Another Sunday in Washington

Stock the fruit bin

This weekend finds me at home in Washington rather unexpectedly, and I decided to return to Eastern Market and snap some photos around the capitol area. My first stop in the market was the soap vendor mentioned in a previous post; I wanted her to have glossy prints of the photos I shot that day, and I needed more soap on orders from my girlfriend in Puerto Rico. The next stop was the fresh fruit and meat market, but it was super crowded and people were aggressively pushy so I hit the streets moving west.

I feel it necessary to apologize for the length of this post. I took 399 shots today, which I pared down to 35, 32 of which I decided to place here. The reason for this is that almost half of my readers are from the Caribbean and I have received a couple of emails asking about Washington DC. So for my Caribbean friends, here is a long post with lots of photos from the heart of Washington DC. Those of you expecting more posts about the Caribbean, I promise that there will be plenty of those forthcoming.


Out in the street, I decided to try some depth of field shots with a long lens – my 18-200mm – at the long end of the zoom. Here is one of the photos from that series, featuring dream catchers hanging in the sunlight.

Wagon wheels keep on turnin

Along the street, I was kind of surprised to see this wagon loaded up with copper wares. The textiles and garments for sale were colorful and well cut.

Keeping the copper clean

I was sorely tempted to make an addition to my kitchen stock. but I wasn’t convinced that these were meant to be functional pots and pans. They sure looked nice though.

Library of Congress

Moving west towards the US Capitol building, I passed the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress is the de facto national library of the United States and the research arm of the United States Congress. Located in Washington, D.C., it is the largest by shelf space and one of the most important libraries in the world. Its collections include more than 30 million catalogued books and other print materials in 470 languages; more than 58 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America, including a Gutenberg Bible (one of only four perfect vellum copies known to exist); over 1 million US Government publications; 1 million issues of world newspapers spanning the past three centuries; 33,000 bound newspaper volumes; 500,000 microfilm reels; over 6,000 comic books titles; the world’s largest collection of legal materials; films; 4.8 million maps; sheet music; 2.7 million sound recordings; the Betts Stradivarius; and the Cassavetti Stradivarius. The head of the Library is the Librarian of Congress. There are actually 2 buildings which house the collection, and this is one of the finest research libraries in the world. I have spent many hours inside and I strongly recommend giving it a look.

The US Capitol

I took loads of photos of the Capitol Building, and happily they were all clear, bright, and well balanced.

The United States Capitol is the capitol building that serves as the seat of government for the United States Congress, the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It is located in Washington, D.C., on top of Capitol Hill at the east end of the National Mall. Although not in the geographic center of the District of Columbia, the Capitol is the focus by which the quadrants of the district are divided. Curiously, the west face, which is often taken to be the “front” of the building, is actually its “back”; the true front is the east face.

The building was originally designed by William Thornton. This plan was subsequently modified by Stephen Hallet, Benjamin Latrobe and then Charles Bulfinch. The current dome and the House and Senate wings were designed by Thomas U. Walter and August Schoenborn, a German immigrant, and were completed under the supervision of Edward Clark.

The building is marked by its central dome above a rotunda and two wings, one for each chamber of Congress: the north wing is the Senate chamber and the south wing is the House of Representatives chamber. Above these chambers are galleries where visitors can watch the Senate and House of Representatives. It is an example of the Neoclassical architecture style. The statue on top of the dome is the Statue of Freedom.

Grant oversees the National Mall

Looking down the lawn from the US Capitol, this is the view of Grant’s statue and the national mall. There are so many awesome statues and sculptures in DC that I truly doubt that anyone could see them all. I’d like to come back in the pre-dawn and shoot a few of my favorites, though.

The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial honors American Civil War General and President of the United States Ulysses S. Grant. It is located at the base of Capitol Hill (Union Square, the Mall, 1st Street, between Pennsylvania Avenue and Maryland Avenue), and like the United States Capitol at the top of the hill to the east, the monument’s statue faces west toward the Lincoln Memorial honoring Grant’s wartime president, Abraham Lincoln. Equidistant between the Grant and Lincoln memorials, which define the east and west boundaries of the National Mall, is the Washington Monument. The Grant Memorial includes the largest equestrian statue in the United States and the second largest in the world, after the monument to Italy’s King Victor Emanuel in Rome. James M. Goode in his authoritative The Grant Memorial in Washington D.C. says it “…constitutes one of the most important sculptures in Washington.” The Society of the Army of the Tennessee began the effort in the 1890’s which culminated in the memorial’s dedication decades later.

Lovely Bronze

This is one of my favorite sculptures at the Smithsonian’s sculpture garden. I just like it.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is on the National Mall and it was designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft. The Sculpture Garden is part of the Smithsonian Institution. Its collection focuses on contemporary and modern art. Outside the museum is a sculpture garden, featuring works by artists including Auguste Rodin and Alexander Calder.

