701 Madison Pl NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA
Ok, let’s get started! This store here at the corner called White House Gifts is a great place to get some souvenirs of your visit here in Washington, DC. They have a little bit of everything in there, and if you spend more than $50, you can get your picture taken at their replica of the oval office. How about that? Get in there and buy some trinkets and then crossover 15th Street to get to Pennsylvania Avenue. We are headed toward the White House.
701 Madison Pl NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA
I’d like to introduce you to Albert Gallatin. That’s the man depicted in the statue on your left. Swedish by birth, he emigrated to America in 1780 at just 19 years old. Fifteen years later he found himself elected to the House of Representatives and constantly fighting with the independent minded, stubborn, passionate Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, whose statue is on the other side of this building. Gallatin succeeded Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury, and served under President Thomas Jefferson, and President James Madison. Under the two presidents, Gallatin served as Secretary for just under thirteen years, which is the longest term to date of any Secretary in the Department’s history. In his final year, before he retired, Gallatin went to Russia to represent the United States in the peace conference with England and France settling hostilities. As a result, the Treaty of Ghent was signed December 24, 1814, thus ending the war of 1812 between the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Now that’s how to retire on a high note. Ok, keep heading west toward the White House.
701 Madison Pl NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA
On your right is the Freedman’s Bank Building. With the end of the Civil War and the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865, slavery was finally abolished in the United States. Almost overnight nearly 4 million African American men, women, and children were freed. While you might think this would be the most amazing moment for these men, women, and children, you have to remember that this was right after the end of the Civil War. Things were in chaos, the South in ruins, and most of these people had no home, no money, and no work. I can’t imagine all the emotions they must have felt during this time. In an effort to help the newly freed African Americans, the U.S. government created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, or Freedmen’s Bureau for short. They worked on helping with physical needs and building schools. While that was going on, a group of missionaries, abolitionists, and businessmen worked to create a savings bank for these former slaves, African American veterans, and their families. In 1865, by an act of the U.S. government, Abraham Lincoln signed the papers making The Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company a private corporation. The Freedman’s Bank was open for business. In 1867, the Freedman’s Bank moved its headquarters from New York City to Washington, D.C., right where we’re standing. What happened next is heartbreaking and what I would call a criminal-like turn of events. A group of local bankers, politicians and businessmen began to take control of the newly relocated bank. At the urging of these new trustees, who should never have been trusted, Congress amended the bank’s charter. With the amended charter they began investing in real estate projects and railroads, made risky loans to friends, some with no collateral. They also took on bad loans from other banks under their charge. The U.S. Congress was supposed to supervise the trustees, but they paid little to no attention, so when the financial panic hit in 1873, the bank was doomed. The trustees, in an attempt to save the bank, asked Frederick Douglass to come on board and replace the current bank president. He accepted the position without knowing how bad the situation really was. Well there’s a shocker - the trustees withheld the truth, lied, and manipulated a man into taking over a bank they knew was doomed? I’m surprised at this point they didn’t change from calling them TRUSTees to EVILees. Douglas later referred to his new position as being “married to a corpse.” In June 1874 the Freedman’s Bank was closed. While we can’t change how past events unfolded, we can learn going forward and use this memorial as a reminder to strive to do better, to be honest and honorable to those who have put their trust in us. A memorial to remind us to ask the question, “What kind of legacy do you want to leave.” We’ve got another statue ahead on your right. Let’s go see it!
701 Madison Pl NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA
Ahhh, General Lafayette. That’s his statue up on your right. His actual title was General Marquis de Lafayette, but his friends simply called him Lafayette. Considering his birth name was Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, it’s easy to see with all the different names he could go by, he preferred...Lafayette. He was only 20 years old when Congress appointed him to be a major general in the Army fighting for the American Revolution. He was passionate in his loyalty to the cause and it showed when he led his men in blocking Cornwallis’ forces, which ultimately led to the surrender of Yorktown. Not too shabby considering he’d only been a general for 4 years. Behind every great general are great men which is why this memorial is actually a memorial to Lafayette and his Compatriots. On the east side is a group who represent the Revolution’s French naval heroes. If you look closely you’ll see Vice Admiral Count Charles Hector Thoedat D’Estaing. A lot of long names at this memorial! D’estain brought over the first fleet of French war vessels sent to assist in the attack on Savannah. Across from D’Estaing is Lieutenant General Francois Joseph Paul, Counte de Grasse. He received the thanks of Congress for his services, which included the capture of Cornwallis at Yorktown. Our next stop is the White House!! Get excited.
