Law and Order in the District

When you’re a tour guide in Washington, D.C., you never know what you’ll encounter. Any given day, the nation’s capital plays host to all kinds of groups, protests, parades, and commemorations.

One Sunday a couple of weeks ago, I was guiding a Japanese tour through the city when we encountered a pretty unusual sight in front of the Capitol building. A row of about 25 policemen on horses, lined up across the National Mall.

Police Officers on Horseback

The officers were from all different regions of the country, wearing distinct state uniforms and riding different breeds of horses.

It made a great sight, especially with the statue of Civil War General and President Ulysses S. Grant astride his own horse looming just behind them.

Turns out, it was National Police Week, and that Sunday was Peace Officers Memorial Day.

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Floodgate

It’s often said that Washington, D.C. was built on a swamp – usually in August, when the humidity in the District is unbearable. While that’s not entirely true, the Georgetown waterfront certainly looks like one right now.

The Potomac River flooded after a weekend of heavy rains, and by Monday the river had risen up to 12 feet.

Normally floodwalls are raised to protect Washington Harbour, the restaurant and office complex on the waterfront. The modern floodwalls were part of the original construction, and have been used successfully dozens of times since they were built in 1986.

But this time, a section of the wall wasn’t raised early enough. Muddy water gushed into the Harbour complex, which is conveniently shaped like a crescent bowl.

Washington Harbour Flooding
Washington Harbour flooding (Photo: Alex Greenlee, DCist)

A week later on Earth Day, the Harbour is still closed as a clean-up crew deals with the effects of Mother Nature.

Of course, this all got me thinking about historic floods in the District.

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Snow Falling on Sakura

Yesterday was the beginning of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, described as the country’s greatest celebration of spring.

But today, the District woke up to snow falling on sakura.

Cherry Blossoms - March 27, 2011
Cherry blossoms framing the Jefferson Memorial. (Photo: Robert Yule)

The cognitive dissonance of it all inspired a haiku from me this morning:

 Snow gently falling

Mingling with white petals

Winter meeting spring

Okay, so I’m no Basho, but I felt this rare snowfall in late March was worthy of commemoration.

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The Lost (and Found) Library of Thomas Jefferson

It’s not often that the discovery of a collection of rare books makes national news – but when those books are Thomas Jefferson’s, even the Today Show takes notice.

This morning – on President’s Day – there was an announcement on the NBC news program that a large number of books belonging to our third president were discovered among the collections of Washington University in St. Louis.

That makes the university the third largest holder of Jefferson’s surviving book collection, after the Library of Congress in the District, and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

After a bit of sleuthing, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation – located at Jefferson’s home Monticello in Charlottesville – discovered 74 of those books at Washington University’s library. They had been donated in 1880 from the collection of a husband of one of Jefferson’s granddaughters, but lost to historians for 130 years.

It turns out that they took a circuitous route there – from Charlottesville to Washington, D.C. to Boston, and finally to St. Louis. Missouri was a fitting repository for the collection – it was part of the territory in the Louisiana Purchase bought by Jefferson during his presidency.

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