1300 12th St Expy, Washington, DC 20560, USA
Whatever mode of transportation you use to get here, a good starting point is near the Smithsonian Station Metro Stop located just off the intersection of 12th St. & Jefferson Drive. Once you arrive, it’s a short walk to our first point of interest - the National Mall. Here are the instructions: Find the metro entrance and look beyond it - you’ll see a broad gravel path flanked by grass that leads from the roadway toward the center of the National Mall. Take that path, and position yourself in the center of the Mall. It’s a tough spot to miss. You’ll see a large, grassy expanse on either side with the United States Capitol Building to the east and the Washington Monument to the west. I’ll meet you there!
1300 12th St Expy, Washington, DC 20560, USA
What a view! You are now standing on the Eastern Side of the National Mall - that is, the strip of land between the Washington Monument & the Capitol Building. Let’s give you a 360 degree orientation. Look toward the white dome of the United States Capitol Building. The dome represents the center of Washington, DC and is west of you. To your right front is a medieval looking building made of red sandstone. This is the Smithsonian Castle, the headquarters of the largest collection of museums in the world - the Smithsonian Institute. To your left front, directly opposite the Castle, you’ll see the golden dome of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (that’s where the Hope Diamond & Dinosaur bones are kept). To your immediate left (in the distance), you’ll see the tall, gray clock tower of the Old Post Office, and as you stay in place but continue to rotate toward your left rear, you’ll see the boxy, slightly pinkish exterior of the Smithsonian Museum of American History, partially obscured by trees. Inside you’ll find the Star Spangled Banner, dresses of the First Ladies, and Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers. Keep rotating left and you’ll see a giant marble obelisk - the Washington Monument (more on that later). Turn a bit further and on the opposite side of the mall from the American History Museum, you should see a building fronted with stately columns. That’s the United States Department of Agriculture or USDA for short. Not only do they inspect meat, but they’ve also got a nuclear fallout shelter in their basement, so make sure you’re nice to the doorman. Keep spinning your view ends back at the castle & the Capitol Dome. Ok enough spinning. I’m getting dizzy. Now a bit of history for you. Begun in 1793, the Capitol was first occupied by Congress in 1800, and it was much smaller than what you see today. Weighing in at 9 million pounds, the dome is actually made of cast iron - not stone. A later addition, it wasn’t completed until 1866, immediately after the Civil War. Look closely. On either side of the dome, stand two flagpoles. The left pole tops the Senate chamber, the right marks the House of Representatives. Together, both chambers comprise the legislative branch of the US government - the lawmakers. If a flag flies on either pole, it means that respective chamber is in session. This tradition recalls a time before smartphones when a hoisted flag visually alerted nearby Congressmen that their workday had begun. The statue atop the building is an allegorical female figure grandly entitled, Freedom Triumphant in War & Peace. You can call her Freedom (and just between you & me, she ain’t free and she ain’t easy). By unwritten rule, she’s also the tallest statue in the city at 19 ½ feet. Returning your gaze to the Smithsonian Castle, notice the building’s distinctive red color & romanesque architecture. Completed in 1855, it was designed by James Renwick Jr. - the same architect responsible for St. Patrick’s Cathedral on New York City’s 5th Avenue. Nowadays the castle is primarily an office building, but there is a cafe & some exhibit space on the ground floor. Back when it was the only building in the Smithsonian, it housed the entire museum collection and was nearly gutted by fire in 1865. As you can see, the building survived. But how did it get there in the first place? I’ll tell you the story as we walk Face the Washington Monument. On either side of the grass in front of you are two gravel paths leading toward 14th Street. Take the path on your right and follow it toward the Washington monument until you reach the road. As you walk, the Smithsonian American History Museum should be on your right. Now for the story. James Smithson was a British scientist who died in 1829. In and of itself, that fact is unremarkable. Upon his death, however, James saw fit to leave his personal fortune of $500,000 (roughly $14 million in today’s money) - to the United States Government. In his will, James specified the express purpose of this money was to found, “...in Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men”. Why? Firstly, as a scientist James was an admirer of American founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson & Benjamin Franklin - fellow scientists & intellectuals who also lived a life of the mind. Most importantly, James was born the illegitimate son of an English nobleman who (because of his illegitimacy) never acknowledged James’ as his rightful heir - this left James with a lifelong chip on his shoulder, forever after disgusted by the concept of inherited titles of nobility. Understandably, James would become a great admirer of the American Constitution - a document which expressly forbids the creation of noble titles & privileges throughout the land. And that’s why we got the cash. Thank you James! Continue toward 14th Street, when the path ends, turn right and locate your first crosswalk at the intersection of Madison Drive & 14th Street. Turn left and cross 14th Street. As you do so, you’ll see the distinctive, three tiered bronze exterior of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture to your right front and a small grassy hill to the left. Stay along the side of the street nearer the hill for your next stop.