1563 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20006, USA
So, a lot of people view this side of the White House as the back side, since the other side is the more common pictured view, but this is actually the front of the White House, which makes sense as we’re standing on Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House’s address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The other side is famous because you can see the oval office, that’s the side where the President boards Marine One, and the side dignitaries are welcomed when they come to visit. The top floor is the residence part of the White House, where the President sleeps and if there are any children living in the White House, their bedrooms are facing you. I have to go to places like an airport or a major shopping mall to get in some good people-watching time, but one of the perks of having a dad for the president is you can just go look out your bedroom window and be entertained all day. But the residence isn’t limited to just the top floor, the residence actually spans six floors, with 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, eight staircases, and three elevators…forget people watching, you could have an epic game of hide-and-seek in this place. What’s really amazing is how the First Family moves into this place. It’s like a well-oiled machine, which it would have to be if they’re going to get everything done in just five hours. That’s right, on inauguration day, at 10:30 am, they start moving everything that belonged to the current president out and by 2:30 pm have everything moved in and set up for the incoming First Family. Not only do the staffers have to move out the sitting president’s belongings, they also have to move in the president-elect’s things, but furniture is changed, artwork swapped, walls are repainted, all per the requests of the incoming first family. It takes me five hours to just pack up my kitchen, forget moving out, redecorating and completely moving in. I need a nap just thinking about doing all of that. We’ve all heard that there have been pets in the White House, right? While dogs might be the most common, there has also been a pet racoon, two opossums, a turkey (we’ll get to that later), a children’s pony, an alligator, and a pair of tiger cubs that were gifted to President Van Buren. Pretty sure you’re going to lose your pet deposit with some of those. As for the turkey – while it was President George H.W. Bush who began the tradition of pardoning a turkey in 1989, and every president has kept that tradition since, the saving of a holiday turkey can be traced back to 1863 when President Lincoln was gifted a Christmas turkey for the holiday feast and his young son, Tad, intervened. I think it’s safe to say Tad was hands down the most rambunctious, and by rambunctious, I mean out of control, child to live in the White House. But as the old saying goes when it comes to raising kids, “you’ve got to pick your battles.” and with the Civil War at hand, I’m thinking Tad’s youthful…shenanigans were on the lower end of the totem pole when it came to the battles. When Tad felt passionate about something, he definitely put his whole heart into it and the Lincoln’s often found it hard to tell him no, which brings us to the Christmas turkey in 1863. A few weeks before Christmas, the first family was gifted a turkey for their holiday feast. Tad instantly fell in love with the bird, announced he was adopting it as a pet, and was naming him Jack. Believe it or not, Tad actually taught his new pet turkey to follow him as he hiked around the White House grounds. On Christmas Eve, Lincoln sat down and told Tad that Jack would no longer be his pet as he had been given to the family to eat on Christmas Day. Tad insisted Jack was a good turkey, that the bird had every right to live, and begged his father to not kill him. It was no surprise to anyone when the president gave in to his son, making it official by writing a reprieve for the turkey on a card, and handing it to Tad. So, thanks to a turkey named, Jack, every year a holiday turkey is pardoned by the president and saved from being part of the holiday feast. Before we move on, I wanted to quickly mention the tent pitched behind you, on the side of the street facing the white house. While current laws prohibit anyone from pitching a tent and/or sleeping overnight in Lafayette Park, this particular tent dwelling was established before that became a law and was therefore grandfathered in, and is allowed under one condition, the tent has to always be occupied, someone has to always be living in the tent. If the tent is empty for even just one night, regardless of weather conditions, then the dwelling will be dismantled permanently. This tented dwelling was first pitched in August 1981 as an anti-nuclear vigil in front of the White House, eventually it became known as the White House Peace Vigil. Concepcion Picciotto was one of the first to join William Thomas, who founded the tent, and she lived there, 365 days a year for almost 34 years. Eventually, lobbyists saw the value in having access to such prime protesting real-estate and began assisting the tents occupants. On nights when weather was its most severe, they would bring someone to live in the tent for a period of time so Concepcion could stay somewhere warm for a few days and get some much-needed rest. Since her death in 2016, Philipos Melaku-Bello has taken over as resident of the vigil’s tent, ensuring it will continue its Peace Vigil for as long as there are people willing to support their vigil for a nuclear-free world. Ok, time to move on. As you are facing the White House, you need to go to the right, toward 17th Street.
