Rock the Red! Love the D.C.


Wonderful, beautiful, interesting capital of the United States of America! I love, love, love Washington D.C.! The wide streets, the National Mall, the beautiful old buildings, the Smithsonian, the monuments, oh my list could go on forever!

(Unfortunately we didn’t have the best weather for photographing, I guess that is what you risk when travelling to D.C. in Febuary…)

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Washington D.C., formally the District of Columbia, is not a part of any US State, as the Residence Act approved the creation of a capital district (July 16, 1790), as also provided for in the US Constitution under the executive jurisdiction of the Congress. Think about it – if one of the states in the Union should hold the Union capital, which might shift power in favor of one state, that wouldn’t be very fair.  Therefore, the capital is not a state, it’s not a part of any state. It’s a district in the federal republic.

Washington D.C. is a planned city, in 1791 President Washington commissioned the city planner Pierre Charles L’Enfant to design the new capital, who made a plan featuring broad streets and avenues and open spaces for landscaping – a design that was based on some European cities. His design also featured a “grand avenue” in the area that is now the National Mall*. L’Enfant was dismissed in 1792 due to conflict with the three commissioners who supervised the capital’s construction, and Andrew Ellicott was asked to complete the design. Ellicott did make some changes to the plan, but L’Enfant is still credited for the overall design of the city.

*The National Mall is not a shopping mall, but a national park downtown Washington D.C., situated where L’Enfant had envisioned a garden-lined “grand avenue”.  Mathew Carey, an Irish-born American publisher, who published America’s first atlases, is reported to be the first to name the park the “Mall” in his 1802 map of Washington D.C.

Two states, Maryland and Virginia, donated land to form the federal district and the City of Washington was founded in 1791 – named after the first President of the United States (George Washington)

The Federal Government of the United States consists of three branches; legislative (Congress), executive (President) and judicial (Supreme Court). The centers of all three branches are located in D.C. The power is shared between the federal government and state government – meaning that the states have their own set of laws in addition to the Federal laws. One of the pillars of the US Constitution is the idea of “checks and balances” among the powers and responsibilities of the three branches.


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The Karate Kid and Sir Nerdalot enjoying the view of the White House and coffee on a rainy day.

The White House is where the President of the United States resides and works (See? I’m not the oly one who likes working from home!)  The White House was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800. The first President (George Washington) operated first out of New York City, and from Philadelphia PA from Dec 1790 which was the temporary national capital while the Federal City was under construction. President Washington never occupied the White House.

Washington’s Vise President, John Adams Jr, was the first President to occupy the White House when he was the second President of the United States. Not to get into too much detail, but after retiring to Massachusetts, him and his wife established a family of politicians, diplomats and historians, now referred to as the” Adams political family.” His son, John Quincy Adams, became the sixth President of the United States.

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The White House


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Washington Monument

This obelisk on the National Mall was built to commemorate George Washington, and is called the Washington Monument.  The monument is both the world’s tallest stone structure and the world’s tallest obelisk. Construction of the monument started in 1848, suffered several halts, and was officially opened on Oct 9, 1888.


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Capitol Hill in the fog, clad in scaffolding as a restoration project is ongoing

Capitol Hill (the United States Capitol) is the seat of the United States Congress (the legislative branch of the U.S. government), and is situated at the eastern end of the National Mall. The original building was completed in 1800, and has since been expanded.

As English is not my native tongue, the usage of the words CapitAl and CapitOl greatly confuse me, and as the great State of Confusion is not a place I like to visit frequently – I just had to look it up. I found a good explanation at grammarist.com:

“Capital vs. capitol

As a noun, capital refers to (1) a city that serves as a center of government, (2) wealth in the form of money or property, and (3) a capital letter. As an adjective, it means (1) principal, (2) involving financial assets, and (3) deserving of the death penalty. There are other definitions of capital, but these are the most commonly used ones.

Capitol has two very specific definitions (outside ancient Rome): (1) a U.S. state legislature building, and (2) the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. State capitols are located in the capital cities of U.S. states, and the Capitol is located in the capital city of the U.S. If you’re not talking about any of these capitol buildings, then the word you want is probably capital.

The Capitol building located in Washington, D.C. is spelled with a capital C, but state capitol buildings ordinarily don’t have the capital C (which is not to say that some writers don’t capitalize them anyway).”