50 14th St SW, Washington, DC 20560, USA
The building on the opposite side of the street is the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. As of this recording, there are 21 Smithsonian museums in the United States. Opened in 2016, this newest member of the family chronicles the journey of the African American people. The museum’s outer appearance is distinct in a number of ways. Firstly, the intricate bronze-colored panels are meant to recall the ornamental ironwork seen on the exterior of stately, antebellum homes in southern cities like Charleston, South Carolina or New Orleans, Louisiana - such pre-civil-war ironwork was often crafted by enslaved African Americans. Secondly, since the church has long been central to the African American experience, the upward angle of the building’s top three tiers is evocative of hands being lifted in prayer. Lastly, you’ll note the building’s color relative to its surrounding neighbors - an unspoken declaration that darkness of color has its own unique beauty. There’s plenty to see inside! In the upstairs cultural exhibits, you’ll find Jesse Owens’ track shoes or Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac El Dorado. In the downstairs history section, you’ll encounter powerful artifacts related to black luminaries such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass or Booker T. Washington. Three years prior to opening, the first exhibition artifacts were installed while the building still lacked a roof - namely a massive prison guard tower and an entire railroad passenger car (both from the segregationist Jim Crow era) had to be lowered by crane into the museum’s open foundation before the rest of the building could be constructed around them. If you wish to pay a visit take note; depending on the day of the week AND the time of day, you may need prearranged tickets. If you’re interested, check out their website (you’ll find their external link connected with this stop on your app). Now it’s time to continue on to the next crosswalk at 15th street. Crossover so that you find yourself on the far side of the street with no more car traffic between you and the Washington Monument. Then turn to your left and head toward the front door of the small stone building a closeby the street. I’ll meet you there.
1 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, DC 20024, USA
1 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, DC 20024, USA
This sturdy little building is the Washington Monument Lodge. As you face the front door, the main entrance leads into the gift shop. On either side of the building you’ll find restrooms. On the backside of the building, you’ll find the ticket window where (on most mornings) free, same-day passes to enter the Washington Monument are distributed. Inquire inside or visit their website to learn more. When you’re ready to move on, head around to the backside of the lodge and stand in the small, semi-circular plaza facing toward the monument. This is a terrific spot to talk about Washington's great obelisk by-the-numbers. At just about 555 in height, the Washington Monument is both the tallest obelisk and the tallest free-standing stone structure in the world. Like the great pyramids, it was built simply; brick placed atop brick, and held together by the friction and weight of its stones (not by mortar). After it opened in 1884, it was also the tallest structure in the world, but it would be eclipsed by the Eiffel Tower in 1889. On a clear day, visitors to the 500 ft observation deck level can see up to 30 miles in every direction. The monument weighs in at 91,000 tons and is supported by an immense, 37 foot thick foundation, hidden underneath the grassy hill below. A strong foundation proved necessary in 2011 when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake unexpectedly shook Washington, DC. The monument survived but was subsequently encased in scaffolding for almost three years as repairs were made - some of the stones having separated so badly, daylight from inside the monument. But why is George Washington’s monument a gigantic obelisk? It doesn’t tell you a tremendous amount about Washington the man. Why not give him a statue, or a tasteless theme park ride? There’s a story here. I’ll share it with you as we walk up to the monument's base. There’s no right or wrong way to get there - cut across the grass if you like, or circle around to take the sidewalks that approach from either the right or left. The choice is yours. Once there, head toward the glass enclosed security area to trigger the next stop. Start walking and I’ll pick up the story. Begun on July 4th, 1848, the monument was originally envisioned as a central pillar (600 feet high) surrounded by columns & filled with statuary & flowery inscriptions telling George Washington’s story. But then the project ran out of money! You see, initially, the building project was run by a private organization & financed