700 Jackson Pl NW, Washington, DC 20506, USA
Up ahead, you’ll see a statute of Marshal Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau – a French nobleman who played a significant role in the U.S. Revolution. You may remember from the Hamilton musical that he was the commander of the French Army assisting the colonists during the War. The Washington Evening Star noted that while “it was customary in America to look upon Lafayette as the representative of France’s assistance to the United States during the critical days of the revolution…, as far as the French government was concerned in the issues of that conflict the great field marshal, Count de Rochambeau, was at all times its representative.” A statue to Rochambeau, then, would symbolize official Franco-American diplomatic relations, not only in the eighteenth century but also at the dawn of the twentieth century. Turning back to the song “Guns and Ships” in Hamilton, we are reminded that Rochambeau went to France to secure more funds, guns and ships, which were then used at the Battle of Yorktown. In May 1902, Congress approved a statue commemorating Rochambeau statue, with essentially no debate. Ok, let’s keep walking.
1650 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20504, USA
On your right is the Blair house. It’s the cream colored brick building with green shutters. Technically a part of the White House complex, the Blair House has been called “the world's most exclusive hotel," "Uncle Sam's guesthouse," and "the best small hotel in Washington," and rightly so. Since 1942, the Blair House has been a hotel of choice for former presidents, incoming Presidents, and major leaders from around the world. Some of the Blair House’s more interesting guests include Margaret Thatcher, Ariel Sharon, and Emperor Hirohito of Japan. It's so exclusive that when the Obamas asked to move in a little early so their daughters could start school on Jan. 5, the President-elect and his wife were told they had to wait their turn. ('SORRY, WE'RE BOOKED,' WHITE HOUSE TELLS OBAMA was the New York Times headline.) Apparently Australia's former Prime Minister, John Howard, already had dibs. There are countless stories about the Blair House in the press – go ahead and give it a quick Google search and you’ll see! Ahead on your right is the Renwick Gallery. Let’s go there next.
1650 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20504, USA
The Renwick Gallery was established by the Smithsonian to host American contemporary craft, celebrating makers taking both innovative and time-honored approaches to their work. Oftentimes, the exhibits in the Gallery are so popular that guests wait in lines for more than an hour to see the beautiful, but cutting-edge art and installations. This National Historic Landmark was designed by architect James Renwick Jr. in 1858 and was the first building in the United States built specifically to be an art museum. While we have a lot of places on this tour for us to go see, if you have time later, this is one you’ll definitely want to come back and check out. Turn left at 17th Street and follow the sidewalk. There are a lot of beautiful buildings along this stretch of our tour.
