Welcome to part three of our in-depth foray into the swamp called Washington, District of Columbia. I need to start with an apology and correction. I previously promised to report on the number of bathrooms in the White House. Somehow, I neglected this in the last installment. So, for those of you who have been patiently waiting, there are only 35 bathrooms in the White House. I am sure that has been keeping folks up at night. If that is the case, you definitely need to get out more.
Washington is fairly easy to get around, especially if you can get a cab. The city is laid out in a grid pattern with four quadrants, with all roads leading to the Capitol building. Originally there was no “J” street in the plans. In the late 18th century the letter “J” was not really a separate letter. “I” was used both for “I” and for “J”. This was entirely too confusing. But wait, you say, how could the letter J not exist? What about Thomas Jefferson? Well if you look carefully, he signed his initials as “TI”, making his name Thomas Iefferson, which is just silly.
D.C. has the second busiest subway system in the country. Anyone that does not think that New York City has the busiest has never tried to board an “A” train during rush hour. There is a total of 91 Metro stations in the system, each with its own musical theme. Jason Mendelson spent six years composing them. Of course, he did not factor in the sound of the trains, so no one has ever heard any of them.
One of the most recognizable buildings in the Nation’s Capital is, wait for it, the Capitol. (If you thought I was going to say, “The White House”, you didn’t read the last column.) George Washington and Thomas Iefferson over saw the contest for the design of the Capitol building. When the deadline for submissions had come and gone, they had a slight problem, they hated all 17 of them. Luckily an amateur architect and full time Doctor from Scotland, William Thornton, made a late submission, and won the $500 prize. You know that statue that no one really notices on the top of the dome? It has a name. The Statue of Freedom is 19 feet tall and weighs nearly 15,000 pounds. The Capitol building has been the back drop to many important
moments in American history. Just insert the inaugural address of any modern President that you like, and that should do it.
We all know that politics is a dirty, stinking, business. It was so smelly that four marble bathtubs were installed in the basement in 1859. At that time most of the legislators lived in rooming houses that did not have bathing facilities. Only one of those tubs is still there today, so one must assume they are more regularly bathing before going to do the People’s business.
The Capitol is also said to be haunted. By a cat. There are distinct cat paw
prints embedded in the floor just outside the Supreme Court chamber in the Capitol (they have their own darned building, what do they need another room for). The paw prints were already in the floor when it arrived to be set and ever since then it is said that there is a ghost cat that prowls the building. There is no truth to the rumor that the ghost cat has been using the remaining bathtub as a ghost litter box.
And now a few monument tidbits. The Washington monument was originally going to be a much grander complex. The obelisk was supposed to be surrounded with 30 stone columns and statues of all the signers of the original Declaration of Independence. I think that would be a bit of overkill, don’t you? Yes, we all the monument is two different colors. Money ran out for construction, and when it resumed the builders used stone from a different source. When it opened in 1884, it was the tallest structure in the world until it was dethroned in 1889 (extra points if you know what replaced it as the tallest structure).
The Lincoln Memorial Association was created in 1867 to come up with a fitting tribute to the 16th President. Construction did not begin until 1914. Nothing really unusual here, I just thought I better include something about the Lincoln.
The statue in the Jefferson Memorial was originally made of plaster due to wartime rationing of metal during World War II. After the war, it was replaced with a brass one.
Speaking of brass, and adding insult to injury, the large, equestrian, statue of Andrew Jackson was partially made from cannon left behind by the defeated British after the War of 1812.
Finally, a few parting shots of oddness before we bid Washington, D.C, adieu. Washington gets more rain every year than Seattle, Washington. The residents of D.C. consume more wine per capita than State in the Union. Washington D.C. has a sister city – Beijing, China. D.C. is also the birthplace of the football huddle and the seventh inning stretch. And now, back to our regularly scheduled states.