• Elvis Presley in 1957
    Music History
     
     
    Elvis's first Washington area concert took place on March 23, 1956 when he headlined a floating concert on a Potomac River vessel.
  • Union Station under renovation. (Source: Library of Congress)
    Washington in the 1980s
     
     
    Once-grand Union Station was in sad shape by the early 1980s. But a bold renovation restored the architectural masterpiece.
  • Marian Anderson
    Civil Rights History
     
     
    Marian Anderson was famously barred from singing at Constitution Hall in 1939 because of her race, but eventually did perform there multiple times.
  • Countess Marguerite Cassini (Library of Congress)
    Countess Marguerite Cassini
     
     
    At the turn of the century, perhaps no one had a tighter grip on the Washington's diplomatic social scene than Countess Marguerite Cassini.
  • Brumidi's Apotheosis of Washington. (Photo source: Architect of the Capitol)
    Art History
     
     
    19th-Century Italian-American artist Constantino Brumidi's frescoes and murals can be seen throughout the U.S. Capitol.
Anna J. Cooper (Source: Wikipedia)

Dr. Anna J. Cooper: MVP of D.C. Education

In the early 1900s, Dr. Anna J. Cooper, eschewed inherently racist notions that education for African American students should be solely vocational. Pursuing more classical studies, she pushed her students toward some of the best colleges and universities in the country, but her dedication raised the ire of the D.C. Board of Education.

Baltimore & Pennsylvania Railroad station. (Source: National Gallery of Art archives)

The Short-Lived Baltimore & Potomac Railroad Station on the National Mall

It may be hard to picture now, but the National Mall was once home to a lot of commercial and industrial development. Perhaps the most notable -- if also maligned -- site was a railroad station belonging to the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad. The station itself embraced a Gothic architectural style, but the train shed that extended from the station was considered an eyesore. It proved to be one (of many) motivations behind the 1901 McMillan plan to beautify and renovate America's front yard.

Lobbying at the Willard Hotel

Willard Hotel lobby in 1901 (Photo source: Library of Congress)

Washington, D.C. is a city rich in history with many stories to tell. Inevitably some of those stories take on a life of their own, even if the facts don’t necessarily back them up. For example, the story that the term “lobbyist” was created by President Ulysses S. Grant to describe the flocks of favor-seekers he encountered during his frequent sojourns to the lobby of the Willard Hotel.

Helen Hayes as Queen Victoria in 1936 (Source: Performing Arts Archives)

How Helen Hayes Helped Desegregate the National Theatre

There are two things that all D.C. residents love: the first lady and the performing arts. It’s no surprise then that in the capital, “First Lady of American Theatre” Helen Hayes is an icon. Born in 1900 in Washington D.C., Hayes’s career spanned nearly eighty years. She was the first EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony) recipient to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan in 1986. But out of all her accomplishments, perhaps one of the most overlooked is Helen Hayes’s involvement in the desegregation of the National Theatre.   

Cissy Patterson (Source: Library of Congress)

Cissy Patterson: The First Lady of the D.C. Press

Born into wealth and privilege, no one can say Cissy Patterson started at the bottom, but she definitely ended up at the top of Washington's social scene in the 1930s. As the owner of the most popular newspaper in the city, Patterson defined who was who in D.C., sensationalizing political feuds in print and throwing elaborate parties at her Dupont Circle mansion. But despite being the brightest star in the sky, she was anything but universally beloved. Just ask her daughter, Felicia.

Etiquette of Social Life in Washington book cover

High Society Impacts of the Presidential Succession Act

Before 1886, presidential succession called for a special election if the President, the Vice President, the President pro tempore of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House all died. This left a lot of Washington hostesses high and dry. In the District, where official life totally overlaps with social life, knowing whether the Chief Justice took precedence over the Secretary of State is just as important to the President’s wife as it would be to the President. So, before the 1886 Act established a detailed list of who’s the who-est in Washington, how did the ladies do it? Usually with complicated treatises on political theory.

Muhammad Ali's Two Fights at Capital Centre

 Mohammad Ali, right, throws a punch at Alfredo Evangelista, left, during an WBC/WBA heavyweight championship fight on May 16, 1977 at the Capital Center in Landover, Maryland. Ali won the fight with a unanimous decision. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Muhammad Ali, who died on June 3, 2016 at age 74, twice defended his heavyweight boxing title at the old Capital Centre arena in Landover, Maryland. You're not likely to see either his April 30,1976 fight against Jimmy Young nor his May 15, 1977 bout with Alfredo Evangelista, both of which he won by unaminous decision, on highlight reels of Ali's greatest fights. Nevertheless, they gave Washingtonians a chance to catch an up-close look at "The Greatest," a larger-than-life athlete whose unconventional style and sublime physical grace was matched by his irrepressible talent for hyperbole and outrageous self-promotion.

1973: The Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Mega-Concert

Back in the summer of 1973, long before bumper stickers iconic skeleton-and-roses logo were a familiar sight on camper vans, the Grateful Dead teamed up with another legendary rock band, the Allman Brothers, to play a pair of concerts at RFK Stadium that were the first multi-day rock extravaganza in the District's history. The shows drew 80,000 people to witness a rare pairing of southern blues-rock and San Francisco psychedelia. As Rolling Stone reviewer Gordon Fletcher noted: "Every rock & roller on the East Coast worth his or her faded jeans...showed up." It was a show that paved the way for scores of other big stadium concerts and events such as the HFStivals of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Evening Star article from March 25, 1882.

The Disappearing Corpse of D.C.'s First Murderer

Washington was unprepared for its first murder trial in 1802. The trial took place in the Capitol building, for want of a court room, and the murderer was held in a temporary jail in an alley dwelling on 4 ½ street. All around it turned out to be a difficult event for the city, but let’s start at the beginning.

Patrick McGurk was an Irish immigrant who lived on F Street, between 12th NW and 13th NW. He worked as a bricklayer and had a serious drinking problem. As too often is the case, his wife suffered from his bad habit. In the summer of 1802, McGurk beat his wife so badly that she and their unborn twins died. After being convicted at trial, D.C.’s first murderer was sentenced to hanging.

That's when things started to get weird.

Owls, named "Increase" and "Diffusion", who lived in the West Tower of the Smithsonian Institution Building, perch on a ledge. (Source: Smithsonian)

When Owls Guarded the Smithsonian

In the 1960s and '70s, renovations in the Smithsonian Institution’s Castle sought to restore the building to its Victorian beginnings. Secretary of the Smithsonian S. Dillon Ripley, didn’t think architecture was quite enough to restore the #aesthetic. No, what the castle really needed was a few live-in barn owls, just like the old days.

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