American Graffiti

It’s been a tough week for D.C.’s historic landmarks.

Beginning on Friday, a vandal armed with green paint splashed a path through the District, defacing monuments, statues, and churches along the way.

I was in San Francisco when I heard the news that paint had been thrown onto the statue at the Lincoln Memorial.

Pretty shocking stuff, but it turned out to not be an isolated incident. Over the weekend there was a steady drip of similar news from D.C.:

Green paint on a statue of Martin Luther and inside the historic Luther Place Memorial Church at Thomas Circle…

Green paint on a statue of Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the Smithsonian, outside the iconic Castle building…

And finally on Monday, green paint inside the National Cathedral, where a pipe organ and two chapels were splashed – one of which served as President Woodrow Wilson’s initial burial site.

The Lincoln Memorial undergoing cleaning to remove green paint.
The Lincoln Memorial undergoing cleaning to remove green paint.

Continue reading

Advertisements

D.C.’s Tallest Nightlight

With the flick of a switch, things got a little brighter on the National Mall tonight.

At dusk the National Park Service officially lit up the Washington Monument, which has been fully encased in aluminum scaffolding since May.

It’s part of the multi-million dollar repair job needed after the East Coast earthquake of August 2011, which caused significant damage to a number of D.C. landmarks – including our city’s first and most visible monument.

The Washington Monument a few weeks before the illumination, lit by the supermoon.

Continue reading

Aloha to Senator Inouye

The Japanese Crane Monument, honoring the patriotism of  Japanese Americans like Sen. Daniel Inouye.
The Japanese Crane Monument, honoring the patriotism of Japanese Americans like Sen. Daniel Inouye. (Photo: Rudi Williams)

Some Washingtonians have been a part of the District and its institutions for so long that they become living history.

This week Washington said Aloha to the second longest serving Senator in American history – Daniel Inouye. Senator Inouye passed away on Monday at Walter Reed Medical Center at the age of 88.

He had represented Hawaii in Congress since 1959, the same year Hawaii became a state. He was a decorated World War II combat veteran, Representative, Senator, and third in line to the Presidency.

And today, members of Congress paid tribute to him as he lay in state in the Capitol’s Rotunda, a rare honor for any politician.

You can pay your own tribute to this longtime Washingtonian at one of the city’s interesting but often overlooked memorials – the  Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading