, in a new federal district, Columbia. The federal government moved to Washington from Philadelphia in the fall of 1800.

The District of Columbia was originally ten miles square (100 square miles), oriented like a diamond, on land along both sides of the Potomac River donated by the states of Maryland and Virginia. In 1846 the federal government returned to Virginia the portion of the district on the west side of the Potomac River, leaving 68 square miles shown in this satellite photo (source):

The city and district are divided into four quadrants centered on the Capitol Building. Our hotel was in the southwest quadrant, within walking distance of District Wharf where there is much new development (still ongoing) along the Potomac River. We had several good meals in the Wharf area.

The photo at the top of this post is the Washington Monument, 555 feet tall. Construction began in 1848, but was interrupted by funding issues and the Civil War. (Notice the change in color of the marble where construction was halted for 25 years. When construction resumed, a different kind of marble was used.) The monument was opened to the public in 1888. In recent years the monument has been temporarily closed numerous times for repairs and renovations. It was closed when we were there, reopening in August 2019.

We were in Washington from May 28 to June 3. The photo above was taken before noon on June 1, and the flags around the base of the Washington Monument were at full-staff. When we went by the monument again on June 2, the flags were at half-staff to honor the victims of a tragic shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on May 31:

Memorials in Washington

I will close out this series of posts about our trip to Washington, DC with a brief review of selected milestones in our nation's history by way of memorials on the National Mall and around the Tidal Basin immediately south of the Mall.

George Washington, hero of the American Revolution, was our nation's first president 1789-1797. He died in 1799, before the federal government moved to Washington in 1800 from its temporary home in Philadelphia, but he helped to plan the city that was named for him. The Washington Monument is by far the tallest structure in the city. George Washington was "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial honors the primary author of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and our nation's third president 1801-1809. Jefferson nearly doubled the size of the country in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase.

From the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Jefferson Memorial sits on the Tidal Basin in a straight line south from the White House and the Washington Monument.

Lincoln Memorial

While Washington and Jefferson helped to create a new nation, Abraham Lincoln helped keep it together. Lincoln was our nation's 16th president 1861-1865, the same years as the Civil War. Inside the Lincoln Memorial is a seated statue of Lincoln and the following inscription:

In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.

Also inscribed in the memorial are the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.

The Lincoln Memorial sits at the west end of the National Mall, facing the Washington Monument (approximately in the middle of the Mall) and the Capitol at the east end.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

The United States became a world power in the decades following the Civil War, yet did not avoid the global depression and war of the 1930s and 1940s. The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial honors our nation's 32nd president 1933-1945 who led the country during both the Great Depression and most of World War II. The words inscribed in the rock wall above are from Roosevelt's famous "Four Freedoms" speech in January 1941 before the United States entered the war.

Both the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (below) sit on the Tidal Basin in line between the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials.

Three War Memorials

The World War II Memorial pays tribute to "the greatest generation" who lived and fought the greatest war the world has ever known. Some 16 million Americans served in World War II and more than 400,000 died. The photo above shows granite pillars and an arch arranged in a semicircle around a plaza and pool. The triumphal arch celebrates victory in the Pacific. Behind me was a similar semicircle and arch celebrating victory in the Atlantic.

Yet all was not peaceful following the end of World War II in 1945. A Cold War persisted between the Soviet Union and the United States, and soon led to two regional hot wars.

At the Korean War Veterans Memorial (above): "Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met." The Korean War was fought 1950-1953 and cost more than 36,000 American lives. The fighting ended with the signing of an armistice, but no peace treaty was signed.

At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Memorial Wall lists the names of more than 58,000 Americans who lost their lives in that conflict, and the "Three Servicemen Statue" (above) depicts three soldiers purposefully identifiable as European American, Hispanic American, and African American. The site also includes a Vietnam Women's Memorial dedicated to the American women who served in the Vietnam War, primarily as nurses. American involvement in Vietnam began in the 1950s, escalated dramatically in the 1960s, and ended when we left Vietnam in 1973. Saigon fell in 1975.