614 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20006, USA
Our first beautiful building here is the Dwight D. Eisenhower Office Building. It’s gonna be on your left and it stretches out for a couple of blocks. It’s a big one. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) has occupied a prominent place next to the White House for almost 150 years, where it hosts the majority of the staff that work “in” the White House. Chances are that if you meet someone who works in the West Wing of the White House…their office is actually in the EEOB. Taking 17 years to build, it was meant to host the Departments of State, War, and the Navy. Alfred B. Mullett, Supervising Architect of the Treasury Department designed the building to be built in 4 stages, culminating in its completion in 1888. In 1949 the building became the Executive Office Building to better identify its occupants, the Bureau of the Budget and White House staff. In 1955 President Dwight D. Eisenhower held the first televised presidential press conference in the Indian Treaty Room. The building has housed all Vice Presidents and their staff, beginning with Lyndon B. Johnson. It also hosted the private office for President Nixon, who was said to prefer his office in the EEOB far more than the Oval Office. The granite walls are nearly four feet thick and supported on spread hydraulic concrete footings. The window frames, exterior roof sculpture, cornices, and roof trim are cast iron. The interior has ceilings eighteen feet high, and nearly two miles of corridors, lined with floors of white marble and black limestone. Monumental curving granite staircases, lined with over 4,000 individually cast bronze balusters, are set below four sky lit domes and two stained-glass rotundas. The State Department's south wing was the first to be occupied. It contains a library, the Diplomatic Reception Room, and the Secretary's office suite decorated with carved wood, Oriental rugs, and stenciled wall patterns. In 1982 the Preservation Office was established to develop a comprehensive preservation program for the building. This includes research, educational programs, the public tour program, and the formulation of a master plan for the building's continued adaptive use. The upgraded maintenance program has also included the restoration of some of the building's spectacular historic interiors to their original appearance.
550 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20429, USA
You are probably still admiring the Dwight D. Eisenhower building, but let me call your attention real quick to the building across the street with the black shutters and ornate black wrought iron work at the second floor. That’s the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), which is housed in the historic Winder Building. Most people aren’t too familiar with the USTR, but it is the United States government agency responsible for developing and recommending United States trade policy to the president of the United States. Have a question about trades and tariffs on automobiles from Japan? The USTR is the person you would want to ask. Our current USTR is Robert E. Lighthizer, who actually holds the rank of Ambassador. The Winder Building was known as Washington's first “skyscraper” when it opened for business in 1848 because it was actually the tallest and largest office building at the time in DC. The government purchased the building in 1854 for $200,000. In 1969, the Winder Building was declared a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. Go ahead and keep walking down 17th. I’ll meet you at the next corner.
500 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20006, USA
Not sure if you can turn left here and get into the park to see the Monument that is here. Often they have it all blocked off by security. I’ll tell you about it regardless. Located directly south of the EEOB, in an area known as President’s Park, The Monument commemorates those who died while serving in the 1st Infantry Division of the U. S. Army. The monument was established after WWI as a memorial to the fallen soldiers of the First Division, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). The First Division was formed as part of the AEF shortly after the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917 and famously led by General John J. Pershing. The soldiers of the First Division were the first American troops to arrive in France in 1917 and the last to leave Europe in September 1919. The names of 5,516 First Division soldiers are commemorated on the monument. Pershing was particularly proud of the First Division, which came to be known as "Pershing's Own." He said of the division that it had "a special pride of service and a high state of morale never broken by hardship nor battle.” In October 1919, the First Division Memorial Association was organized to raise funds and oversee the memorial project. Completed in 1924, more than 6000 veterans and guest’s attended the dedication that was led by President Calvin Coolidge. If you were able to get into the park, cool! Now go back to 17th street and keep walking in the direction we have been going. If you weren’t able to get into the park, well, just keep walking down 17th.
500 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20006, USA
So here’s another cool building on your right. It’s the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design and it is part of the George Washington University campus. Home to a world-renown staff, the students are artists who aim to impact the world and drive social change. The Corcoran offers 22 degrees, believe it or not – everything from photography to performing arts The most striking feature of the building are the Canova Lions, which are copies of a pair of lions sculpted by Antonio Canova in 1792 for the tomb of Pope Clement XIII(13) in St Peter's in Rome. The originals were sculpted from marble; these were cast in bronze from molds of the originals. The pieces were installed in 1860. Originally placed at the home of a DC businessman, the lions were purchased at auction by the Corcoran Gallery in 1888 and placed in front of the museum when it was at Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventeenth Street, N.W. (now the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum). They were moved to their current location in 1897 when the museum moved to its new location at Seventeenth Street and New York Avenue, N.W.
