Columbus Day in the District

It’s Columbus Day today – and whether you love or loathe the historical figure, he has a pretty significant association with the District.

Namely, our name.

The capital was named by the three commissioners who were appointed by President Washington to prepare and plan the new Federal City. In 1791, they decided it would be called the “Territory of Columbia,” and the “City of Washington.”

They made this choice with a significant anniversary looming – the 300th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the New World.

Frieze in the Capitol’s Rotunda showing the landing of Columbus. (Photo: Architect of the Capitol)

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Searching for Swampoodle

What is Swampoodle?

That’s the question posed by Irish playwright Tom Swift and his director (and wife) Jo Mangan in their play of the same name, which premieres tomorrow night in Northeast D.C. at the old Uline Arena.

Beatles Poster
A poster from the Beatles’ D.C. performance

One might also ask, “Where is Swampoodle?”

That was the question posed this week by a colleague of mine when she coincidentally found the unfamiliar name listed on a map of D.C.

I’ve been intrigued by Swampoodle for months now, after a friend told me he would be acting in a play about a vanished D.C. neighborhood with a rather improbable name.

I was even more interested when he told me it would be performed in a now defunct coliseum that had once featured the Beatles, Malcolm X, and a host of other historic visitors to the District.

I sat down with Swift a few weeks ago to talk about how a pair of Dubliners became obsessed with a little-remembered Irish quarter thousands of miles away in our nation’s capital.

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Mr. Lincoln Comes to Washington (Again)

I was standing in the cold on the platform of Union Station yesterday, waiting expectantly with camera in hand for the president to arrive.  The 11:21 AM train had just pulled in and was emptied of people, but its most important passenger was still on board.

A small cluster of Amtrak officials and security guards stood nearby. I recognized Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, as he walked by (such is the nature of our celebrities in the District). He was escorted into the train by National Park Service rangers to officially welcome the president to Washington.

Abraham Lincoln at Amtrak in Washington, D.C.
Lincoln meets and greets at the Amtrak terminal in Union Station. (Photo: Robert Yule)

Eventually I saw an entourage of police, officials, reporters, and photographers emerge from the car and walk toward me on the platform, all surrounding the District’s most important new resident. Finally, he came into view. The former senator from Illinois was taller than I expected, but I couldn’t yet see his face.

What I saw first was the top of his stovepipe hat.

Then I saw the long face, the hollow cheeks, the short beard. There was no mistaking it – Mr. Lincoln had arrived (again) in the District.

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