Unbuilt Washington

In conversation, some things are better left unsaid – and in the Historic District, some things are better left unbuilt.

That’s the unspoken commentary behind a new exhibit that opened at the National Building Museum this past weekend. “Unbuilt Washington” explores the monuments and buildings – and occasional Venetian-style canal – that might have graced the District, if only they had made it past the drawing board.

There’s the colossal pyramid honoring Abraham Lincoln, or the medieval-style Memorial Bridge dedicated to Ulysses S. Grant, or the new executive mansion built further up 16th Street, atop Meridian Hill.

The U.S. Grant Memorial Bridge
The U.S. Grant Memorial Bridge

As a D.C. guide, I thought this exhibit was a pretty fascinating tour of an alternate Washington. And with Thanksgiving approaching, I was also left feeling grateful that some of these outlandish structures were left unbuilt – either through lack of funds, shifting priorities, or public outcry.

The exhibit reminds you that from its inception, the federal capital has presented a veritable blank slate for architectural imaginations and often competing notions of national expression.

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A Big Apple Inaugural

So I found myself wandering the wind-blown streets of lower Manhattan this past weekend, searching for traces of the nation’s first federal capital.

It might seem a little early for a field trip in this blog about historic Washington, D.C., but my flight back from South Africa brought me through JFK, and I decided to make a weekend of it.

New York City’s Federal Hall, our first Capitol.

Here’s the question I wanted to investigate: How much does the Big Apple celebrate its capital heritage?

Short answer: Not much.

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Palladio – the District’s Most Influential Architect?

For all you tourists or D.C. locals looking for a way to stay warm and combat cabin fever over the weekend, this is your

Andrea Palladio Portrait
Andrea Palladio.

last chance to see the Palladio architectural exhibit at the National Building Museum before it closes on Sunday.

So what’s the connection to D.C. history?

Andrea Palladio influenced the designs of numerous public buildings throughout D.C. – including the White House and the U.S. Capitol.

He might be the most influential American architect you’ve never heard of…and he’s not even American.

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