The new PBS documentary series Iconic America: Our Symbols and Stories explores US history and identity through iconic national symbols. Washington, D.C. is home to some of America’s most iconic landmarks and historic sites, like the Washington Monument, the White House, and the Smithsonian Castle. But locals know that beyond the national landmarks, there are hundreds of lesser-known symbols and landmarks that make the city unique and hold the memories of its residents. Over the years, Boundary Stones has highlighted many of them.
While digging a sewer near the Capitol in 1898, a construction crew makes an incredible discovery- a fossil! Only, when it's brought to the Smithsonian, no one is able to say for certain what kind of dinosaur it might belong to. Could this be a clue to a dinosaur found only in the District? See how generations of paleontologists dispute the identity D.C.'s oldest resident, and how a group of school kids played a factor in solidifying its legacy.
As Washingtonians and Marylanders began to recover from the hardships of the Great Depression, movies and local theater were a great way to find some escape. In the late 1930s, outdoor theaters were beginning to spring up on the outskirts of the District, where they were especially popular in the summertime. Most of the new playhouses, though, were in Northern Virginia. Maryland lacked options... until organizers of a new theater project in Olney called in a favor from Ethel Barrymore.
At the beginning of the First World War, the United States decided to undertake the largest shipbuilding effort in the nation's history. But before these ships could set sail, the war ended. Thus began the curse of the Ghost Fleet, a large group of unwanted ships that would eventually be abandoned in Mallows Bay on the Potomac. For decades many saw them as an eyesore and hazard. But after years of the neglect, the ships would eventually find their purpose -- in a most unexpected way.
Kensington, Maryland boasts the second-oldest continuously operational railroad station in the country, serving D.C. commuters since 1891. In 1894, as the area started to grow as a commuter suburb, "Knowles Station" was set to be officially incorporated as a town in Maryland... until a man named Brainard Warner pushed back.
For years, Turkey Tayac fought almost singlehandedly for the rights and recognition of his Native American group, the Piscataways. In the 1950s, he found some unlikely allies and successfully fended off an effort to build high rise apartments on sacred Piscataway lands in southern Maryland. A few years later, he helped convince the National Park Service to preserve the land for posterity. It was a remarkable achievement, and Turkey Tayac's work for inclusion would continue, even after his death.
In 1968, nine members of the Catholic Faith entered a Selective Services office in the sleepy town of Catonsville, Maryland. They grabbed hundreds of draft files from the office and took them to the parking lot below, where they burned the files with homemade napalm. These people, known as the Catonsville Nine, represented one small part of the Catholic Left movement, yet became known nationwide for their action and commitment to their beliefs.
Trekking through the thick winter snow of the Pyrenees mountain range, Virginia Hall struggled with each passing step. After thirteen months in war-torn France with insufficient access to food, heating, and clothes, the once striking thirty-six-year-old lost the glow of youth. Hardened by the death, loss, and destruction, she witnessed at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators, she was determined to complete the arduous journey through the mountain range that separated occupied France from neutral Spain.
The battle lines were drawn anew early in February 1988. The knights stood together, clad in mail and livery, and braced their lances in readiness. For more than twenty-five years, they had desperately defended their title against the onslaughts of the enemy. Once more, the enemy was in the capitol, and once more the knights of the Maryland Jousting Tournament Association would resist the dishonor of lacrosse becoming the official state sport.
How did Silver Spring, Maryland land one of the prettiest, most mystical-sounding names in the Washington, D.C. area? Was there really a magical silver spring that once flowed through the area? Is it as pretty and idyllic as it sounds? Actually, that's exactly where the name comes from: a "silver spring."