with donations - but internal corruption derailed the fundraising effort and only the lower third of the monument had been completed when construction ground to a halt in 1855. It would take two decades to restart. In the meantime, the public made fun of the unfinished monument by derisively calling it the ‘national stump’. Mark Twain even likened it to a chimney. In order to end the national embarrassment, the federal government assumed control of the project in 1876 & the Army Corps of Engineers completed the monument with a redesign focused on creating a single, elegant obelisk. Not only was this design more time & cost efficient, the minimalism allowed for the visiting public to determine for itself the meaning behind the monument. The end result is a physically impressive monument which modestly refuses to tell Americans how to feel about the father of their country - instead, Washington’s Monument encourages free citizens to decide for themselves. As you look at the monument, do you notice the color change 1/3rd of the way up the side? That’s the watermark of the great Washington, DC flood of 1903! Believe me? You probably shouldn’t … because I’m lying. The real reason for the tan line is that the Army Corps of Engineers used a slightly different type of marble to finish construction once they took control. While the project lay dormant, the quarry which supplied the first 170 feet marble was exhausted of its building material during the Civil War in order to build protective forts around the city. Speaking of which, I’ll see you at the security checkpoint!
2 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20024, USA
Here at the foot of the Washington Monument, you can really get a sense of both its immense height and the central position it occupies on the National Mall. Today, the monument serves as the focal point of the capital city and can be seen directly from the US Capitol Building, the Lincoln Memorial & the White House. This central placement is purposeful as it provides every DC visitor with a prominent, visual reminder of George Washington’s life & legacy. Take some time to explore. And when you’re ready to go, here are some brief instructions on how to get to the next stop. Position yourself so that (as you look forward) you can see past the Washington Monument toward the great temple of the Lincoln Memorial in the distance. Now, look to your right. That roadway you see running parallel to the National Mall is called Constitution Avenue. When you’re ready to go, exit the Washington Monument plaza on the Constitution Avenue side. There will be a break in the chain where the sidewalks enters the plaza. As you leave, keep Constitution Avenue on your right hand side and bear left along the pathway; the path will curve around and eventually straighten out, pointing you directly toward the Lincoln Memorial. Just follow it and I’ll meet you along the way!
Add title here
As you follow the pathway leading away from the Washington Monument, look to your right and you’ll see the White House clearly through a gap in the trees. Take a moment to stop and admire the South Lawn view. The White House is the oldest federal building in Washington, D.C. and has served as the residence of presidents from the year 1800 onward. John Adams - the second President of the United States - was the first chief executive to occupy the house. From this vantage point, you can see the South Portico (or porch) with its prominent columns and the famous Truman balcony just beneath the second floor windows. Inside the house you’ll find 55,000 square feet space broken down into 132 rooms - plus 35 bathrooms so you’ll never be stuck without a place to go if you get lost. Atop the house, you’ll notice an American Flag which flies 24 hours a day - regardless if the president is home or not. As to whether or not the President is inside right now, we’re not at liberty to say (but you could check the White House website!). The area of the White House south lawn between the house and the fountain is the landing zone for the presidential helicopter. Choppers have been touching down on the South Lawn ever since the 1950s during President Eisenhower’s second term, but it wasn’t until 1976 that the United States Marine Corps assumed the sole responsibility for transporting the President to and from the house via helicopter; and as soon as the president steps onboard, the chopper’s call sign is designated Marine One - in much the same way that any air force aircraft carrying the president is designated Air Force One. As an added security precaution, when the President travels aboard Marine One, there are two identical helicopters flying alongside as decoys. As you move around DC, keep your eyes open for a group of three green bodied, white topped helicopters - unless it’s a training exercise, the president might just be onboard! Let’s continue our walk. Stay on the path as you walk toward the Lincoln Memorial.