In other words; in the US you have a capitol in every capital, except for Washington D.C which has a Capitol.


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Ford’s Theatre from the 1860s is a historic theatre and also the site of the assassination of U.S. 16th President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. The theatre was later used as a warehouse and office building, and in 1893 22 died and 68 were injured as part of the building collapsed. It was renovated and re-opened as a theatre in 1968.

The building was originally built as a church in 1833, for the First Baptist Church of Washington. When the church moved to new building in 1861, John T. Ford bought the former church and renovated it into a theatre which he first called Ford’s Athenaeum.  The theatre was destroyed by fire in 1862, and rebuilt the following year – with seating for 2400 persons.

Being a Theatre Manager, John T. Ford of course had many friends in the theatre business. The famous actor John Wilkes Booth was well known to him. Booth was pro-Confederate and quite outspoken in his hatred of President Abraham Lincoln. Five days after General Lee’s (Commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War) surrended, President Lincoln and his wife attended a performance of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre when Booth stepped onto the box of the presidential party and shot Lincoln. Booth then jumped onto the stage and yelled out “Sic semper tyrannis” (a short version of “Sic semper evello mortem tyrannis” which is a Latin phrase meaning “Thus always I bring death to tyrants”), before fleeing through the back. President Lincoln died the next day, and Booth were tracked down and killed on April 26.


 

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FBI headquarters

 

The J. Edgar Hoover Building is the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from 1975. The building is named after former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972. Hoover is credited with building the FBI into a large crime-fighting agency, and with instituting a number of modernizations to police technology. He is also a controversial figure, as evidence of his secretive abuse of power has surfaced. Hoover was also somewhat
unpredictable in his leadership; he frequently fired “stupid-looking” agents, and relocated agents that had displeased him to career-ending assignments and locations. FBI directors are now limited to a ten-year term (but subject to extension by the United States Senate) because Hoover’s actions came to be seen as abuses of power.

Now, I wouldn’t normally mention a person’s sexuality, as I see that as uninteresting. As long as we are talking about relations between consenting adults, I couldn’t care less!  When it comes to Hoover, however, it is very interesting, you will soon see why:

Rumors have circulated since the 1940s that Hoover was homosexual, and a cross dresser. Hoover reportedly hunted down and threatened anyone who made insinuations about his sexuality. He even spread rumors that Adlay Stevenson was homosexual in order to help Eisenhower and Nixon in the 1952 presidential campaign.

It has been speculated that Clyde Tolson, who became an associate director of the FBI and the heir to Hoover, was his lover. Hoover described Tolson as his alter ego, and they did spend a lot of time together, both at work and in their free time. Hoover is also rumored to engaging in cross-dressing in the 1950s homosexual parties, and that he also had sex with underage boys.

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I find the rumors about Hoover’s sexuality interesting because homosexuals have not had an easy time in the era when Hoover ruled the Feds. There was even an Executive Order signed by President Eisenhower (April 29, 1953), barring homosexuals from obtaining jobs at the federal level. I guess that means that Hoover had to hide his homosexuality or he’d lose his job. Or – if he was not gay – these rumors would be devastating to his career if they were allowed to grow. In public, Hoover waged a vendetta against homosexuals.  He kept secret files on the sex life of prominent politicians and allegedly was not afraid to use them to get what he wanted.

Was Hoover good for the US? In some ways he was – the US needed a federal police, and the modernizations to police technology. In other ways – he was a true terror.


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If you are visiting Washington D.C., I can recommend the Hotel Harrington.  The location is great for tourists and you can walk to all the attractions and museums. The hotel has also been in business for over 100 years, and seems only fitting that history-nerds like us stay at a historic hotel. (And Harry’s Pub that are famous for theire burgers, you can read about here.)

There will be a couple more posts from Washington D.C., so please check back later.


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15 comments on “Rock the Red! Love the D.C.

  1. thank you for taking me home again. I grew up in a small town in northern Virginia and we all spent every weekend in DC. My grand dad worked at the smithsonian and we ran all over every building there. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I saw your blog. so thank you for the reawakened memories of my childhood!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Rock the red – The Smithsonian Institution | Travel Much?

  3. Pingback: Our American winter vacation, a recap | Travel Much?

  4. Pingback: Rock the red – full circle | Travel Much?

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