These three war memorials are located on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial honors the legacy of perhaps the most prominent leader of the American civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. The statue shown above is called the Stone of Hope from a line in King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech: "out of the Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope."

Dr. King delivered the "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Dr. King spoke about the unfilled promise for citizens of color of both Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and Jefferson's Declaration of Independence:

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

Washington, DC Trip: Click here for the introductory post about our trip to Washington which lists all of the posts in this series.

Getting around in Washington

How did we get around in Washington? Mostly by walking. Washington is a great city for walking. It is mainly flat, sidewalks are wide, and around much of the National Mall one has a choice of walking on pavement, gravel, or grass.

Walking was enjoyable. The architecture and landscapes are interesting everywhere one turns. And there are no skyscrapers. The "feel" of the city for a pedestrian is much more enjoyable than a city with tall skyscrapers.

Distances are considerable, however. There is a lot of walking to be done. Consider the triangle formed by the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, and the White House:
  • the Washington Monument is 1.4 miles west of the Capitol
  • the White House is 0.6 miles north of the Washington Monument
  • the White House is 1.6 miles west-northwest of the Capitol
For longer distances, the Metro worked well. We took the Metro between Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and our hotel, and on other occasions when we were traveling far from our hotel. The photo above shows a sign for the McPherson Square Metro Station near the White House.

Sometimes we rode the free "Circulator" bus which has several routes that are useful for tourists.

Streets are laid out simply. Lettered streets run east and west. Numbered streets run north and south. Sequencing begins at the Capitol Building in all directions. In other words, there are two I Streets – one north of the Capitol and one south of the Capitol, and there are two 8th Streets – east and west of the Capitol. It is important to keep in mind the four quadrants centered on the Capitol. (The satellite photo here may help to visualize the city and the four quadrants.) 8th and I Streets SE is Marine Barracks, while 8th and I Streets NW is in Chinatown.

Avenues named after states run at an angle. For example, Vermont Avenue (see the photo above) runs north-northeast from Lafayette Park near the White House, while Pennsylvania Avenue runs diagonally between the Capitol and the White House (and beyond in both directions). The address of the White House is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW (i.e., 1.6 miles from the Capitol).

Electric scooters have become popular in recent years in some cities. There were many scooters of various brands in Washington. We tried them out on a Sunday morning when there were fewer people out and about. (There are countless school groups in Washington at this time of year.) We rode scooters from near our hotel to the Lincoln Memorial, stopping for pictures:

That trip was 2.3 miles and it took us 36 minutes (with stops).  Top speed on the scooters was 15 mph.

In the photos above, the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial was dry. We did not learn why.

We flew from Vermont to Washington. At no time after leaving Vermont were we in a car. We did not rent a car (parking rates at the hotel were high), nor did we ever take a taxi or Uber. Plenty of other people, however, were on the roads which were congested with cars and tour buses.

For us, walking – with occasional use of public transit and one time on electric scooters just for fun – was perfectly satisfactory for getting around in Washington as a tourist at this time of year.

Washington, DC Trip: Click here for the introductory post about our trip to Washington which lists all of the posts in this series.

Folger Shakespeare Library

The Folger Shakespeare Library is a wonderful institution in Washington that I did not know about before this trip. It contains the world's largest collection of Shakespeare materials, as well as major collections of other rare Renaissance books, manuscripts, and works of art. Scholars from all over the world come here to study original materials.

The library was built by Henry and Emily Folger in 1930-32 as a gift to the people of the United States. Henry Folger was president and chairman of the board of Standard Oil of New York (later Mobil Oil). He and his wife lived simply, had no children, and spent their spare time and money collecting Shakespeare materials around the world. Emily was a Shakespeare scholar.

The photo above shows scaffolding around much of the building as it undergoes a $69 million renovation. Starting early next year, the library will be closed to the public for two years, although it will remain open to researchers.

The library was built on Capitol Hill next to the Library of Congress. In the year that the library was completed, construction began on the Supreme Court building nearby. The Folger building is unique. On the outside, the modernized classical architecture is harmonious with other government buildings in Washington. Inside, the style is English Renaissance. The photo below shows the Great Hall.

