The entire day was spent at the “Newseum” and we were very pressed to get through all the exhibits. We accidentally came across the Newseum on our first day in Washington while we were trying to find the visitor’s center on Pennsylvania Avenue (btw, it turns out the visitor’s center closed 3 years ago but all the signs directing you to it still remain throughout the Capitol…….very symbolic, eh). As we were walking down the street we came across a building with a display of dozens of newspaper front pages. They were representative of every state and several foreign cities. We were mesmerized. The next couple days everyone we came across recommended a visit. Also, Emily had visited Washington recently and told us Newseum was one of her favorite tours. It didn’t disappoint.
The stated mission of the Newseum is to champion the five freedoms of the first Amendment. They do this through exhibits (many interactive) in 15 theaters and 15 galleries on 7 floors. Fortunately tickets are good for 2 days! Here are just a few of our favorites:
– Berlin Wall Gallery: The exhibit contains several sections of the wall and a guard tower from Checkpoint Charlie, plus a nice history of post war Berlin, the Berlin Airlift, stories of East Berliners escape attempts and Germany’s reunification.
– Pictures of the Year: Shows the best news images of the people and events that shaped the world in 2013. Some images were incredibly intense.
– FBI Exhibit: Artifacts include Ted Kaczynski’s cabin.
– New Corp. News History Gallery: Could have spent all day at this exhibit which contains over 300 historic front pages, some going back over 500 years. We saw a 1787 copy of The Maryland Gazette containing the new United States Constitution, The July 13, 1776 Connecticut Gazette announcing “Independence Declared” with a column dedicated to the Declaration of Independence, and of course a copy of the 1948 Chicago Daily Tribune mistakenly announcing “Dewey Defeats Truman”. Sadly the 1860 paper announcing the “Union is Dissolved” was being restored so it was missing from the Gallery.
– First Dogs: American Presidents and Their Pets: Our favorite…Gerald Ford. He had a Golden Retriever named Liberty.
– 9/11 Gallery: Built around the crumbled remains of a section of the radio antenna from the North Tower, the exhibit contains newspaper headlines from around the world and tells the stories of journalists covering the tragedy (including one who died when tower 2 collapsed).
– Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery: Contains every Pulitzer Prize winner in one gallery. Many were familiar, most were not, several were very disturbing, all were just amazing.
Found a nice Mexican restaurant for dinner. Nachos and Tacos and Beer…oh my.
Robin’s roommate from junior year at University of Illinois, Pam & her husband Chuck live in D.C., and we were invited to a much appreciated home cooked meal for Sunday Brunch. We were also joined by their friends Diane & David who were visiting from the Chicago area. Pam was a bridesmaid in our wedding so she shared some “old” photos of us from way back. It was very sad to see how our pictures had yellowed in her photo albums. Brunch was delicious.
Dinner was at Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse, a massive, fairly nutritious salad bar and table side meat service. We devoured their yummy cheese bread, sirloins, filets, ribs, lamb chops, and chicken, which was wrapped in bacon. After dinner we planned to attend the National Symphony Orchestra’s performance on the west lawn of the Capitol, but unfortunately it was raining. We said our goodbyes knowing we would see Pam & Chuck in a few days. We had so much fun with our friends and can’t wait to see them again on Wednesday.
We spent the afternoon at the United States Holocaust Museum. It is very difficult to write about this experience. The very graphic film footage, photographs, and displays create intense feelings of horror, anger, dismay, incomprehension, and concern. For us the visit was deeply personal.
The path to the Nazi genocide of Jews was rooted in deep extremism, fueled by difficult economic realities, and strengthened by a propensity for people to gravitate to popular nationalistic propaganda. Jews numbered less than 1% of the German population in the 1930’s, yet the Nazi’s were able to convince an entire country that Jews were the root of all evil. Holocaust denial and antisemitism are sadly alive and well today. We can only hope that those leaning toward intolerance, ignorance or indifference remain a large minority.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Niemöller (Protestant pastor, critic of Adolf Hitler, spent 7 years in concentration camps). Inscribed near the museum exit.
We took a Labor Day drive to Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards to watch the Orioles take on the Minnesota Twins. Camden Yards was the first of the now very popular downtown “Retro” parks constructed, and is probably best known for its view of the B&O Warehouse behind the right field bleachers. We had wonderful seats (thanks Ethel) on the 3rd base line near home plate which were thankfully in the shade (heat index 119 degrees). The park is simply wonderful. It is extremely fan friendly, feels very open yet intimate, offers great views of the city, and has several varied venues for dinning. The warehouse behind right field is actually across Eutaw Street, which is closed on game days to all but ticket holders, very much like Yawkey Way at Fenway. The street is lined with shops, bars, and restaurants, one of which is owned by Boog Powell (Boog’s Barbecue), a former player from my youth, known for his power and size (and name). The Twins prevailed today 6-4. We were lucky enough to see a Nelson Cruz home run AND we walked away with an Adam Jones bobblehead (anyone out there want an Adam Jones bobblehead?).
