District Yuletide Traditions, Olde and New

The District has some great holiday traditions – from the lighting of the National Christmas Tree and Menorah, to the decorations in the lobby of the Willard Hotel, to present shopping in Georgetown.

But there’s always room for making new history, and so I added a couple of traditions to my holiday list this year.

One was Holiday Primetime Libations at the new Union Market.

I managed to catch the last of these end-of-week happy hours this past Friday, and it made me wish I had gone sooner. What better way to get into the the holiday spirit than by imbibing a few?

We sat at the bar of the excellent soda shop Buffalo & Bergen, which acquired its liquor license just this month. Lucky for us, because veteran DC mixologist Gina Chersevani whips up a great punch, as well as a cocktail list guaranteed to keep you warm.

Holiday spirits at Buffalo & Bergen in Union Market.
Holiday spirits at Buffalo & Bergen in Union Market.

The other new tradition on the list was ice skating with a view of the Potomac.

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Capital Coffee

Anyone who knows me knows that my love of history is perhaps only matched by one other abiding past time – finding and drinking really good coffee.

Shaw's newest coffee shop, The Coffee Bar.
Shaw’s newest coffee shop, The Coffee Bar.

The District used to be a veritable desert for quality java, but the past few years has seen the birth of a serious coffee community in the nation’s capital.

And while I used to have to travel far to get my fix, now I have a number of great choices in my own backyard – the historic district of Shaw.

Yesterday morning I had the chance to visit the newest addition to the neighborhood with the soft opening of The Coffee Bar.

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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.

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Capitol(ine) Hill

What better way to start the comparisons between Rome and Washington, D.C. than at the center of it all – Capitol Hill.

In Rome, it’s called the Capitoline Hill – or Capitolium in the original Latin, and Campidoglio in the modern Italian.

Ancient Rome was famously settled around seven hills. Although the Capitoline was the smallest, it was the symbolic center of the ancient city, both spiritually and politically.

On its peak was the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, dedicated to the king of the gods. And just behind it was the Forum, where all official political business took place.

A 19th Century drawing depicting the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill during the Roman Republic.

During the peak of the Roman empire, this small hill was literally the power center of the world.

So how did Washington end up with it’s very own Capitol Hill?

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The District’s Godfather of Go-Go

The District lost a music icon today when Chuck Brown – known as the Godfather of Go-Go – died at the age of 75.

Chuck Brown Way, dedicated to the Godfather of Go-Go in 2009.

Brown developed and popularized the go-go sound in Washington in the 1970s, combining funk, soul, and rhythm and blues with a steady drumbeat that kept the music going and going for hours. Brown was famous for his live shows and interaction with the crowds in historic D.C. venues like the Uline Arena and the Howard Theatre.

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Pre-Occupied D.C.

A tent city of protesters springs up in our nation’s capital during a severe economic downturn. After several months of Bonus Army Posteroccupying government property and the public’s imagination, the protesters are finally evicted as police raid the camps and destroy the temporary shantytowns.

While this might be ripped from today’s headlines, I’m not talking about the end of the Occupy D.C. movement, which has spent the past several months camped in the city’s McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza parks.

This is the story of D.C.’s very first group of occupiers (not counting the British during the War of 1812) – the Bonus Army, which staked its tents in our nation’s capital eighty years ago.

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