Filed Under:DC

How Union Station was Saved in the 1980s

Union Station in 1963, prior to a botched 1970s repurposing that nearly destroyed the building. Credit: National Archives

When Union Station opened in 1907, the white granite Beaux-Arts train terminal designed by architect Daniel H. Burnham set a new standard for District's monumental architecture, setting the stage for landmarks such as the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the Federal Triangle, the Supreme Court Building and the National Gallery of Art. The $25 million project was inspired by classical Roman architecture--the Baths of Diocletian and Caraculla and the triumphal Arch of Rome--and incorporated flourishes such as Ionic columns, chiseled inscriptions. Niches that held carved figures representing fire, electricity, agriculture and mechanics. Inside, the main hall, with its dramatic barrel vault and ornate plaster ceiling. It all created a feeling of grandeur that reflected the economic power and prestige of the rail companies--the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Baltmore and Ohio Railroad--which had erected it.

But by the mid-1960s, the railroads' fortunes had faded, and they were eager to unload Union Station, and there was talk of demolishing it.

Filed Under:DC

The Epicenter of the 1980s Alternative Music Scene in DC

The entrance to the original 930 Club in the Atlantic building at 930 F Street NW. Credit: Library of Congress

When the Atlantic building at 930 F Street NW was completed in 1888, it was on the cutting edge. Designed by James Hill Green, the supervising architect of the U.S. Treasury Department, its eight stories made it the biggest commercial structure in the District and one of the first to feature a passenger elevator. Inside, the Atlantic Building had two big assembly rooms, which made it the location of many important public meetings, including one in 1889 at which the National Zoo was founded. In 1890, the top floor served as the headquarters for President Benjamin Harrison's inaugural committee. The Washington Post hailed it as a "handsome" building.

In the decades that followed, the Atlantic — one of the last tall structures in the city to be built with only masonry walls, rather than a steel inner frame — gradually was overshadowed by newer, flashier modern buildings, and it became a largely-forgotten bit of the District's architectural history. That is, until the 1980s, when the building achieved a different sort of notoriety as the the epicenter of the District's alternative music scene.

Filed Under:DC

March 1981: The Tourist From Hell

Would-be Presidential Assassin John Hinckley, Jr., in a mugshot taken after his arrest. (Photo credit: FBI)As the sun rose over Washington, DC, on the morning of March 30, 1981, in room 312 of the Park Central Hotel on 705 18th Street NW, a guest lay in bed, anxious and wired after a mostly sleepless night. He had arrived the night before on a Greyhound bus, and like many other tourists who visit Washington from afar, he had a big day ahead. But unlike most of them, he didn't plan to see the Lincoln Memorial or the Capitol dome, or to peruse the exhibits at the Smithsonian Institution's various museums. No, this visitor had something different in mind. His name was John Warnock Hinckley, Jr., and he was going to try to kill the President of the United States.

Filed Under:Virginia

Capturing a Community: The Columbia Pike Documentary Project

Over the past several decades, Arlington's Columbia Pike corridor has grown into one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the nation. The neighborhood is literally home to the world, which makes it a fascinating subject for study. But how do you capture the essence of a community? It's a big question and one that Lloyd Wolf and his collaborators on the Columbia Pike Documentary Project have been trying to answer for almost 10 years.

We recently sat down with Wolf -- who will be giving a talk for the Arlington Historical Society on Thursday, November 13 -- to learn more about the project. Check out the video below for some highlights from the conversation. Then click through for more!

Filed Under:DC, Virginia

Alexandria's Earl Lloyd Breaks Basketball's Color Line

Earl Lloyd. (Photo source: NBA.com)Earl Lloyd was a rising basketball star at West Virginia State College, but little did he know how soon he would become an important part of sports history. Toward the end of Lloyd’s senior season he was heading to class with a classmate and she told him she heard his name on the radio that day. Unaware of what she was referring to, Lloyd simply asked what she heard. She told him some team in Washington called the Washington Capitols had drafted him.

“You’re going to Washington and they’re going to try you guys out, so show them your best,” said Lloyd’s college coach, Marquis Caldwell.[1] Being from Alexandria, Virginia, it was almost a homecoming party for Earl Lloyd. Before he was at West Virginia State, he graduated from Parker-Gray High School in 1946, Alexandria’s only African-American high school.

