Growing up in the Washington DC metropolitan area, I know my parents took me to see a lot as a kid. And over the years when friends and family came into town, we would head in and do something touristy. But in all honesty, I rarely cross the river. Since I am a part-time traveller, I figured I should get to know the area I live in just as I would want to get to know the places I visit. Recently I had the awesome opportunity to work with Context Travel and attend their Front Yard America walk in downtown DC with Katie.
In the many years since I have moved abroad and returned to my home city, new monuments have surfaced that I had yet to have seen, so this was a perfect chance to get myself out and about! Katie was full of information, somethings I remember learning as I grew up, some things I think I knew but I had forgotten, and many things, I simply just didn’t know! DC was once mostly swamp area, and during the summers the area suffer’s from immense heat, humidity, and bugs! Fortunately our three-hour tour included a lot of shaded area’s; because it was the first silly hot day of the season, even at 9am the sun was suffocating. We did our best not to let it distract us too much!
Starting by the capitol building in front of the botanical gardens we got a brief overall lesson of the basic city plan in the early days and headed to the Smithsonian castle to view a 3D model of the current city as is. We then wandered our way down the length of the mall, past the Washington Monuments and almost all the memorials. Did you know that there is only one monument in Washington DC? Everything else is considered a memorial. New fact!
Interesting facts and tidbits:
-The (current) Capitol Building is actually the third design throughout time. The first, with a leaky roof, the British kindly burned down for us during the war of 1812. The second was the rebuild from that fire and I think the third update was due to the ever-growing congress and renovations were required for a larger building.
-To get the marble to the capitol building location to build the capitol, a canal was built from the river to the building site following the now road that is called Constitution. The canal is still present under the road, it was never drained or filled in, so the road floods easily.
-The monument that proudly stands in front of the Capitol building is the Grant memorial. It is also the third largest equestrian memorial in the western hemisphere…who would have thought?!
-The Botanical Gardens was originally planned to be directly in front of the capitol building, over time it was moved to the side. Maybe as not to effect the view from the steps to the washington monument.
-The Washington Monument lost funding around the time of the civil war. When construction restarted, they could not get the same marble, you can see the difference in color just shy of half way up.
-2011’s earthquake caused structural damage to the Monument. Repairs are expensive, but there are plans for private and public funds to be put towards the project of repairing and reopening the Monument.
-Smithsonian Castle. Washington is somewhat unique in the fact that they offer free museums. “The Smithsonian Institution was established with funds from James Smithson (1765-1829), a British scientist who left his estate to the United States to found ‘at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.'” (Smithsonian Institute). The Castle was the first building ever built under the name Smithsonian and mostly offers a rest area with bathrooms for tourists, the rest of the building I believe is purely administrative. But they do have beautiful roses out front.
-Our newest memorial, The Martin Luther King Jr Memorial looks out over the tidal basin towards the Jefferson Memorial, a lot of controversy went into developing this memorial from the position it was facing to the paraphrased quotes used around the site.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt was our only disabled president, what are the changes a man in a wheel chair are to get elected again? Of course there were not TV’s and the opposition back then didn’t seem to strike at personal information quite like the cat fights of today! This is one of my favorite memorials.
-The Vietnam Memorial is a long reflective wall listing all servicemen’s name who died in action during that time. Here’s the thing, this memorial was built about what many consider a less important “Conflict” when still nothing had been built for WWII or the Korean War. These soldiers standing watch over the wall was actually an after thought because of the controversy of there being no actual figures.
-In response to the Vietnam Memorial, the Korean Memorial was built shortly after, also with a reflecting wall, but this time with a field full of soldier figures.
-The World War II Memorial is one of the most recently built memorials. With a large fountain surrounded but an Atlantic side and a Pacific side, every state and territory is named on a pillar with a memorial wreath.
-The tour didn’t actually take us to the Jefferson Memorial because the walk to the other side of the tidal basin is not by any means a short one! But the beauty of the memorial radiates.
-The Lincoln Memorial, I swear Lincoln gets bigger every time I see him! Lincoln proudly watches over the mall from his perch with a view towards the capitol building.
Wow, what a walk! Although I was a guest of Context Travel on this walk, all of the thoughts and opinions are my own.