Unnamed Road, Washington, DC 20230, USA
As you walk on, notice 17th Street ahead of (and perpendicular to) you. Just beyond, are the circularly arrayed pillars & victory arches at our next destination, the WWII Memorial. Believe it or not, all the land from here down to the Lincoln Memorial is actually landfill - put here in the late 1800s by the Army Corps of Engineers. If you stood here at the beginning of the 19th century, instead of striding along the sidewalk you’d be stuck in a sprawling, gooey mudflat or immersed in a few feet of river water depending on how high the Potomac was flowing that day. Aren’t you lucky. That’s why this western half of the National Mall (between the Washington Monument & Lincoln Memorial) is sometimes referred to as the New Mall, because it was added on later - as opposed to the Old Mall which refers to the preexisting land where you began the tour near the Smithsonian museums. And why do I keep calling it the National Mall anyway? Isn’t a mall where you go shopping and later regret your decision to indulge in a food court Cinnabon? Well, yes. But the original meaning of the world mall dates back to an old english term referring to a long walk, or promenade. Which is what you’re doing right now. Fancy that! Continue on and crossover 17th Street. On the farside of the crosswalk, turn left and head toward the entrance of the WWII Memorial. Position yourself between the two flag poles at the top of the broad staircase leading down into the memorial. Here you’ll notice a large entrance stone or tablet with an inscription beginning with the words, “HERE IN THE PRESENCE OF WASHINGTON AND LINCOLN,”. That’s where I’ll see you next.
Unnamed Road, Washington, DC 20245, USA
Add title here
Welcome to the World War II Memorial. As you stand beside the entrance stone & its inscription, you should have 17th street behind you and a broad staircase to your front leading down to a central fountain. What a glorious location to honor America’s Greatest Generation! WWII was the largest conflict in human history and America’s victory (alongside her allies) over the Axis Powers stands as a critically important moment in world history and as a righteous defense of Western civilization in the face of evil - hence the triumphalist memorial you see before you. As you walk inside, let’s breakdown the memorial’s elements. On either side of the staircase you’ll see bronze relief carvings depicting moments from the timeline of World War II. The leftward carvings show scenes from the Pacific theater of the war and the fight against Imperial Japan, the rightward show the struggle in the Atlantic Theater against Nazi Germany. You’ll notice this theme reoccurs inside the memorial itself with the two victory arches standing at either end of the memorial. Both are topped with inscriptions bearing the names Pacific & Atlantic - a representation of the two theaters (or geographic areas) of the world map where the war was primarily fought. Inside of them you’ll notice bronze American eagles holding a laurel of victory, and a large victory medal beneath your feet. The memorial honors not only the American military, but the entire population of the United States that worked together to win the war. There are 56 pillars ringing the memorial, each representing a different United States’ territory or state that contributed to the war effort. The pillars are adorned with alternating wreaths of oak (symbolizing the nation's industrial strength) and wheat (a symbol of agricultural strength). If you look at the base of the pillars, you’ll also notice that they are connected by a bronze rope - a symbol of national unity. The memorial’s most powerful element is the wall gold of stars just beyond the fountain. Sixteen million Americans served in the military during WWII. Many would make the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom. Each gold star represents 100 american dead; since there are just over 4000 stars on the wall, quick arithmetic tells you that approximately 400,000 died during the war - the 2nd deadliest conflict in American history (the Civil War being the first). Why the gold color? Beginning with the World Wars, American families back home adopted a tradition of publicly displaying service pennants on their property - the pennants were adorned with stars. The amount of stars indicated the number of loved ones a family had in the service. For instance, if you had two sons in the Marine corps, there were two stars on your flag. If your loved one was alive, their star was blue. If a loved one was killed their star was gold. This solemn tradition continues to this day and has given rise to the term GOLD STAR family - a reference to American families that have lost loved ones in the service of their country. Take some time to explore. When you’re ready - in order to get to our next stop - locate the Atlantic Arch. Exit the memorial via the arch by walking straight out and down the path. Don’t turn right or left, just continue on toward Constitution Avenue keeping 17th Street on your right. I’ll find you along the way.
