Category Archives: Monuments & Memorials

Five Hidden Histories and Stories on and Around the National Mall

[Note: This is a guest post contributed by JoAnn Hill, a DC area educator and author of the book “Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.” ]

 

A carousel’s connection to the Civil Rights Movement, an accidental shooting by the US army, an anti-dancing law that rivals the injustices of Footloose, world-renowned graffiti, and a science-touting statue that just might make you smarter… these lesser-known, feel-good, and bizarre stories are just waiting to be explored on and around the infamous National Mall.

Below are five fascinating stories to uncover at familiar sites on your explorations around the National Mall.  Check out local DC author JoAnn Hill’s book Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure to learn more about the hidden histories below as well as to discover dozens of additional gems and off-the-beaten path locales in and around the Washington, DC area.

Carousel on the National Mall

“Round and Round: A Carousel Takes a Turn into the Civil Rights Movement”

For decades, the National Mall’s iconic carousel has been a prominent fixture on the city’s most popular strip of grassy land. The carousel, however, is much more than an exuberant ride; it also serves as a hopeful window into the Civil Rights Movement.

On August 28, 1963, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his powerful “I Have a Dream” speech before a crowd of some 250,000 people during the March on Washington. On that same day, about 45 miles away outside of Baltimore, Gwynn Oak Amusement Park discontinued segregation. An 11-month-old baby named Sharon Langley was the first African American child to go on a ride there and rode the classic carousel, which was originally located in the park, along with two white children. The three children riding the carousel together exemplified King’s message of integration and racial harmony.

In 1981, the famous carousel made its way to its new home on the National Mall when a Smithsonian concessionaire purchased it, unaware of its historical significance. Seven years later, Donna and Stan Hunter purchased the special carousel and have owned and operated it ever since.

Read All About It: Learn more about how the beloved carousel reflects Civil Rights history on pages 74-75 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Thing to Know: Unfortunately, the Carousel is currently closed due to Covid.

Where: The Carousel is located on the National Mall: Jefferson Drive SW.

 

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Lincoln Memorial

“Oops! We Didn’t Mean to Shoot, Mr. President!”

The Lincoln Memorial is a national treasure, commemorating one of America’s most revered presidents, Abraham Lincoln. What many may be surprised to learn is that nearly 80 years ago, it was also the site of an accidental shooting by the US Army.

In 1942, as part of World War II defenses, an anti-aircraft gun was installed atop the US Department of Interior. The gun was positioned near a local bridge to protect the city against an air attack. On September 3, at 10am, a US Army soldier accidentally released a round of ammunition at the Lincoln Memorial. The accidental firing left its mark on the east side of the memorial. Bullets struck the structure’s frieze and damaged three of the 36 states’ names: Connecticut, Maryland, and Texas.

It is certainly safe to say that the Lincoln Memorial may just be the one US structure attacked by its own country.

Read All About It: Learn more about the US Army accidental shooting on the Lincoln Memorial on pages 186-187 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore:  A baseball-size indentation was imprinted into the marble of the memorial’s outer wall. The gouge has been fixed before, but the patchwork has fallen out. There are no plans to refill or fix the hole.

Where: The Lincoln Memorial is located at 2 Lincoln Memorial Circle NW.

 

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Jefferson Memorial

“Leave Those Dancing Shoes at Home”

There may be a time and place to dance like no one’s watching, but dance enthusiasts should beware of adding the Jefferson Memorial to their lists of dance venues.

On May 17, 2011, a federal appeals court in Washington, DC, declared expressive dancing as prohibited inside the Jefferson Memorial. The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit stated that expressive dancing “falls into the spectrum” of prohibited activities, including picketing, demonstrations, and speechmaking, at the memorial. The rules are intended to ban conduct that has the propensity to attract spectators while detracting from the dignified and ceremonious setting of the national memorial.

