STATES WELL STATED IS TAKING A VACATION THIS MONTH
Instead of my usual quirky (and somewhat snarky) facts about one our United States (in alphabetical order, so if you want to know about Wyoming, you’ve got a long wait ahead of you) – I am going where no Tanglewood-ian should go – politics. No, really, it’s safe. Mostly I am going to be talking about really old politics.
Yes, that’s right, it’s time to jump into the swamp. Welcome to Washington, District of Columbia. Swampiness is nothing new to our Nation’s Capital, in fact, part of the area personally chosen by George Washington to become the Capitol City, was swampland. Why would good ole George pick some sticky, humid, and unpleasant (especially in August) place to put the chief city of the new country? That’s an easy one. There was no Air Force One, or Marine One to take him to another property he owned, so he picked a spot close to his home in Mount Vernon. But only PART. There is no truth to the rumor that Washington was built entirely on swampland and can’t help it now. Only PART of the city was built on a swamp. And I am not telling what branch of government or embassy is in the swamp. It’s a free country, so you decide.
The area was originally inhabited by the Algonquian-speaking people known as the Nacotchtank. They were probably long gone by 1791 when the 68 square mile area was selected by George Washington himself. It was christened “Columbia” as no one had heard about the Vikings getting here before Mr. Columbus. So see, he didn’t name it after himself. (Besides, Washington, District of Bjorn Thorsson just wouldn’t have the same ring.) n.b. Before anyone decides they need to fact check that name – I made up Bjorn Thorsson. George Washington, I am pretty sure, is right. The name “Washington” was not added until after George died.
Speaking of dead presidents, there is a crypt beneath the Capital Building for the body of George Washington. Apparently, he did not like the neighborhood as he specified that he was to be put to rest at Mount Vernon. So, there is an empty crypt down there just waiting to be filled. In fact, there is only one President laid to rest within the confines of D.C. Woodrow Wilson is buried in the National Cathedral.
And speaking of the National Cathedral – like many churches it is guarded against evil by gargoyles. When you visit, check out the northwest tower and you will see a Darth Vader gargoyle. I don’t know if George Lucas or Disney got any royalties for the use of the visage.
Okay, back to Woodrow Wilson – he was President during World War 1, and, in order to save money, he brought a flock of sheep to the White House to keep the grass trimmed. For further economy, he sold their wool to raise money for the Red Cross. Wilson was also President during Prohibition. When the end of his term came, it was illegal to transport his wine collection (I am sure it was all for medicinal purposes, or the pretty labels – pick one). Since Congress was cooperative in those days, a law was passed allowing one person to transport alcohol from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
All right, enough about Woodrow Wilson, D.C. is about a lot more than Presidents. There are a few museums to take in. The city has the only National Spy Museum. I would tell you more about it, but then I would have to kill you.
There are 19 different museums that make up the Smithsonian. Be sure to check out the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, which has over 200 bonsai trees. Bonsai are almost impossible to keep with cats – trust me on this one. Another must see is The National Air and Space Museum. There are many history making craft housed there; including the Spirit of Saint Louis and the Apollo 11 Command Module. These pale in the face of the most awesome craft – the original Starship Enterprise! Oddly enough the Smithsonian is named for an Englishman, John Smithson. Why? I have no idea. He never even came to D.C. (and there is great debate between people that like to nitpick over such things if John Smithson ever came to the United States. I have no idea how they fill the other 23 hours, 46 minutes of each day.)
Even though our Nation’s Capital is smaller than an actual State (Rhode Island) – I found far too much odd information for one month. So next time we’ll discuss which Presidents (yes, that’s plural) kept alligators in the White House. I will reveal how many marble bathtubs are in the U.S. Capital. How many bathrooms are in the Executive Palace? (yep, it was called that once) And more about monuments, buildings, and a ghost cat.