Unnamed Road, Washington, DC 20245, USA
As you walk along, on your left you should see a manmade pond with 17th street on your right and Constitution Avenue passing in front of you. Now look toward your right front and toward the intersection of Constitution & 17th. Stop when you notice the small stone cottage with two chimneys. This building is called the Lockkeeper’s house and it dates back to the early days of Washington, D.C.. during the era when the Washington Monument was still a stump and before the landfill had been added to create the New Mall. Back then, Constitution Avenue (which you see before you) wasn’t an Avenue at all - it was actually a man-made river...a canal! Namely, the Washington City Canal and the canal barges with their various cargoes entered and exited the canal via a system of water gates or locks. The lock keeper was the man who controlled the locks and he lived in this tiny little house. The job of lock keeper stunk. No really … it was a notoriously smelly gig. You see, the construction of the canal predated the advent of DC’s sewer system, and lacking a better option, the canal became the city’s dumping ground. Dead cat? Throw it in the canal? Rotten food? You bet! Human waste. You know where to put it! On certain days, the stench would even carry all the way to the White House - as if the job of being president weren't burdensome enough. Nowadays, the canal is gone and the lock keeper's house has been repurposed into a miniature visitor center. Feel free to go inside if you like, but before you do, let me point out how to get to our next stop. Look again at the pond off to your left - this is the section of the mall known as Constitution Gardens. On the far side of the pond, you’ll notice a snack shack near the water's edge. You can go right or left around the pond, just as long as you end up at the shack. I’ll see you there … and as you walk enjoy this historically appropriate background music; Here’s the legendary Pete Seeger singing a classic American folk song ‘Low Bridge’, which remembers the bygone days of canal travel.
Unnamed Road, Washington, DC 20245, USA
Description: Feel free to grab a bite or a drink at the kiosk (provided it’s open). Otherwise, look past the kiosk to the continuing path. As you continue on your walk, to the left is a restroom area and further down on your left you’ll encounter our next stop, a statue of three female nurses tending to a wounded soldier. I’ll see you there.
Unnamed Road, Washington, DC 20245, USA
Upcoming on your left is the Vietnam Women’s Memorial - specifically, this memorial honors the thousands of American nurses who served during the Vietnam War, 8 of whom died during the conflict (notice the 8 trees which encircle the statuary plaza, planted in their memory). The sculptor of this allegorical statuary grouping is a woman - Glenna Goodacre - who you might also recognize for the image of Sakakawea she created for the well known US Dollar Coin. The blindfolded soldier represents the Vietnam War’s many wounded servicemen. The three nurses are named for biblical virtues found in a well known passage from the New Testament Book of I Corinthians - faith, hope & love. Now, I’ll give you a moment to look at how the nurses are posed; see if you can determine which is which. Time for the answer … love (also known as charity) tends to the soldier, faith prays for him, and hope looks upwards for the soldier’s helicopter evacuation. Now, turn from facing the statue and look behind you to see the black, reflective stone of the Vietnam Wall cut into hillside a few dozen yards away. This is our next stop. As you face the wall with the nurses memorial to your back, you’ll notice a pathway to your right front which leads into the walkway in front of the wall itself. Take the pathway and we’ll experience the wall together.