The building includes a 260-seat Elizabethan Theatre, shown below, where we saw a delightful production of Love's Labor's Lost. (And before the show, we had a nice dinner at the nearby Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar.)

Click here for more information about the Folger building and grounds, including a virtual tour of the Great Hall, Reading Room, and Elizabethan Theatre. The Reading Room was not open to the public at the time of our visit.

There was a close relationship between the Folgers and the Librarian of Congress at the time, Herbert Putnam. His daughter Brenda Putnam was a noted sculptor who created a statue of Puck, from A Midsummer Night's Dream, for the fountain in the west garden. The original 1932 marble statue, damaged by weather and vandalism, was restored and moved inside in 2001. It was used to cast an aluminum replica for the outdoors fountain, shown below.

(Click here for a photo via Wikipedia that shows the full garden and fountain, without scaffolding.)

The inscription below the statue says: "Lord, what fooles these mortals be!" (Act III, Scene II, line 115)

The Folger Shakespeare Library has extensive digital collections. Online researchers can start here: Online Resources.

There are two Shakespeare theatre companies in Washington: the Folger Theatre Company at the Folger Shakespeare Library; and the Shakespeare Theatre Company, which had its origin at the Folger Shakespeare Library in 1986 and now performs at the Harman Center for the Arts.

Washington, DC Trip: Click here for the introductory post about our trip to Washington which lists all of the posts in this series.

NSO at the Kennedy Center

The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) and Washington National Opera (WNO) both make their home at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on the Potomac River in Washington. We saw an outstanding performance of the NSO in Concert Hall on May 30.

The concert was part of a month-long series of music and dance events at the Kennedy Center titled Unexpected Italy: A Celebration of Italian Culture. This festival was organized by the Kennedy Center in collaboration with the Embassy of Italy (news release) and the Italian Institute of Culture (news release).

The Kennedy Center's description of the concert we heard:
Music Director Gianandrea Noseda continues the Kennedy Center’s spring celebration of his home country! In his NSO debut, superb Swiss-Italian pianist Francesco Piemontesi lends his depth, intensity, and sincerity to Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Rachmaninoff’s well-loved homage to extraordinary Italian violinist Niccolò Paganini. The program also features Respighi’s charming “Ancient Airs and Dances” and Casella’s Symphony No. 2—one of Noseda’s favorite symphonies of all time.

Pianist Francesco Piemontesi was amazing. He played without sheet music. You can watch the concert here. Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini begins at 27:30.

Before the concert, we had a delightful dinner at the Roof Terrace Restaurant.

Washington, DC Trip: Click here for the introductory post about our trip to Washington which lists all of the posts in this series.

Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution is one of the treasures of Washington. It is huge, consisting of "19 world-class museums, galleries, gardens, and a zoo," the majority on or near the National Mall. The photo above shows the headquarters, the Smithsonian Castle. In the foreground is the Enid A. Haupt Garden, one of many beautiful Smithsonian Gardens.

British scientist James Smithson bequeathed his estate "to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge." Smithson died in 1829; in 1846 President James Polk signed legislation establishing the Smithsonian Institution. Construction of the Castle began in 1847 and was completed in 1855.

We visited the Castle and four Smithsonian museums plus the National Gallery of Art (not part of the Smithsonian). We saw only a fraction of each museum, and could have spent hours more in each. To keep this post to a reasonable length, I'll mention only one item from each museum.

National Museum of the American Indian

At the time of European contact with the Americas, the greatest empire in the Americas was the Inka Empire. It started around 1200 AD and grew rapidly until by the early 1500s it stretched along the Andes Mountains of western South America from Columbia to southern Chile. The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire is a special exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian that tells the story of this empire and the remarkable road system that connected its far-flung regions to the capital of Cusco (in present day Peru). The Great Inka Road or Qhapaq Ñan included some 20,000 miles of roads.
A vast complex of roads, bridges, and other structures, the Qhapaq Ñan was the largest construction in the Western Hemisphere when Inka power was at its height.

