Visiting Washington, D.C.
Washington D.C. is a wonderful city for tourists brimming with history and excitement. Washington D.C. has the distinction of being the only city established by the Constitution of United the States. On September 18, 1793, George Washington along with eight other Freemasons set the cornerstone of the first Capitol. The building would not see completion until 1800. While the Senate and House wings would not be fully completed until 1811. The vision the founding fathers had for the nation’s capital was almost erased during the War of 1812 when much of the city was burned to the ground by the British. The White House, the Capitol building, as well as the Library of Congress, were all destroyed during that time. Funding to restore the Library of Congress was provided by Thomas Jefferson, who sold his entire private library to provide the funding. While the Capitol was not destroyed, it was unusable until the reconstruction. Reconstruction of the Capitol began in 1815 lasting until 1826, the Rotunda as part of this new design.
The Capitol Mall was designed in 1901 and has continued to grow. The Smithsonian Institute has nineteen museums and galleries throughout the capital including the National Zoo. The Smithsonian is the world’s largest research complex. The Smithsonian was founded by British Scientist, James Smithson, who never set foot in the US! He saw the promising future of our young country and wished to contribute to the new nation. In his will he stipulated that should he have no heirs the money from his estate was to be sent to the United States to create an institute to further learning and should be named Smithsonian. Later when the burial ground he was laid to rest in was to be moved, the US was able to have his remains brought to Washington DC. His final resting place is now in the Smithsonian Castle not far from the Capitol building. You can see his crypt that was recreated to look much like his original gravesite in Italy. Currently, all the Smithsonian facilities are closed for public safety. Visitors can still tour the gardens.
One place everyone should visit while in DC is the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress is a true work of art. The great hall is watched over by the goddess Minerva, the Roman Goddess of learning and wisdom. The Library of Congress is easily as beautiful as the Rotunda. It is the main reading room that is the centerpiece of the library. The room is surrounded by huge marble columns that support female deities that represent Religion, History, Philosophy, Poetry, Art, Science, and Law. Surrounding the dome of the reading room are sixteen bronze statues of men that embodied these ideas: Michelangelo, Beethoven, Columbus, Robert Fulton, Herodotus, Edward Gibbon, Solon, James Kent, Plato, Francis Bacon, Homer, Shakespeare, Moses, Saint Paul, Newton, & Joseph Henry. Like the Smithsonian Institute, the Library of Congress is closed at this time to visitors for public safety.
Currently, the Capital Region is celebrating the Cherry Blossom Festival. The Cherry Blossom Festival has been a tradition since 1934 to honor the 3000 Japanese cherry trees that were gifted to the US in 1912 as a show of friendship between Japan and the US. First Lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador planted the first two cherry trees in a ceremony on March 27, 1912. The two trees are still very much alive located on the North Bank of the Tidal Basin with a plaque near SW 17th street. This year due to restrictions there is no actual festival, but visitors can still enjoy walking through the beautiful blossoming trees that surround the Tidal Basin. The trees only bloom for a few weeks with the peak being around late March to early April each year. This year you can enjoy the festival virtually at nationalcherryblossomfestival.org where a live bloom cam is set up.
Another area of DC everyone should visit is Georgetown. Once a township of its own that was absorbed in the ever-growing capital region. Georgetown was once the home to former President John F. Kennedy long before he was president. He made Georgetown his home when he was running for Senate back in the 1940s. This would be where he would meet Jacqueline Bouvier at a dinner party on Q street in 1951. Visitors can still enjoy a meal in the same booth he proposed to Jackie at Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown. The power couple would spend many years in Georgetown. For those interested in more about their time in Georgetown there is a walking tour of the various homes JFK lived in over twenty years. Georgetown is a treasure trove of the best restaurants in the capital region. Martins has long been a favorite brunch place of many of mine. Some restaurants I would suggest trying are Chez Billy Sud, Filomena, 1789, Clyde’s, Brix & Ale, Fiola Mare to name a few.