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.
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.
When sculptor Henry Merwin Shrady, along with architect Edward Pearce Casey, won the commission to design the Capitol's Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in 1902, neither man was quite aware of the scope of the project with which they were getting involved. The monument had first been proposed in 1895 by the Society of the Army of the Tennessee, which wanted a grand way to honor the general who led the Union Army to victory during the Civil War. Shrady threw himself into the project that would consume his life — literally — over the next 20 years.
The modern-day DC Caribbean Carnival is a small affair, at least compared to the world-famous parades in carnival cities. There are plenty of revelers — and people celebrating Caribbean culture — but the capital certainly doesn’t come to a halt the way cities like New Orleans do on Mardi Gras. This hasn’t always been the case, however. For one year, in 1871, Washington, D.C. stumbled into hosting a Carnival parade that rivaled those in New Orleans itself. The National Fete, as it also became known, was an extremely patriotic version of the Carnival festivities, with national flags, “Yankee Doodle,” and rockets’ red glare mingling with the Lord of Misrule and the masquerade.
Understanding the history of local government in the District of Columbia is tricky business. The governance structure has changed several times since the city was founded in 1791 and, sometimes, these changes were quite dramatic... which brings us to the 1870s.
The territorial government prescribed by the Organic Act of 1871 gave D.C. a measure of home rule but the experiment would be short-lived. After Governor Alexander "Boss" Shepherd racked up big bills in an effort to modernize the city, President Grant felt compelled to make a change. What resulted was one of the more bizarre episodes in city history.