Back to Museum tours! We started the day at the National Archives Museum, followed by the National Museum of Natural History, and ending with the National Museum of American History. Here are some of the things we saw:
Archives: The Highlight of the tour is in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom where the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights are displayed. Sadly most of the documents are barely readable (especially the Declaration) but you can certainly tell what you are standing in front of and observing. The room is kept cold and dark for preservation, but it also adds to the mystique of the place. It was interesting to learn that Rhode Island was the only state not to send delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, and that they didn’t ratify it until 1790 (almost 3 years late).
The Archives building also contains the Public Vaults Exhibition. Here you can locate or research pretty much any historical document available. On display are some of Washington’s letters and Lincoln’s war time telegraphs.
Natural History: Had to go see the Hope Diamond, all 45.52 carats, and Marie Antoinette’s diamond earrings. Touched a rock from Mars. Strolled through the Orkin Insect Zoo, hall of bones (skeletons of hundreds of species), mummy exhibit, and hall of human origins. I think I enjoyed this museum a bit more than Robin (except maybe for the diamonds).
Star-Spangled Banner Flag: Display of what remains of the flag that flew over Fort McHenry in 1814 that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our National Anthem.
Gunboat Philadelphia: One of the gunboats in Benedict Arnold’s (while he was on our side) fleet that was sunk in 1776 during a battle in Lake Champlain. The boat was recovered in 1935, mostly intact.
Other artifacts: Most of the inaugural gowns worn by our nation’s First Ladies, Julia Child’s kitchen, Greensboro Lunch Counter (famous civil rights sit-in), Civil War draft wheel, Dorothy’s ruby slippers, a piece of Plymouth Rock, a suit worn by Lincoln (including the hat he was wearing at Ford’s Theatre), chairs and table used by Generals Lee and Grant during Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, the portable desk on which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, and Archie Bunker’s chair.
The museum contains wonderful exhibits on the Presidents & First Ladies, transportation, Food, Shipping, and American Stories. Even after spending several hours there, we could return and easily see all new items.
Came home to a dinner of our own artifacts (great leftovers).
We took a quick 70 second elevator ride to top of the 555’ 5 1/8” monument dedicated to the “Father of Our Country”. The Washington Monument dominates the DC skyline and provides great views of the area from every angle. Take a look:
Following our Washington Monument tour, we walked to the Capitol Building for our Capitol tour (thank you congressman Swalwell). Since our tour was post Labor Day, the crowds were minimal and we were allowed into an extra room or two. We toured The Rotunda, the old Senate Chamber, old House Chamber, old Supreme Court, and Capitol Crypt. The Crypt, located directly under The Rotunda, was meant to be an entrance to Washington’s Tomb. The Washington family nixed that idea so the Crypt now serves as a museum and thoroughfare.
It was interesting to see the layout of the place which originally meant to house all the congressional offices (Senators in one wing, House Reps in the other), and the Supreme Court and Library of Congress. Now both sides of Congress have their Chambers in the building (unfortunately not part of the tour) but their offices are across the street. The Supreme Court and Library of Congress have their own magnificent buildings next door. Members mostly use underground tunnels to get from their offices to the Capitol.
After the tour we found the Capitol Museum which exhibits the catafalque (a raised platform used to support a casket) originally built and used for Lincoln’s funeral, is has been used for all those who have lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda since Lincoln.
On our trip we have had the pleasure of meeting many of our friends’ children who live across the country. Tonight we met with sisters, Jamie & Lisa France (their Mom Ellen was a sorority sister of Robin’s at the University of Illinois and our friend since college). Ellen married Mike and they lived in the Bay Area for several years before moving to Portland. Until they moved away, our families spent a lot of time together celebrating birthdays and holidays. Ellen watched Adam when Emily was born and Robin watched Jamie when Lisa was born. Fast forward 20 years and Jamie & Lisa are now beautiful, accomplished young women. We also got to meet Jamie’s long time boyfriend Ryan. To add more confusion to everyone, Robin’s friend Pam is also related to them. Pam & Mike are first cousins. We all got together for dinner at Cava Mezze (delicious Greek tapas restaurant) and had a blast catching up.
Today was salon day and a trip to Dupont Circle for lunch. A couple more days left, so much to do.