Historic District Road Trip: Charleston Harbor

Like members of Congress, I was out of the District this week for a family vacation and a little bit of beach time. I was down in South Carolina, and so couldn’t pass up a visit to historic Charleston.

I’ve taken a road trip to Charleston before, but this one was more of a boat trip – which included a tour of the harbor with Captain Byrd’s.

A view of Charleston's Battery Park from Captain Byrd's boat.
A view of Charleston’s Battery Park from Captain Byrd’s boat. (Photo: HD)

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Drinking with Southern Efficiency

“Southern efficiency and Northern charm…”

That’s how President Kennedy once described life in Washington, D.C. But when you’re in the dog days of summer, southern efficiency sounds like just the right speed.

It’s also the name of a fantastic place in the District to escape the heat – a small whiskey bar in Shaw. It’s part of a trio of bars fashioned out of restored row houses on 7th Street by D.C. writer and cocktail guru Derek Brown.

Southern Efficiency - Facade

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The Declaration of Independence’s Many Homes

This July 4th is the United States’ 239th birthday, which got me thinking a little bit about our country’s birth certificate – the Declaration of Independence.

Everyone knows that the Declaration is stored in Washington, D.C. in the National Archives (assuming you’ve all seen National Treasure). It’s on display along with the Constitution and Bill of Rights under maximum security and with the latest preservation techniques.

But it hasn’t always been a part of the Archives, or so well protected. And it certainly hasn’t been all that stationary.

Festivities in front of the National Archives this July 4th. (Photo: HD)
Festivities in front of the National Archives this July 4th. (Photo: HD)

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The Other Arlington

For most people, commemorating Memorial Day in Washington D.C. brings images of wreath layings at Arlington Cemetery, or the sounds of motorcycles rumbling into town for Rolling Thunder.

But there are some lesser known commemorations in the District that have ties to the founding of Memorial Day itself.

One is the wreath laying at Logan Circle, which honors the Civil War general who helped launch the holiday – originally known as Decoration Day – all the way back in 1868.

Another happens at the United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home (USSAH) National Cemetery, located up the hill north of the Petworth neighborhood and next to Lincoln’s Cottage.

It’s one of our oldest national cemeteries, even pre-dating the better known Arlington Cemetery.

USSAH National Cemetery Gates
USSAH National Cemetery Gates

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The Home of Black History

The connection between the month of February and African American history is a well-established tradition throughout the country.

But few Washingtonians probably know that it had its start nearly a hundred years ago here in the District – at 1538 9th Street in Shaw, to be exact.

That’s where you’ll find the home and office of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, often called the “Father of Black History.”

In this unassuming row house, Woodson researched, wrote, and published some of the most important works of African American scholarship in the beginning of the Twentieth Century.

Carter G. Woodson's house at 1538 Ninth Street, NW.
Carter G. Woodson’s house at 1538 Ninth Street, NW. (Photo: HD)

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Something’s Brewing in Blagden Alley

Most people’s instincts are to avoid alleys. At least in fiction and film, nothing good ever comes from taking a wrong turn into one.

But when it’s the opening of a new coffee shop in an old District alley way, you can’t keep me away.

Saturday morning I ventured into Blagden Alley in the historic Shaw neighborhood for a first taste of La Colombe. It’s a trailblazing coffee company from Philadelphia, with cafes also in New York, Chicago, and Seoul. They’ve recently been supplying coffee to some notable D.C. restaurants, and have finally opened an outpost here in the District.

La Colombe, D.C.'s newest coffee shop in historic Blagden Alley.
La Colombe, D.C.’s newest coffee shop in historic Blagden Alley.

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Memorializing Mandela

It was sad news this week to learn of Nelson Mandela’s passing.

As the first president of a democratic South Africa, he was the George Washington of his country – a revolutionary who went on to provide stabilizing and unifying leadership as a politician, and then retired to civilian life rather than holding on to power.

He was a man who always seemed larger than life, even while he was still living. This weekend I went to the South African Embassy to pay my respects.

In September, they had just installed a great statue of Mandela out front, visible to all who pass by it on Massachusetts Avenue’s Embassy Row.

Mandela's statue in front of the South African Embassy.
Mandela’s statue in front of the South African Embassy.

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