Today is Columbus Day, and last week I spent touring Washington, D.C., and Virginia with a group. The experience left me with a thirst to learn more about American history and a gave me a renewed appreciation for our democracy. My brain is on overload now with information about our history. I think it’s fitting that today I share in a post a few things I learned.
Washington, D.C., became the CAPITAL as a compromise between the northern and southern states. It was agreed to set it in the south, and the south would pay the debts the north incurred in the Revolutionary War.
The WASHINGTON MONUMENT was the tallest building in the world when it was built. The east side of the aluminum cap at the top has the inscription “Laus Deo” (praise to God).
In the statue of Lincoln in the LINCOLN MEMORIAL, the president has one hand in a fist to signify his strength especially in keeping the union and one hand opened to stand for his compassion.
Passing by the soldiers in the KOREAN WAR memorial, you find that one of them is always looking at you.
Carved into the beautiful WORLD WAR II MEMORIAL is a depiction of Kilroy because the words “Kilroy was here” left in places during the war meant that the Americans had been there. At the memorial 56 pillars surround a pool. On one wall are 4,048 gold- plated stars, each representing 100 Americans killed in the war.
The VIETNAM MEMORIAL has about 58,000 names of the heroes who gave their lives.
The AFRICAN-AMERICAN MUSEUM explains that during the Revolutionary War both sides offered slaves freedom if they agreed to fight. Also, as slaves were brought from Africa, hundreds of them were placed next to each other on shelves for the ocean voyage.
The outdoors FDR MEMORIAL has four rooms each with a waterfall. At the entrance is a statue of the president in a wheelchair. The fourth room includes a statue of Eleanor in which she wears a coat someone had given her for protection from the weather when she spoke at an event.
At the MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., MEMORIAL visitors pass through two large granite blocks, “the Mountain of Despair,” to the “Stone of Hope” which bears his likeness.
In the BASILICA OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, my favorite statue the Flight into Egypt was also Bob Hope’s favorite. He had a mold made of it and placed directly behind his tomb.
At MONTICELLO the tour guide explained that as Jefferson’s wife was dying, she had him promise not to remarry. He kept that promise but also had six children with his wife’s half-sister, a slave.
The changing of the guards at the TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER is an elaborate ritual that demands much discipline of the soldiers involved. Taps is played and a floral wreath is brought forward, in our case by school children in uniform. The guards make 21 steps each way and pause for 21 seconds: equivalent to the high honor of a 21-gun salute.
At the ARLINGTON CEMETERY burials are a fitting tribute. The procession for a general’s burial (which we observed) comprises a marching band in red coats, a group of about forty soldiers in uniform, teams of white horses, the flag-draped caisson, and a riderless black horse.
THE NAUTICUS is a huge, interactive nautical center with a museum presenting the role of the navy in wars. Beside it is the battleship Wisconsin. Its nickname is Wisky because by accident a ship rammed into it and part of the ship Kentucky replaced the damaged front: Wisconsin + Kentucky = Wisky.
WILLIAMSBURG was the capital of the thirteen colonies. In its historical section where buildings have been preserved is a wig shop. Upper class men wore wigs as did their wives. A father could order his children to wear wigs too to share in his dignity. A little girl would have her head shaved and then be in seclusion until her wig was ready.
At the GREENBRIER HOTEL in West Virginia, the government secretly had an enormous bunker built underground to house Congress in the event of a nuclear war. The bunker was a box made of six feet of concrete on each side. The building of the West Virginia wing of the hotel was simultaneously constructed over it to prevent detection. For thirty years the bunker was kept supplied and readied. Then a freelance writer who realized that it was a waste of government money and useless nowadays broke the news of the bunker’s existence to the Washington Post.
What is your favorite site or experience in Washington?