The court’s ruling was in response to the 2008 arrest of several individuals silently dancing to commemorate Thomas Jefferson’s 265th birthday. The dancers’ expressive performance was deemed as unlawful. The court viewed the performance as a distraction to fellow visitors, as well as an attraction to onlookers.

While some of the laws passed in our nation’s capital have caused many to scratch their heads, this one may just be among the strangest and surprising of them all.

Read All About It: Learn more about this bizarre law at the Jefferson Memorial on pages 2-3 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore:  The Jefferson Memorial is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Where: The Jefferson Memorial is located at 16 E. Basin Drive SW.

 

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World War II Memorial

“Bald-Headed and a Little Bit of Comfort”

Wandering around the World War II Memorial evokes numerous emotions: feelings of sorrow, honor, remembrance, and respect, just to name a few. Individuals walking near the Pennsylvania pillar, however, may find themselves feeling additional emotions of surprise and bewilderment.

During World War II, various drawings of a large-nosed, bald man peering over a fence next to the words, “Kilroy was here” popped up all over the globe wherever battles were being fought. The mysterious sketches were proof that an American comrade had previously been there, providing comfort and reassurance to many anxious soldiers. The identity of the artist behind the graffiti was unknown, resulting in many to be confused by these peculiar drawings.

While the popularity surrounding ‘Kilroy was here” eventually dwindled, the widely recognized graffiti symbol can still be seen around the world, causing some to fondly remember its historical meaning and others to scratch their own heads in bemusement.

Read All About It: Learn more about the worldwide “Kilroy Was Here” WWII drawings on pages 80-81 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore: The “Kilroy Was Here” graffiti sketch is located behind the golden gate next to the Pennsylvania pillar.

Where: The World War II Memorial is located at 1750 Independence Avenue SW.

 

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Albert Einstein Bronze Statue

“Save a Seat for Science”

Many of the capital city’s monuments ask visitors to quietly reflect when visiting, creating tranquil and sometimes even somber memorial site settings. One lesser-known monument, however, has chosen to take a quite different approach; visitors coming to pay tribute to one of the world’s most famous scientists are encouraged not only to sit on his statue, but also to climb upon it.

Standing twelve feet tall and weighing approximately four tons, a bronze statue honoring physicist Albert Einstein is situated near the southwest corner of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) grounds. In 1979, the NAS unveiled the sizable statue to commemorate the centennial of Einstein’s birthday. The famous physicist appears relaxed, leisurely sitting on a three-step bench made of white granite.

The statue’s base is characterized by a star map—a 28-foot expanse of emerald pearl granite that’s embellished with more than 2,700 metal studs representing the sun, moon, stars, planets, and other astronomical objects precisely placed by astronomers from the US Naval Observatory as they were on the centennial date.

Read All About It: Learn more about this this bronze tribute to science on pages 184-185 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore:  Legend has it that if you rub Einstein’s nose, some of his genius will rub off on you!

Where: The Albert Einstein Statue is located at 2101 Constitution Avenue NW.

 

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JoAnn Hill has lived in Washington, DC, with her husband Thalamus and dog Jackson for over 19 years. An avid traveler and foodie, JoAnn writes about their DC living and dining experiences, as well as their global travel adventures, on her blog dcglobejotters.org. Her writing has been published in BELLA Magazine, Escape Artist, and Triptipedia. JoAnn served as a DC Public Schools teacher for 17 years before co-founding Capitol Teachers, a tutoring company servicing the greater DC area. This is her first book.

 

 

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Five Things for Today: May 19, 2020

The Supreme Court all to ourselves


1. While you can’t go in and explore DC’s most iconic sites right now, you can still view them from outside. Make one a destination for a family walk or bike ride if you live close enough. It’s a great opportunity to view our city’s grand memorials and buildings without the usual tourist crowds.

