• John Denver
     
     
    In 1970, a gig at the Cellar Door, a broken thumb and a drive through rural Montgomery County led to the creation of the song we know today.
  • Facade of Ben's Chili Bowl (Photo Source: Creative Commons) https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/12/15542832_25808e5769_b.jpg
    Food History
     
     
    Take a look back at a Washington landmark, and home of the chili half-smoke
  • Sketch of Blodgett's Hotel (Source: Library of Congress)
    Blodgett's Hotel
     
     
    After the British put a torch to the U.S. Capitol in 1814, Blodgett's Hotel served as the meeting place for Congress as it weighed the decision about whether to remain in Washington or not.
  • DC Comedy
     
     
    Before the DC Improv, you would have to walk up stairs past a strip club just to see stand-up comedy.
  • Leonard Bernstein and cast at rehearsal for West Side Story. (Library of Congress)
    The Night 'West Side Story' Opened in Washington
     
     
    Before Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story became a Broadway smash, it premiered at the National Theater in Washington in August of 1957.

L'Enfant's Funeral: An Honor 84 Years Overdue

On April 28, 1909, a funeral procession nearly a mile long paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue and M Street, complete with fine carriages and a military escort. Throughout Washington, D.C., flags were displayed at half mast, spectators lined the streets, and school children were allowed a break from their studies to glimpse out the window and see it pass by. The man they were there to honor was Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant… who died in 1825.

Fired for Being Gay, Frank Kameny Spent the Rest of His Life Fighting Back

Frank Kameny protests outside Independence Hall in 1965

You might be familiar with the Red Scare, Senator Joseph McCarthy's efforts to remove suspected communists from the U.S. State Department. But what about the Lavender Scare? Starting in the 1940s, government officials began firing thousands of employees based on their sexual orientation. Frank Kameny, a Harvard-educated astronomer was one of them. He lost his job in 1957 and challenged the dismisssal all the way to the Supreme Court. 

Official presidential portrait of Theodore Roosevelt, painted by John Singer Sargent in 1903. Roosevelt stands proudly upon the landing of a staircase.

A Tale of Two Painters: Theodore Roosevelt's Portraits

Edith Roosevelt's official portrait as First Lady was created by the renowned French artist Théobald Chartran in 1902. Throughout France and the United States, critics praised Chartran's work, applauding his ability to showcase Mrs. Roosevelt's distinctive character and beauty.

Unsurprisingly, then, President Theodore Roosevelt wanted a portrait of himself that was equally as flattering. But, in truth, he was not the most pleasant subject to paint—as could be confirmed by two separate portraitists.

The Deal Done in the Dark

"Signing of the Alaska Treaty," a famous painting by Emanuel Leutze, depicts Seward and Stoeckl negotiating the Alaska purchase in the State Department on March 30, 1867.

In 1866, State Department employees were forced out of their old offices in the Northeast Executive Building because an extension to the Treasury Department was being constructed on that site. As a result, they moved into the Washington City Orphan Asylum, a small and unassuming brick building on the corner of 14th and S streets NW. Though the move was less than ideal, the walls of the new State Department would soon see major historical and diplomatic events unfold. One sleepless night in particular occurred on March 30, 1867: when Secretary of State William H. Seward negotiated the Alaska purchase.

Forrest "Lefty" Brewer, pictured here in military uniform, was a minor league baseball player and paratrooper involved in D-Day during World War II. (Photo Credit: Gary Bedingfield, "Baseball in Wartime")

Lefty Brewer's Sacrifice

Scout Joe Cambria of the Washington Senators was in Florida in the summer of 1938, seeking out new recruits for D.C.’s major league baseball team. When he watched Forrest “Lefty” Brewer pitch for the St. Augustine Saints that summer, the scout had no doubt that this was a player who could help turn around the struggling D.C. club. On June 6, 1938, Brewer threw a no hitter in the minor leagues. Exactly six years later he jumped out of a plane over Normandy, France on D-Day.

How I.M. Pei Brought Modern Architecture to the National Mall

Exterior view of the East Building of the National Gallery of Art (Credit: Difference Engine on Wikipedia, licensed via Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license)

When I.M. Pei, the celebrated Chinese-American architect from New York, was selected to design a new addition for D.C.’s National Gallery of Art, the Washington Post’s architecture critic remarked it was “no doubt one of the toughest [assignments] since Michelangelo was asked to put a dome on St. Peter’s.” Pei knew it would be a difficult task to build the new gallery, but that did not deter him. This is the story of how one of Washington's most unique buildings came to be.   

How Les Misérables Became Lee's Miserables

Cover page from West & Johnston translation of Les Miserables, which was distributed to Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. (Source: Hathi Trust)

When Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables was published in the spring of 1862, it took the world by storm. Within weeks, American audiences began devouring a five-volume translation by renowned classicist Charles E. Wilbour. As the Civil War raged, soldiers on both sides of the lines gobbled up copies and carried them into battle. But here's the thing: Confederate soldiers weren't actually reading the same book as their Northern adversaries, and that was by design.

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