Suspension bridges were made of grass. Watch a 3-minute video, narrated by a professor of civil engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, about the annual rebuilding of the last surviving suspension bridge of this type: Weaving the Bridge at Q’eswachaka. More info here (scroll down).

The Inka were a mountain people. Although their empire extended along the west coast of South America for nearly 4,000 miles, they apparently never took to the sea.

"The Great Inka Road" exhibit nicely complemented the "Exploring the Early Americas" exhibit in the Library of Congress. "The Great Inka Road" exhibit has run since 2015 and will continue until June 2020.

The National Museum of the American Indian has public museums in both Washington and New York City. Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii was instrumental in the creation of the Washington museum and he spoke at its opening in 2004. See: A Warrior Chief Among Warriors: Remembering U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the newest Smithsonian museum, established by Congress in 2003. Groundbreaking was in 2012 and the museum opened to the public in 2016. President Barack Obama spoke at both ceremonies.

Below ground are three levels of History Galleries that tell the story of African Americans from the transatlantic slave trade to today:

The History Galleries conclude with a Contemplative Court (shown above) and this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
We are determined … to work and fight until justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.

The phrase "until justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream" is adapted from Amos 5:24 in the Bible.

National Museum of American History

Perhaps the premier exhibit at the National Museum of American History is The Star-Spangled Banner, which showcases the actual (very large) flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814 and which inspired our national anthem. I have already written about the Star-Spangled Banner in my earlier post Evening Parade at Marine Barracks, so I will write here about a different exhibit.

The first automobile trip across the United States was completed in 1903 when H. Nelson Jackson drove from California to New York in 63 days, accompanied by mechanic Sewall Crocker and their dog Bud.

As shown in the diorama above, they spent considerable time pulling the car out of mud holes. The exhibit includes the actual car from this adventure, a Winton touring car. Jackson spent $8,000 to win a $50 bet, but he made headlines all across the country. More info here: Crossing the Country.

H. Nelson Jackson was a doctor and businessman from Burlington, and the car was named "Vermont."


The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, together called the Freer|Sackler, specialize in Asian art. We toured the special exhibit Empresses of China's Forbidden City, 1644-1912 organized by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, the Freer|Sackler, and the Palace Museum in Beijing, China. This exhibit told the story of the empresses of the last Chinese dynasty, the Qing Dynasty, which ruled China for more than a quarter millennium (1644-1912).

Most of the people in China are Han Chinese, but the rulers of the Qing Dynasty were Manchus. In the Qing Dynasty, the empresses (wife of the emperor) and the empress dowagers (mother of the emperor) wielded considerable power.
Arguably the most powerful empress in Chinese history, Empress Dowager Cixi (pronounced tsz xyi) [1835-1908] dominated the court and policies of China's last imperial dynasty for nearly fifty years.

The exhibit included elaborate garments and artworks. Many of the objects have never been shown outside of China, but the painting of Cixi shown above belongs to the United States:
As a way to polish her image outside China, Cixi invited American artist Katharine A. Carl to create this commanding portrait for display at the 1904 World's Fair held in St. Louis, Missouri. In a strategic diplomatic move, Cixi had this portrait presented to President Theodore Roosevelt, who in turn had it transferred to the Smithsonian.

Quotes are from a sign near the painting. This extraordinary exhibition is only at the Smithsonian March 30-June 23, 2019.

National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art includes two buildings: the neoclassical West Building and the modern East Building. The NGA is on the National Mall and looks like it is part of the Smithsonian Institution, but it is not. It was a gift to the United States in 1937 from Andrew W. Mellon, a banker who was Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover.

Below is a photo of the Alexander Calder exhibit in the East Building.

Washington, DC Trip: Click here for the introductory post about our trip to Washington which lists all of the posts in this series.

Old Post Office Tower

When the Washington Monument is closed, the best view in town is from The Old Post Office Tower at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, shown above.