2. Join The Phillips Collection for a free Family Activity this evening. From 5-6pm, Celebrate Nature with Georgia O’Keefe as you explore two paintings guided by a museum educator, then do a related hands-on activity — all via Zoom. Sign up here.

3. From the Washington Post, an update on what you can (and cannot) do outside in the DC area.

4. 14 essays about finding joy in these coronatimes.

5. What would happen if coronavirus hit Disney. 😂

🏛 🏛 🏛 🏛 🏛

If you enjoyed this post — found it informative, inspiring, or it just made you smile — please share!


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Filed under 2020, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Monuments & Memorials, Social Distancing, Spring

Where to Celebrate MLK Day Around the DC Area

Visiting the memorials is one way to celebrate MLK


Whether you’re looking for ways to teach kids about MLK, want to give back on the Day of Service, enjoy live entertainment that pays tribute to his legacy, or hope to join a special event to observe the occasion, these recommendations will have you covered.

Day of Service
Where: Various locations around the DMV
When: January 20
Admission: Just your time

If you want to volunteer on the MLK, Jr. Day of Service, there are many ways and places you can do so around the area. Start here to find opportunities that suit your family.

More Family Volunteer Ops
Where: Various locations around the DMV
When: Ongoing
Admission: Just your time

For more places to volunteer as a family that aren’t included in the official MLK Day of Service database, this KFDC post has suggestions. All of the organizations listed welcome kids to help out, though some have age requirements, so be sure to note them.

MLK Jr. Family Program
Where: Anacostia Community Museum | Anacostia, DC
When: January 18
Admission: Free

Celebrate the Birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the whole family at the Anacostia Community Museum! Inspired by Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday song, guests can create art using King’s familiar theme of the “Beloved Community” in a workshop led by art educator, Alma Robinson. Participants can also take part in a second workshop with art educator, Rain Young to create original balloon art of a peace medal or a “I Have a Dream” hat to take home. Both workshops include a guided tour of the exhibition “A Right to the City” with an emphasis on Dr. King’s visit to DC’s Shaw neighborhood. All materials will be provided. Register in advance!

The Kevin Durant MLK Classic
Where: The St. James | Springfield, VA
When: January 18, 11am – 6pm & January 20, 10am – 6:45pm
Admission: $20 per day

The Kevin Durant MLK Classic is an elite high school basketball showcase celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Top high school players will include freshman Elijah Fisher from Crestwood Prep, JT Thor from Norcross High School, and Mady Sissoko from Wasatch Academy. Local DMV highlight players include Cory Barnes Jr. and Tegra Izay from Archbishop Carroll High School, Erik Reynolds and Rodney Rice Jr. from Bullis School and more. All games will be played at The St. James in Springfield, VA — the state-of-the-art 450,000 square foot complex is home to more than 30 sports, including Team Durant at The St. James, Kevin Durant’s youth basketball organization. Read about what else is at The St. James in this KFDC post.

Portrait Story Days
Where: National Portrait Gallery | Penn Quarter, DC
When: January 18-19, 1-4pm
Admission: Free

Drop in to the National Portrait Gallery to listen to a story about Martin Luther King, Jr. and complete a hands-on art project. Read (and see) more about the program and museum here and here. And note this takes place both Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

MLK at the Library
Where: Libraries around the DMV
When: Through January 20
Admission: Free

Many public libraries are hosting MLK-inspired events and activities geared especially toward children. Learn to recite the famous “I Have a Dream” speech at Bellevue Library, join a “Social Justice” Family Story Time at Woodridge Library, celebrate MLK’s Legacy with Author Amy Nathan at Mount Pleasant Library. There are just a few activities in DC. For quick links to see what’s happening at other libraries around the area, see this KFDC post (scroll all the way down for library links).

