The Washington Monument we know today is iconic, but it was never really planned to look that way. Before it grew up, the monument went through many, many proposed designs. After decades in limbo and a construction mired in drama, one engineer's vision triumphed over artists, politicians, and critics.
The U.S. Botanic Garden—located adjacent to the Capitol in a triangle between Maryland Ave SW, Washington Ave SW, and First Street—is rooted in the earliest planning of the capital city. Many of the Founding Fathers believed that a living repository for plants would have countless benefits, from the production of food and medicine to the scientific study of international specimens to the enjoyment of aesthetic beauty. George Washington himself wrote an impassioned letter in 1796 about how a botanic garden should be included in the city plan, even suggesting a few feasible locations.
From idea to completion, it took 105 years to build the Washington Monument and open it to the public. The elevator has quite a history of its own — used for construction, open for guests, closed for repairs...
Washington D.C. has its hidden gems, but none perhaps as hidden as the long-gone and long-forgotten carp ponds of the National Mall, a main attraction in the District for close to three decades. But you’ve probably never heard of them, and the U.S. government is happy about that.
To the average visitor, the Lincoln Memorial appears to be a timeless part of the National Mall. However, this classical commemoration to the sixteenth president was dedicated less than one hundred years ago, in the presence of Civil War veterans, Robert Todd Lincoln, two Presidents and a crowd of thousands.
The Vietnam era was marked by student anti-war protests and the counterculture movement. But in 1970 the "silent majority" organized the era's largest pro-war demonstration, simultaneously protesting against President Nixon's Vietnam War policies and "hippies and yippies everywhere."
In January 1967, after just a few months on the job as the Smithsonian's Director of Museum Services, Jim Morris had an idea. What if the Smithsonian were to put on an outdoor festival in Washington to exhibit and celebrate folk traditions from around the nation?
In February 1979, thousands of farmers from across the country — and their tractors — barreled into Washington to protest in favor of agriculture policy reform. They snarled traffic for several weeks, frustrating commuters. But public opinion began to shift when an unexpected blizzard buried the city under two feet of snow and the protesters took it upon themselves to plow city streets and ferry doctors and nurses to work.
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.