History and Hops at Heurich’s House

This week, three of my favorite things were combined into one evening: local D.C. lore, great craft beer, and an historic house tour.

That’s the premise behind the Heurich House Museum’s monthly History & Hops event – and seriously, what could be better?

It brings together local brewers (happily a growing breed in the District) and the Brewmaster’s Castle – the museum and mansion that was home to Washington, D.C.’s most successful brewer, Christian Heurich (pronounced HI-Rick).

The house has been an iconic place for me since I moved to D.C. Located just off Dupont Circle on New Hampshire Ave, you can’t miss it’s odd shape, Old World architecture, and imposing stone turret.

It’s instantly recognizable to Washingtonians, even though most would be hard-pressed to tell you the history behind it.

Luckily it’s a fun tale, best told over a cold brew.

Christian Heurich's Dupont Circle mansion, also known as the Brewmaster's Castle.
Christian Heurich’s Dupont Circle mansion, also known as the Brewmaster’s Castle.

Continue reading

Advertisements

French Connections for Bastille Day

This weekend in D.C. had a decidedly French flavor, and that’s before I even realized that today was Bastille Day.

On Saturday I visited the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization founded at the close of the Revolutionary War by French and American officers to preserve the bonds forged during that long struggle. George Washington, the general who helped unify the Continental Army and the colonies, served as its first president.

Among its ranks, there were two founding French members who would be well known to future Washingtonians – the Marquis de Lafayette and Pierre Charles L’Enfant.

A mural in the sumptuous Anderson House showing Washington and Lafayette and the founding of the Society of the Cincinnati.
A mural in sumptuous Anderson House showing Washington and Lafayette and the founding of the Society of the Cincinnati.

Lafayette was the young French aristocrat who ending up playing a key role in both the American and French Revolutions, and whose name and statue grace the park on the north side of the White House.

And L’Enfant of course was the talented but difficult engineer and artist who served General Washington during the war, and was later selected by him during peacetime to design our first capitol – Federal Hall in New York City – and then the capital, the District of Columbia.

Continue reading

Beertown

In the past couple of years, the District has become a veritable beertown.

DC Brau Brewery started the wave of new microbrews in the District when it opened up its brewery last year. Chocolate City Beer soon followed suit, and today 3 Stars Brewing Company officially tapped its kegs in the Takoma neighborhood.

Before DC Brau, the District had been without a local brewery since 1956. That was the year when the iconic Chr. Heurich  Brewing Co. shut its

The old Heurich Brewery on the Potomac.

doors.

It had been founded by German immigrant Christian Heurich (pronounced “Hi-rick”) in 1873 near Dupont Circle, and soon became the most successful brewery in town.

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

Presidential Gridlock

This morning there was gridlock in the District.

No, not the political wrangling between a Democratic president and a newly Republican Congress.

It was the traffic kind.  The kind that begins with a capital “O.”

I was running out the door a little late (a rare occurrence), and I spotted a bus at the end of my street, turning down Connecticut Ave. This wasn’t just any bus – it was a 43.

For those who don’t live in the District, that’s the express bus that runs under Dupont Circle, and deposits me in front of my office in less than 4 minutes, like some sort of cosmic wormhole.

It appeared to be momentarily stopped at the corner, so I jogged to the end of my street and knocked on the door. The bus driver let me in, but then declared that we wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

I looked through the windshield, and saw a line of cars and buses ahead of us, all frozen in place.

Presidential gridlock in the District.

Then I noticed the ubiquitous D.C. police cars blocking traffic, and the motorcycle motorcade parked and at the ready.

“It’s Obama,” she said.

Continue reading