Constitution Avenue and 21st Street NW, Washington, DC 20245, USA
Take your time as you walk along the wall, because I’m here to give you all the info you’ll need. Unveiled in the early 1980s shortly after the end of the war, the American experience in Vietnam remains a controversial, complex subject in national memory. Fought in order to stop the spread of communism in southeast asia, Americans began dying in Vietnam in the 1950s; the bloodletting wouldn’t end until 1975. Over the course of this time, the war became increasingly divisive, and ultimately America’s opponent - communist North Vietnam, would eventually emerge victorious after the withdrawal of US troops. As a result, this memorial conveys a more somber feeling than the triumphalism you may have experienced at World War II. Over 58,000 servicemen (and 8 nurses) died during the conflict and their names are carved into the wall. If you look close enough, you’ll see diamonds & occasional crosses in front each name - a diamond means the servicemen was killed in action and cross means they went missing; their ultimate fate left undetermined. The design of the wall is calculated to bring you into a quiet, contemplative space. Notice your reflection on the black granite surface as you draw close enough to read a name, or how the wall pulls you down into the earth while the grief-filled toll of names on each panel grows ever taller, or how the names themselves are not separated by rank - as they have all become equal in death. Occasionally, you might also notice mementos left behind at the foot of the wall to honor the fallen, such as letters, photographs or various & sundry other items. The largest object ever left at the wall - a fully functioning Harley Davidson motorcycle. Feel free to pick up anything you might come across for closer inspection, so long as you put it back once you’re done. The architect of the memorial is Maya Linn and her story is a fascinating one. In order to choose the memorial’s architect, a national contest was held in 1981. At the time, Maya Lin - a young Asian-American architectural student whose parents had escaped the communist dictatorship of Mao’s China - was enrolled at Yale University in funereal design class. The class professor tasked each student to submit a design into the competition not expecting that any of them would actually be chosen as the winner. They would however receive a grade from the professor. Maya’s v-shaped wall design arranged the names in chronological order by date of death and avoided any political statement given the controversial nature of the war. It was clever - but it only earned her a B-. Imagine Maya’s shock when afterwards the competition officials came to her dormitory room and informed the 21-year-old that she had emerged the winner and received a $20,000 first prize. It just goes to show you. Teachers are never right ... just kidding. As you exit the wall turn left and you’ll notice another statuary grouping closeby a tall flagpole. That’s where we’ll meet next.
297 Henry Bacon Dr NW, Washington, DC 20245, USA
From where you are now, you should see a statuary grouping of three soldiers emerging from the woods to gaze at the Vietnam Wall beyond. These figures are meant to represent the average American soldier who fought in Vietnam and their placement here sprang from a disagreement. Although it was soon after recognized as a masterpiece of design, when the wall was initially unveiled it met with a sharply divided response. Some critics were confused by the minimalist layout and there was a push to include more traditional elements - such as bronze statues and American flags. Maya Linn fought against this as she felt that such additions denied visitors the chance to decide for themselves how to feel about the Vietnam War. She was also concerned that they would ultimately distract attention from the wall and its list of the honored dead, particularly if they were placed too close. Eventually, a compromise was reached to install a statuary element, put to place it well back from the wall. This is the result. A good reminder that design & debate often go hand in hand. Let’s continue on. Look beyond the flagpole toward the iconic temple of the Lincoln Memorial. Follow the path into the plaza and position yourself in the middle - between the one staircase leading up to the temple and the other staircase which leads down to the Reflecting Pool and its view of the Washington Monument. I’ll meet you over there.