The Old Post Office was built in the 1890s, about the same time as the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, as the headquarters of the U.S. Post Office Department as well as the city post office for Washington. The building is located in Federal Triangle, an area bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Constitution Avenue NW, and 15th Street NW. Federal Triangle contains ten major federal and city buildings, most of which were constructed in the 1920s and 1930s.

This view from the tower is looking southeast along Pennsylvania Avenue NW toward the Capitol:

The view below is looking south to the National Mall. The domed building to the left is the National Museum of Natural History. Note the skylight on the Old Post Office in the foreground.

Looking southwest toward the Washington Monument:

Today most of the Old Post Office is the Trump International Hotel, but access to the tower is maintained by the National Park Service. The photo below is inside the building, looking down into the hotel. The skylight allows natural light into the central atrium.

The photo below is of a poster in the hallways, showing an aerial view of the Old Post Office in September 2016 when the Trump Hotel was completed.

Washington, DC Trip: Click here for the introductory post about our trip to Washington which lists all of the posts in this series.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 members of the armed services and their families. The cemetery covers 624 acres on the Virginia side of the Potomac River, not far from the Pentagon. In the photo above, the Washington Monument is visible in the distance between the trees.

The land was in the original District of Columbia, but was returned to Virginia in 1846. See this post. The property once belonged to George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington and step-grandson of George Washington. Custis willed the property to his daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis, who was married to Robert E. Lee. The Lee family left their home at the beginning of the Civil War, and federal troops occupied the property as a camp and headquarters. As Civil War casualties mounted, the property became a burial ground beginning in 1864.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is at Arlington National Cemetery, guarded 24 hours a day every day by the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army (The Old Guard).

The changing of the guard takes place every half hour during the summer, otherwise every hour. Below are photos of this ceremony.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was made by the Vermont Marble Company which has an excellent exhibit at the Vermont Marble Museum in Proctor: The Story of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas served as a member of The Old Guard in 2007. Last month he published a book about Arlington National Cemetery, The Old Guard, and his experience there: Sacred Duty: A Soldier's Tour at Arlington National Cemetery (review).

Two presidents are buried in Arlington National Cemetery: William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy. Below is a photo of the Kennedy Gravesite where President Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis are buried. The Eternal Flame burns next to their graves. President Kennedy's brothers Robert Kennedy and Edward "Ted" Kennedy are buried nearby.

On a hill in the cemetery lies Arlington House, originally the Lee family residence and now a National Memorial to Robert E. Lee. It was closed for renovations, reopening in January 2020.

Below is the view from Arlington House looking across the Potomac River to Washington where the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building are clearly visible.

Arlington National Cemetery includes many memorials and notable graves. For example, there are memorials for the Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia, and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall is buried there. Many of the grave markers are beautiful works of art. We could have spent several more hours in the cemetery and the visitor center.

Washington, DC Trip: Click here for the introductory post about our trip to Washington which lists all of the posts in this series.

Evening Parade at Marine Barracks

The Evening Parade at Marine Barracks in Washington, DC is a wonderful performance to see. The parade is on Friday evenings in the summer. The photo above shows the parade ground as the sun was setting, about a half hour before the parade began. Marine Barracks, also known as "8th and I" because it is located at 8th and I Streets in the southeast quadrant of Washington, is the oldest post in the Marine Corps, having been established in 1801.

The Evening Parade involved three components:
These units perform many ceremonial functions throughout the year including performances for the President of the United States and guests, and burial ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.

The photo below shows the color guard marching in front of the stands:

All units are on the field in the photo below. Band members are in red and white, while the ceremonial marchers are in blue and white. The two bands are marching together here, but sometimes they marched separately or through each other.

Another photo of all units on the field, mostly playing in place this time:

John Philip Sousa was a member of the Marine Band 1868-1875 and its director 1880-1892. He composed many marches including "The Stars and Stripes Forever" – the U.S. National March. Below is a 34 second video of the piccolo obligato in "The Stars and Stripes Forever":

The photo below shows the ceremonial marchers in front of the stands.

Alas, I do not have any photos of the Silent Drill Platoon's precision drills with M1 Garand rifles with fixed bayonets. That occurred too far away from us for good photos. It was spectacular, but we should have brought binoculars for better viewing.

