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.

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A Tale of Two Statues

This weekend I visited two statues in the District I’ve been meaning to see for a long time now.  Sometimes it takes an out-of-town visitor to make it happen, and luckily I had a great one – my friend and former co-worker Heather, who was visiting from Johannesburg.

There she’s known better as 2Summers, which is a fantastic blog about life in South Africa – but particularly about the under-appreciated city of Johannesburg. She calls herself a destination advocate, which is how I feel about D.C.

One of our destinations on this trip was Meridian Hill Park (also known as Malcolm X), for a photography session with some of the park’s eclectic statues. The one she was particularly interested in learning more about is almost hidden in the northwest part of the park, and is called Serenity.

It looks like a weathered, marble Greek goddess from antiquity, but it turns out she’s much younger – only the years have not been kind to her. And neither have Washingtonians.

2Summers communing with the Serenity statue in Meridian Hill Park.
2Summers communes with the Serenity statue in Meridian Hill Park. (Photo: Historic District)

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Drinking D.C.’s Dog Days Away

It’s the Dog Days of Summer.

If you’ve stayed behind in Washington (What are you doing here?? Even Congress flees town in the month of August…) or if you’re visiting the nation’s capital, sometimes the only thing to relieve the heat is a tall, cold drink.

Luckily you can stay cool and experience D.C. history by drinking a Rickey – Washington’s native cocktail.

It’s been described as air conditioning in a glass, which explains why July has been designated as “Rickey Month” in the District. I would lobby to add August, too.

And it’s perfectly fitting that a lobbyist is credited with the creation of D.C.’s indigenous cocktail – “Colonel” Joe Rickey, an influential and colorful Democratic lobbyist from Missouri who owned the famous Shoomaker’s Bar.

Shoomaker's Bar on D.C.'s infamous Rum Row. (Photo: Library of Congress)
Shoomaker’s Bar on D.C.’s infamous Rum Row. (Photo: Library of Congress)

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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.

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A Late Bloomer on the Mall

Over the past week, there has been a celebrity drawing crowds to the Botanic Garden.

It’s a rare plant from the rain forests of Sumatra known as the titan arum – growing up to twelve feet in height, and boasting one of the largest flowers in the world. The catch is that it rarely ever blooms – from once every few years to once every few decades.

When it does, it releases the stench of death far and wide. And then the bloom withers away within a day or two.

That’s how it earns its other name – “the corpse flower” – which is also the name of the next Tim Burton film.

A flowering titan arum has only been in display in the U.S. a few times, and the last time it was at the Botanic Gardens was in 2007.

The titan arum in full bloom.
The titan arum in full bloom.

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Shaw’s Memorial

There have been a lot of significant Civil War anniversaries as we pass through the sesquicentennial (that would be 150 years) of America’s greatest conflict.

Today marks one of those – the failed assault on Fort Wagner by the 54th Massachusetts regiment, one of the first African-American infantry units to fight in the Civil War.

If you’ve seen the movie Glory, then you’re probably familiar with the story and its significance.

But what does that distant battle off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina have to do with Washington, D.C.?

For me, this anniversary hits close to home – literally. I live in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood, an historically African-American part of the city near U Street.

The neighborhood is named after Colonel Robert Gould Shaw from Boston, who was the commander of the 54th Massachusetts (and played by Matthew Broderick in the movie).

NPR had a story today on the influential Shaw Memorial by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens – an amazing piece of bronze sculpture depicting not only Shaw, but his regiment of soldiers marching out of Boston and off to war.

Shaw Memorial's plaster sculpture at the National Gallery.
Shaw Memorial’s plaster sculpture at the National Gallery.

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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.

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