171 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20006, USA
So if you were to cross the street and follow one of the paths to the left, you would get to the Ellipse in the President’s park, and also the National Christmas Tree. I’ll tell you a little about it but we need to keep walking down 17th. Come back to the Ellipse later. The Ellipse of the White House was originally designed by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who designed the layout of Washington DC in 1791. Designed to be a park, it was used as corrals for horses and mules as well as campgrounds for Union Soldiers during the Revolutionary War. In 1860, it was the first playing field for the Washington Senators Baseball team – now known as the Washington Nationals. In 1867, it became a true park and since then has been associated with the White House. On Christmas Eve 1943, President Coolidge started the tradition of lighting the National Christmas tree -- a 48-foot fir tree decorated with 2,500 electric bulbs in red, white and green, as a local choir and a “quartet” from the U.S. Marine Band performed. This tradition remains unbroken and hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the Ellipse each year to see the National Christmas Tree and the National Menorah, which was added in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter.
6156 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20006, USA
I bet you can guess what the building across the street is. There’s a clue on the front of the building. Built between 1915 and 1917, The Headquarters of the American Red Cross serves both as a memorial to women who served in the American Civil War and as well as the functional offices of the national organization. The American Red Cross, founded by Clara Barton and a circle of her acquaintances in Washington, DC on May 21, 1881, shelters, feeds, and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission.
224 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20006, USA
Our next amazing building is the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall, commonly referred to as the “DAR.” Founded more than 125 years ago, the Daughters of the American Revolution features more than 1,000,000 members who honor their heritage as descendants of those who participated in the Revolutionary War. Construction for the complex began in 1928 – the cornerstone was laid by President Calvin Coolidge’s wife, Grace, using the trowel George Washington used to lay the cornerstone at the Capitol in 1793. Every president since Calvin Coolidge has attended events at DAR Constitution Hall. Until the 1950s the Hall had a glass ceiling and a view of the stars. Memorial Continental Hall was designated as a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1935 for its role in world history, which includes hosting the famous Conference on the Limitation of Armaments in the wake of WWI (1921). There’s another cool building coming up ahead on your right.
146 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20006, USA
The Organization of American States was established in 1889 to April 1890 as an organization to represent all the countries, or “states” in the Americas. While 18 countries participated in the initial conference creating the OAS, now, every country from Canada to the tip of South America is represented and encouraged to engage in political dialogue and cooperation across the continent. The building that houses the OAS was made possible through a donation from Andrew Carnegie, who was long known for his support of world peace. When the building opened in 1910, it was immediately recognized for its beauty and grandeur. The original building featured a large indoor patio area with flora from across the Americas, including exotic coffee trees, palms, mangos, and cacti. Let’s make our way across the street so I can show you some of the great monuments on this end of the national mall
Constitution Ave NW & 17th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20006, USA
See that old grey stone building catty corner to your right across Constitution Avenue? That’s where we are heading next. Pick a crosswalk and meet me there.
17th St NW, Washington, DC 20230, USA
Believe it or not, this small building is the oldest building on the National Mall and represents a time when the geography of Washington, DC was significantly different. In the 1800s, the end of 17th street was a wharf, while Constitution was actually a section of the Washington City Canal that connected the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers. Built in 1837, the house served the canal lock keeper, who collected tolls, recorded commerce, maintained the canal and managed traffic. The building was recently moved 30 feet back from the curb to avoid 6 lanes of traffic flying by, which was taking a pretty severe toll on this old historical building. Ok, let’s follow the path that runs along 17th. We are headed into the mall.
17th St NW, Washington, DC 20230, USA
Have you ever wondered who decides what monuments and memorials are built and which ones aren’t? Why does this President or that President deserve a monument while another one doesn’t? As you can imagine, these are never easy decisions, nor are they taken lightly, which is why there is an executive branch agency dedicated to this very thing. The American Battle Monuments Commission is in charge of all of that. Yup, the ABMC operates and maintains 24 permanent U.S. military cemeteries, and 25 memorial structures in 15 countries around the world, In the National Mall alone, we have 11 different monuments, ranging from honoring past Presidents, veterans who gave their lives in service of their country, to people who greatly influenced America as we know it. Let’s head to the World War Two Memorial. Keep walking along 17th Street.