5 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA
As you near the center of the plaza, position yourself so that the Lincoln Memorial is behind you and the Reflecting Pool is in front. I wanna tell you about this famous view. The Reflecting pool opened in 1923, is just over 2000 feet long and filled with 6 million gallons of water, fed by the Potomac River. It is so named because its mirror-like surface reflects the Washington Monument - and although it looks pretty, I’d advise against swimming in it because it’s filled with a gag-inducing amount of duck & goose poop. Yuck! What was Forrest Gump thinking when he climbed in there to give Jenny a hug? Not much. Aside from its looks, the reflecting pool also serves a symbolic purpose by connecting the two major presidential memorials found at its east & west ends. George Washington - the founder of the nation - is connected with Abraham Lincoln - the savior of the nation. Now as you face the reflecting pool, look off to your right shoulder, and you’ll see a small National Park Service Kiosk topped with a pointed green roof. Keep this landmark in mind, because it will help orient you later on when we end our tour at the Korean Memorial. Finally, turn around and face the Lincoln Memorial. During Abraham Lincoln’s time in office as the 16th President of the United States, he led the country through a Civil War and oversaw the death of slavery. This is why he is honored with such grandeur. Numbers are an important aspect of the memorial design. Note the thirty-six columns surrounding the temple exterior (one for each state in the United States during the Civil War). Just above the columns you can see the bottom row of names listing the Civil War era states and the year they entered the Union in Roman Numerals. The top row is a list of the 48 states that were part of the Union when the memorial was completed in the year 1922. This focus on the states is intentional, as the Civil War would pit the Northern & Southern states against one another and ultimately see them reunited. During the war itself, approximately 700,000 Americans would die - 2% of the population. In modern numbers it would be equivalent to 6 million Americans dying. This should give you some idea as to how fundamental and astounding the conflict was. The next number can be found in the famous opening line of Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech, The Gettysburg Address, which begins, “Four score and seven years go,”. For those unfamiliar, a score is 20. So four score and seven is 87, thus there are 87 steps which lead from the reflecting pool behind you, all the way up into the temple itself. I now invite you to climb those steps. If you need the elevators, just follow the walkway to the immediate left of the staircase. Otherwise, position yourself in the center of the steps and begin your climb. As you walk you’ll encounter two markers set into the ground. The first is a bronze plaque which adds Hawaii & Alaska to the roll call of states featured here at the memorial - this later addition occurred because Hawaii & Alaska weren’t yet states when the Lincoln Memorial was built. As you continue your ascent you’ll notice that the topmost flight of steps leading into the temple is bright white, while the lower steps are a duller color. Just before you reach those bright marble steps, etched into the stone at your feet is a small inscription which reads, “Martin Luther King Jr, I Have A Dream” - this is the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood when he delivered his immortal speech. I’ll see you in the temple.
5 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA
As you enter the temple you should see the 19 foot tall statue of Abraham Lincoln seated before you. To your right, Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address is etched into the wall, while the immortal words of the Gettysburg Address appear to your left. Take time to explore the interior of the temple, and I’ll share some stories with you. First of all, the statue. It’s made of Georgia marble - which is kind of funny since Georgia fought against the cause of Abraham Lincoln & Union during the Civil War. The reason for this is that the memorial design incorporates stone from all over the United States to symbolize the reunification of the country after the war. The granite terrace outside is from Massachusetts and Colorado provided the marble for the upper steps, while the ceiling tiles come from Alabama and the floor you stand on is Tennessee pink marble. The surrounding walls are Indiana limestone. See? The country that builds together, stays together. Lincoln himself is seated on a chair that is draped with the American flag and supported by two arm rests each held up by bundled rods called fasces - an ancient symbol of unity because as we all know, a single stick is easily broken, but when joined together, they hold fast. Abe’s hands are also significant. Notice his clenched left fist, a demonstration of his stern resolve as a wartime president. But there’s also his open right hand - a symbol of his willingness to welcome the Southern states back into the Union once the war was done. In real life, Lincoln himself had strong hands - not only did he work for a time as a railsplitter, during his younger days growing up in Illinois, he was a top notch wrestler - reportedly winning over a hundred matches and only losing once. He was even known to engage in a little smack talk upon entering the ring but, make no mistake, this wasn’t ‘professional wrestling’ as we know it today (Abe was too honest to smack his opponents with a folding chair). Think more collegiate level wrestling and cauliflower ears. Whenever you’re done exploring, exit the temple and stand at the top of the steps. As you look to your right front & locate that same small National Park Service Kiosk topped with a pointed green roof on the plaza level that I pointed out at our previous stop. Descend the steps and head for that kiosk.