The flag flying above the parade ground was the Star-Spangled Banner, which was the flag flown when the post was established in 1801. The Star-Spangled Banner was the only version of the United States flag to have more than 13 stripes. It had 15 stars and 15 stripes, recognizing the 14th and 15th states, Vermont and Kentucky, and was in use from 1795 to 1818. Subsequent flags reverted to 13 stripes recognizing the original Thirteen Colonies, and added one star for each new state.

The flag was lowered at the end of the performance:

It was the Star-Spangled Banner that was our nation's flag during the War of 1812. It was the Star-Spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814, and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the lyrics of our national anthem.

As noted in earlier posts, the British invaded Washington in August 1814, the month before the Battle of Baltimore, and burned many buildings including the Capitol and the White House. For some reason, the British spared Marine Barracks including the Commandant's House, still standing at the end of the parade ground as shown in the photo below taken before the evening's festivities began.

One of the fun aspects of the Evening Parade at Marine Barracks was that before the parade, the Marines visited with the spectators in the stands. They were impressive young men and women, and they enjoyed visiting with the spectators, especially the many veterans present.

Washington, DC Trip: Click here for the introductory post about our trip to Washington which lists all of the posts in this series.

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is one of the treasures of Washington. Congress established a library for itself in 1800 when the federal government moved from Philadelphia to Washington. The initial collection was housed in the Capitol, and was mostly lost when the British burned the Capitol in August 1814 during the War of 1812. Congress restocked the collection by purchasing the much larger personal library of Thomas Jefferson, then in his 70s and retired from public service.

Construction of a separate and permanent home for the Library of Congress began in 1890 and the building (pictured above) opened to the public in 1897. The building was named the Thomas Jefferson Building in 1980.

The exterior architecture of the central section was inspired by the Palais Garnier in Paris. The interior is richly decorated with paintings, mosaics, sculptures, and other works of art. Below is one of the marble staircases in the Great Hall. A bust of Thomas Jefferson is below the staircase. The statue on the newel post is a woman holding a torch of electric light – it was the first public building in Washington to be built with electricity installed.

Below is a portion of the upstairs of the Great Hall.

One of the most beautiful rooms in the Thomas Jefferson Building is the Main Reading Room, available to researchers, pictured below.

Outside the viewing gallery for the Main Reading Room is a mosaic of Minerva, the Roman goddess of learning and wisdom. Her attention is directed at a scroll listing various fields of knowledge. Minerva is also the goddess of strategic warfare. Her helmet and shield are laid on the ground, but she is holding a long, pointy spear just in case. (More info here, scroll down.)

One of the excellent permanent exhibits in the Thomas Jefferson Building is Exploring the Early Americas. This exhibit explores the indigenous cultures that existed prior to the arrival of Europeans, and the profound changes wrought by the meeting of European and American cultures. This exhibit includes the only known copy of the 1507 world map by Martin Waldseemüller, the first known map to use the word America.

Another popular exhibit is the Gutenberg Bible.

This year is the 100th anniversary of passage in Congress of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. The Library of Congress has a special exhibit titled Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote, but the exhibit was not open when we were there. We left Washington on June 3 and the exhibit opened on June 4, the 100th anniversary of approval by the Senate. The House of Representatives had approved it on May 21, 1919. The 19th Amendment was ratified by the required number of states on August 18, 1920. This special exhibit will run until September 2020.

Subsequent to opening of the Thomas Jefferson Building in 1897, two additional buildings for the Library of Congress were built on adjacent blocks: the John Adams Building (1939) and the James Madison Building (1980). But the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, and even these three buildings are not sufficient to hold all its collections. Additional storage is at Fort Meade in Maryland.

The Library of Congress is a leader in digitizing library resources including manuscripts, maps, and photographs. Online researchers can start here: Digital Collections.

Credit for the photo at the top of this post: Architect of the Capitol.

Washington, DC Trip: Click here for the introductory post about our trip to Washington which lists all of the posts in this series.