Be the Light — Celebrating the Legacy of MLK Jr.
Where: Port Discovery | Baltimore, MD
When: January 18-20
Admission: $17.95/ages 1+, free for members

If you can dream it you can change it! Join Port Discovery in celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy during this “Be the Light” event. Experience the strength of celebrating differences in our community and learn how you, too, can become a Change Maker. Take part in interactive programs and performances designed to educate, inspire, and help children understand the positive impact that their actions can have, inspired by Dr. King’s message of promoting fairness. Activities are planned daily throughout the entire weekend — check the website for a daily schedule.

Artsy MLK Days
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Garden | Dowell, MD
When: January 18-20, 11am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King with community art activities. Each year on this weekend, Annmarie Sculpture Garden invites guests of all ages to help create a community art installation in honor of a dream. Baltimore artist Gary Webb leads the 20120 MLK Days project titled, “Faces of a Dream.” Guests of all ages can create a wire mask using using his “webbing technique” of twisting and bending different kinds of wire into a self-portrait mask, which will be added to an ever growing wall of faces, celebrating the diversity and beauty of the community. Read more about the wonderful Annmarie Sculpture Garden here.

KanKouran West African Dance Company
Where: Dance Place | Brookland, DC
When: January 18, 8pm & January 19, 4pm
Admission: $15-30 (1 child free with adult paid ticket*)

KanKouran West African Dance Company returns to Dance Place for their annual celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Introducing the essence of traditional African dancing and drumming to audiences, KanKouran enriches American cultural heritage through the integration of authentic West African arts and promotes intercultural understanding. The annual MLK Day concert celebrates over 35 years of fulfilling their mission of “giving back that which was lost.” The Sunday 4pm performance is part of the Family Series – Get 1 free ticket for a child 12 & under with paying adult.

Paint for Peace
Where: Art Jamz | Dupont Circle, DC
When: January 18 & 19
Admission: $12-20

Bring the whole family Art Jamz for their Painting for Peace Weekend. In honor of MLK Day, they are donating $5 per canvas order to DC Central Kitchen, a local organization that helps combat hunger and poverty. During the event, they encourage the creation of original art under the guidance of local artists and with inspiration from their jamming social art studio and lounge. There will be plenty of images and quotes inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. plus stencils to help you create a unique masterpiece! Book your session in advance here.

Free Parking
Where: National Parks
When: Jauray 20
Admission: Free!

In honor of MLK Day, it’s the first fee free day of the year for national parks, which means there’s no cost for entry where they usually charge to get in. Take advantage of complimentary admission and the day off from school. Some ideas: Hit the trail at Shenandoah or Great Falls, explore Prince William Forest Park, go to Fort McHenry, or visit Harpers Ferry.

Visit Memorials
Where: National Mall & Tidal Basin, DC
When: January 20 (and ongoing)
Admission: Free

Pay tribute to Dr. King at places that honor his legacy. Visit the MLK Memorial, a powerful and poignant site along the Tidal Basin. From 9-10am, there will be a special ceremony honoring Dr. King with speakers, the placing of a wreath on the memorial, and a song. Later, you can take a tour with a Park Ranger — they will be offered at 2pm & 6pm. From there, you can head to the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and see if you can find his words etched in the stone there at the top of the steps. And for a longer guided walking tour that includes those locations, check out DC by Foot, which offers name-your-own-price tour options.

MLK Dare to Dream Day
Where: American Visionary Art Museum | Baltimore, MD
When: January 20, 10am -6pm
Admission: Free

The American Visionary Art Museum will pay lively tribute to one of the world’s greatest visionaries, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with its annual, all-ages-welcome event. The intergenerational community party honors the great Dr. King’s legacy and vision with birthday cake, a Power Patch printmaking workshop, an artist talk by exhibiting artist Kyle Yearwood, a poetry slam and open mic, and more — all of it free for everyone! Read more about the wonderful AVAM here.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Tribute & Celebration
Where: Strathmore | Bethesda, MD
When: January 20, 4pm
Admission: Free, but tickets are required

Montgomery County celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King’s life through dramatic readings, and musical and dance performances with the theme, “Children of the Dream.” In addition, there will be the presentation of the Humanitarian Award, Children of the Dream Awards as well as a visual arts display honoring Dr. King. Free tickets are required for this event and will be distributed on-site on the day of the performance starting at 3pm.

