DC

The Birchmere Gets Its Start

Exterior of the original Birchmere location

Gary Oelze purchased a Shirlington restaurant called the Birchmere in the mid 1960s. At the time, he wasn't planning to get into the music business. But soon, the Birchmere became a hub for bluegrass music in the nation's capital. Today, it is an internationally renowned music hall that draws fans of every musical genre. 

End of an Era: The Evening Star Fades in Washington

“There is a great silence today in Washington. A fine newspaper is gone and a noble tradition ended.”

Ronald Reagan’s words appeared on the front page of the August 7, 1981, issue of the Washington Evening Star. The biggest piece of news that day was the end of a 128-year-old Washington institution—the story of the newspaper’s own demise.  

 

The Lesser-Known National Aquarium

Photo of empty National Aquarium in basement of Department of Commerce, 1932. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Since opening in 1981, the National Aquarium in Baltimore has proved a popular tourist destination, an educational excursion, and a great refuge from the heat in summer months. Many people don’t know, however, that there was a smaller, more modest National Aquarium in D.C. for years before the one in Baltimore popped up.

Those who recall the original National Aquarium will remember it as a dark, tiny exhibit tucked away in the basement of a gigantic government building. But how exactly did this little-known Washington spot end up on the lowest floor of the Department of Commerce—today known as the Herbert C. Hoover building—on 14th St NW?

L'Enfant's Guide to Getting Fired

It takes a lot of talent to design a city, especially one with such sweeping vistas and wide, radial streets as our Nation’s Capital.  It’s hard not to admire the vision of Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the engineer behind Washington, D.C. But everybody makes mistakes—even visionaries— and L’Enfant was certainly no exception.

His biggest blunder was probably tearing down the house of his boss’s nephew. 

An Evening at the White House with Johnny Cash

The Nixons and the Cashes pose for a photo on the evening that Cash performed at the White House. Image Source: National Archives.

April 17, 1970 was a big day for the United States—President Richard Nixon even described it as the “proudest day of [his] life and in the life of the country.” That afternoon, the ill-fated Apollo 13 crew splashed down in the Pacific Ocean and made it to safety. The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief.

But the day wasn’t over yet. That evening, President Nixon would sit in the East Room of the White House for another cultural milestone: a legendary performance by country music star Johnny Cash.

Maryland was almost "Almost Heaven"

In the summer of 1970, Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert were driving down Clopper Road to a family reunion in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Montgomery County was a much more rural place in those days, and the scenery inspired Danoff to repetitively sing “country roads, country roads, country roads.” 

Under normal circumstances, this burst of creativity might have gone nowhere, but the couple happened to be a duo of professional musicians. So, with the help of John Denver, they soon turned the phrase into the earworm we know today. 

Washington's "Official" Song

What songs come to mind when you think of Washington, D.C.? Maybe Go-go music, or patriotic Sousa marches? Then of course there’s the “official” song, that instantly recognizable classic— “Washington,” by Jimmie Dodd (Yes, the composer is the same grown man who went on to lead the Mouseketeers in the original “Mickey Mouse Club” in 1955).

Doesn’t ring a bell? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

1969: Georgetown Becomes Fully Coed

Cartoon from Georgetown student publication The Hoya, picturing a woman jumping out of a cake labelled "The College" to the surprise of several male faculty and students.

“They’ll admit women to the College over my dead body!”

When the Georgetown University Board of Directors announced big changes coming to campus in 1969, at least one Jesuit priest was clearly not thrilled. Perhaps he had just read the headline: “Georgetown Breaks Tradition, Allows Women into the College of Arts and Sciences.” Perhaps he had not heard the rumors that his university needed money, and would be increasing its enrollment rate in the coming years. Perhaps he had neglected to look outside the window of his office and notice that women had been walking across Georgetown’s campus for many years already.

Washington Hosts the 1969 All-Star Game

American League players at the 1969 All-Star game

Washington, D.C. hosted the 1969 All-Star game at RFK stadium. It was a thrilling event that drew baseball fans together to watch the greats of the MLB, including hometown hero Frank Howard, go head-to-head. But the game also made history as the first, and only, All-Star game to be postponed due to weather. A torrential rain storm disrupted the city's plans, but that didn't stop more than 45,000 fans from coming out to RFK the next afternoon. 

Wishing in a Fountain: The Protest for more D.C. Pools

In the early 1960s, the Evening Star called the Columbus Circle fountain in front of Union Station “a ready made swimming pool with ledges, platforms, and friendly statues. It is a grand place to wrestle and splash during the heat of the day, to get the shivers, and to finally recapture the heat by stretching full length on the warm bricks of the surrounding walk. Columbus looks on—pleased and noble.” However, as inviting as it was, swimming in the fountain was technically against Park Police regulations which made it the perfect place to protest Washington’s shortage of accessible swimming pools.

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