5 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA
Description: The final stop on today’s tour is the Korean War Veterans Memorial, as you arrive at the Korean War Veterans Memorial kiosk, look into the woods behind the kiosk and locate the group of metal statues visible through the trees. This is our final memorial. Follow the path which leads you toward the left hand entrance into the memorial and continue on until you reach the flagpole at the memorials apex, and while you walk, I’ll talk. The Korean War occurred only a few years after the end of World War II and shortly before America’s involvement in Vietnam began. Therefore, it is often hidden in the shadow of those more prominent wars and forgotten. It was an important event however, and the bravery & sacrifice of the American servicemen & women who fought in the war would ensure the future freedoms of countless South Koreans. Here’s a quick snapshot … Led by the power-hungry communist dictatorship of North Korea’s Kim Dynasty, the North Korea army invaded & overwhelmed South Korea in 1950. That was, however, until a US led United Nations military coalition launched a counter invasion to liberate South Korea and beatback the communist aggressors. What ensued was a 3-year, seesaw struggle for control of the Korean Peninsula that would eventually end in a stalemate along the 38th Parallel - the border which continues to separate North & South Korea today. Regrettably, there was no peace treaty to formally end the war - which is why such tension still exists on the Korean peninsula (that and the fact that the Kim dynasty is insane). The upshot of the conflict was that South Korea remained free of North Korean control, which means a better life for millions of South Koreans past, present & future. The stainless steel statues you see inside the memorial represent the American ground soldiers. To their left, you’ll notice a low lying wall engraved with the names of America’s wartime, United Nations allies. To their right, you’ll see another black academy granite wall adorned with faces. More on this later. As you walk along, notice that wherever you are, at least one of the American soldiers is looking at you - a purposeful design feature intended to create a personal connection between visitors and the memory of a forgotten war. Also, notice how the soldiers are outfitted. Those wearing helmets with unbuckled chin straps are army. The 3 soldiers with buckled chin straps are navy (two of whom are marines plus one unarmed Navy medic) and the one soldier without a helmet is an Air Force forward observer. I’ll see you at the flagpole.
10 Daniel French Dr SW, Washington, DC 20245, USA
As you stand at the apex of the memorial and look back at the statues, you should see the Mural Wall along the left hand pathway. Comprising 41 panels and extending 164 feet, the mural wall is etched with the images of over 2,400 Korean War service personnel whose photographs were obtained from the National Archives. You’ll also notice that each of the 19 statues casts a reflection in the wall, which effectively doubles their number to 38 - in recognition of the 38th parallel which divides the Korean Peninsula. As you begin to exit the memorial walking alongside the mural wall, you’ll notice how many of the soldiers on the wall and all the statues opposite are wearing heavy clothing. That’s because the fighting in Korea was often done in freezing conditions. How cold was it? Let me tell you. During the battle of the Chosin Reservoir, thousands of frostbitten United States Marines were surrounded by the enemy and quickly ran out of 60mm mortar ammunition; code named “Tootsie Rolls.” The desperate Marines sent out a radio call to be resupplied with ammo, but the unwitting radio operator at the end of the line did not have the code sheets explaining what a “Tootsie Roll” was. Knowing the request was urgent, he called in the order. Imagine the Marines dismay when shortly thereafter, a palette of actual Tootsie Roll candy was mistakenly airlifted to them. Making the most of a bad situation however, the Marines found that by chewing the rolls and softening them into paste, they could then use them to plug bullet holes in their damaged equipment and the subfreezing temperatures would quickly solidify the repair job, allowing them to fight on. After the battle, these marines would refer to themselves as the Chosin few and they learned that necessity is indeed, the mother of invention especially when you’re fighting for your life in the depths of winter. Continue straight along the pathway, and I’ll see you out by the street.
600 Daniel French Dr SW, Washington, DC 20245, USA
Description: We hope you enjoyed your tour with us today. Remember to visit our website at www.historicamerica.org and use the #historicamericatours with reckless abandon. On behalf of Historic America, I’m Aaron Killian. Thank you so much. We look forward to taking you on another historic adventure soon!