Filed Under:Maryland

Midnight Madness Starts at Maryland, 1971

Coach "Lefty" Driesell puffed on a cigar while his players huffed and puffed around the track at midnight on October 15, 1971. (Photo source: NCAA.com)Coaches are always looking for an edge on the competition but former University of Maryland basketball boss, Charles “Lefty” Driesell may have been the best – or at least the most original. Case and point: October 15, 1971.

In an effort to keep everything fair and just, the NCAA has rules. [Insert your own joke here.] One of those rules concerns when teams are allowed to begin practicing at the start of a season. In 1971, the magic date was October 15 and Driesell wasn’t about to let any time go to waste.

So, at 12:03am – when presumably the competition was sleeping… or doing what college kids do in the wee hours of the morning – he blew the whistle to start his team’s first practice. In doing so, he unknowingly created a fad, which took off – first at Maryland and, soon, at other schools.

Filed Under:DC

Impressions of Washington: The Gilded Age, 1873

Mark Twain, 1871 portrait by Matthew Brady. (Photo source: Wikipedia)In 1873, Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner published their novel The Gilded Age, both as a parody of contemporary popular novels and to criticize political and economic corruption. In chapter 24, Twain and Warner take the reader on a virtual tour of the nation’s capital. They didn't paint a pretty picture.

You are assailed by a long rank of hackmen, who shake their whips in your face as you step out upon the sidewalk; you enter what they regard as a “carriage” in the capital, and you wonder why they do not take it out of service and put it in the museum. You reach your hotel presently- of course you have gone to the wrong one. There are a hundred and eighteen bad hotels, and only one good one. The most renowned and popular hotel of them all is perhaps the worst one known to history.

The city at large… is a wide stretch of cheap little brick houses, with here and there a noble architectural pile lifting itself out of the midst- government buildings, these. …You will wonder at the shortsightedness of the city fathers, when you come to inspect the streets, in that they do not dilute the mud a little more and use them for canals.

Filed Under:DC, Maryland

Washington Wasn't Quite Ready for Bob Marley in 1973

Bob Marley performs on stage in Ireland in 1980. No doubt the crowd was a lot more enthusiastic than the one at his 1973 U.S. Naval Academy gig. (Photo source: Flickr user monosnaps. Used under Creative Commons 2.0 license.)Today, it's common to see people wearing t-shirts emblazoned with Bob Marley's instantly recognizable likeness, and the reggae classics that he recorded with the Wailers are so iconic that they're used in TV commercials.

But back on the afternoon of October 14, 1973, when the then-28-year-old singer with the dreadlocks and whispy beard and his band stepped out onto the stage at the U.S. Naval Academy's Halsey Field House, things were quite different. It's a safe bet that hardly anyone in the audience even knew who Marley and the Wailers were, or had heard their LP Catch A Fire, which Rolling Stone critic Rob Haughton had lauded as filled with "lilting tunes of hypnotic character headed by super-progressive lead guitar work, Motown variations, and cowboy nuances, all backed by the tricky Jamaican beat that serves to keep the decibel level in a moderate range."

Filed Under:Virginia

Joan Mulholland: Arlington's Homegrown Activist

What are you doing tonight? Hopefully you're planning on going to the Arlington Historical Society's free public program with civil rights activist Joan Mulholland. It's tonight at 7pm at the Arlington County Central Library.

By the time she was 23, Mulholland had participated in more than fifty sit-ins and protests. She was a Freedom Rider, a participant in the near riotous Jackson, Mississippi Woolworth Sit-in, and helped plan and organize the March on Washington in 1963. On a local level, she was part of the first Arlington sit-ins, which integrated lunch counters across northern Virginia, and helped to coordinate demonstrations at Glen Echo Park, Bethesda's Hiser Theater amongst other locations.

During tonight's program, Mulholland will discuss her experiences and show clips from her son Loki’s film, An Ordinary Hero. She was kind enough to sit down with Boundary Stones and give us a preview of her talk. Check out the video below and click through for more!

Filed Under:DC

Impressions of Washington: Abigail Adams, 1800

Abigail AdamsWhen Abigail Adams came to Washington, D.C. on November 16, 1800, she arrived at an infant city, sparse and not fully formed.  Having just left the comforts of old Philadelphia, this must have been quite a shock. To make matters worse, her trip south had seen been rough. So, it’s safe to assume that she was in an irritable mood, when she finally made it to D.C.

We should probably keep that in mind while reading her appraisal of the city because she was pretty harsh. The First Lady called the capital ‘a city only in name,’ and pulled no punches in her description of Georgetown

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