MLK Parade, Peace Walk, & Fair
Where: Throughout SE, DC
When: January 20
Admission: Free

Commemorate the life of MLK, Jr. on a peace walk and parade along Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave. The Peace Walk begins at 11am and the Parade will commence at 11:30am from Good Hope Road near the Anacostia Park entrance and continue up MLK Avenue, concluding at the campus of St. Elizabeth’s East with a Health and Community Fair at the Gateway Pavillon located at 2700 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE. All ages are welcome to join.

Rockville Celebrates MLK
Where: Montgomery High School | Rockville, MD
When: January 20, 11am – 1pm
Admission: Free

Rockville’s 48th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration will include multicultural performances, awards, and a keynote speech a keynote speech focused on the theme “Light in the Midst of Darkness.” The celebration is free and open to all ages. Free refreshments, information booths, and community service projects will also be part of the festivities.

Let Freedom Ring!
Where: Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom
When: January 20, 6pm
Admission: Free

At this annual performance in honor of MLK Day, the Kennedy Center and Georgetown University host a musical celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. This year, the musical tribute features ten-time Grammy Award winner Chaka Khan with the Let Freedom Ring Choir led by Music Director Rev. Nolan Williams Jr. Georgetown University will also present the 18th Annual John Thompson Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award to Sandra Jackson, executive director of House of Ruth. Free tickets will be given away, up to two per person in line in the Hall of Nations starting at 4:30pm on a first-come, first-served basis.


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Where to Play on the Weekdays: September 23-27

A view of the U.S. Capitol and National Mall from the Washington Monument


Monday – Discover the history of flight at the College Park Aviation Museum. It’s a great place for young visitors, with eye-popping displays and lots of hands-on fun. They can view early airplanes up close, dress up like aviators, create flight-inspired art, and much more. Keep an eye on the runway right outside the floor-to-ceiling windows — you might see planes take off and land at the College Park Airport, the oldest continuously operating airport in the world! Open daily 10am – 5pm. Admission is $5/adults, $2/children, free for ages 1 and under.

Tuesday – Take the littlest ones to Cultural Cuddles at the National Museum of African American History & Culture. The program invites parents and caregivers to bring babies ages 0 to 12 months to discover a rainbow of color through a close-looking activity led by a museum educator in the Visual Art gallery, then engage in sensory activities for further color exploration. It begins at 10:30am, and admission is free, but you must register in advance. If you’re with older children, explore the NMAAHC on your own — passes are not required from September through February. Be sure to check out the KFDC guide to visiting the museum with kids before you go.

Wednesday – Wander, play, and explore at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria. Be sure to stop in the Horticulture Building and pick up instructions for a kids’ scavenger hunt to add some extra fun to the outing. Grounds are open dawn to dusk, the Horticulture Building 9am – 4:30pm. Admission is free.

Thursday – Take of tour of the Washington Monument! After being closed for more than three years for renovations and repairs, DC’s tallest structure is once again welcoming visitors. Free, same-day are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 8:30am at the Washington Monument Lodge, located on 15th Street NW, between Madison Drive NW and Jefferson Drive SW. Tickets are timed-entry, so you may have time to kill before your tour, but you’ll be on the National Mall, where the many free museums will make that easy to do.

Friday – Catch a performance of Elephant and Piggie’s “We Are in a Play!” at Adventure Theatre. Showtime is 10:30m, and tickets are $25. Plan to stay and play at Glen Echo Park playground afterwards, and bring along a picnic lunch or grab food from the Praline Cafe on premises.

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Filed under 2019, All ages, DC, Maryland, Monuments & Memorials, Virginia, Weekdays