The building itself is as much of an attraction as anything inside, likened by many to a large spacecraft parked on the National Mall. The building is essentially an open cylinder elevated by four massive “legs”, with a large fountain occupying the central courtyard. The Smithsonian staff reportedly told Gordon Bunshaft, prior to designing the building, that if it did not provide a striking contrast to everything else in the city, then it would be unfit for housing a modern art collection.


This is another favorite of mine from the sculpture garden.

The Carousel

Just outside of the Smithsonian Castle is this carousel, which was installed in 1967. Myself, I find the horses to be kind of creepy looking and scary, but that’s just me. The kids really seemed to be enjoying themselves in the mild weather.

Joy and horsies

Happiness is sunshine and a horsie that goes around and around…

Serious blueness

I think this dragon is a more recent addition. I wonder who paints the horsies? Are there professional carousel painters on this earth?


Is it me, or are the horsies angry looking? They just seem so upset…

Self Portrait

While I was on the National Mall, I took this self-portrait. Yes, I know, it’s a shadow… but trust me, it’s better this way. The pole I’m leaning on is my mono-pod (for the camera.)

Castle 1

The Castle was the first Smithsonian building, begun in 1847 by architect James Renwick, Jr., whose other works include St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, also in Washington D.C. In August 1853, the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents declared that the work of the original architect, James Renwick, Jr., was done. Lieutenant Barton S. Alexander of the U.S. Army Topographic Engineers was asked to take up the architect’s responsibilities for the slowly progressing Smithsonian Building. Under his supervision, the building was finished in 1855.

Over the years, several reconstructions have taken place. The first followed a disastrous fire on January 24, 1865, which destroyed most of the upper story of the main segment and the north and south towers. In 1884, the east wing was fireproofed and enlarged to accommodate more offices. Remodeling from 1968 to 1969 restored the building to the Victorian atmosphere reminiscent of the era during which it was first inhabited.

This building served as a home for the first Secretary of the Smithsonian, Joseph Henry, and his family and for many years housed all aspects of Smithsonian operations, including an exhibit hall from 1858 until the 1960s. In 1901, Washington’s first children’s room was installed in the Castle’s South Tower Room where the original decorated ceiling and wall stencils were restored in 1987. Located inside near the north entrance is the crypt of James Smithson, benefactor of the Institution, while outside on the Mall, a bronze statue of Joseph Henry, executed by William Wetmore Story, honors the scientist who was the Institution’s first Secretary. In 1996, as the Smithsonian celebrated its 150th anniversary, a bell was added. Although Renwick had intended for a bell in his original plan, there was not enough money to add it to the Castle. It now chimes hourly.

Castle 2

Here’s another view of the castle from a park bench on the other side of the mall. Today, the Smithsonian Castle acts as the ‘brain’ of the Smithsonian, in that it houses all the administrative offices and carries out all Smithsonian operations. In addition, the main Smithsonian visitor center is also located here, with interactive displays and maps. The computers electronically answer most common questions.

Base Camp

Next up, heading westward, was the Washington Monument. The Washington Monument is a large, tall white-colored obelisk at the west end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It is a United States Presidential Memorial constructed to commemorate George Washington.

The monument is among the world’s tallest masonry structures and is the world’s tallest obelisk, standing 555 feet 5.125 inches (169.29 m) in height and made of marble, granite, and sandstone. It was designed by Robert Mills, a prominent American architect of the 1840s. The actual construction of the monument began in 1848 but was not completed until 1884, almost 30 years after the architect’s death. This hiatus in construction was because of a lack of funds and the intervention of the American Civil War. A difference in shading of the marble, visible approximately 150 feet (45 m) up, clearly delineates the initial construction from its resumption in 1876.

Its cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1848; the capstone was set on December 6, 1884, and the completed monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885. It officially opened October 9, 1888. Upon completion, it became the world’s tallest structure, a title it inherited from the Cologne Cathedral and held until 1889, when the Eiffel Tower was finished in Paris, France.

The Washington Monument reflection can be seen in the aptly named Reflecting Pool, a rectangular pool extending to the west towards the Lincoln Memorial.

For this next shot, I was on my belly in the grass. This earned me a couple of comments from passers-by who just don’t understand the artistic drive for that perfect shot. I’m not trying to show the world as it is… I’m attempting to show the world as I see it.

Tall 1

I smelled like grass and mud for the rest of the day. This made me happy.

La Summa

Ever wonder what the very top of the monument is like? Now you know…

And now for something you probably don’t know: the capstone, which sits at the very top, is actually made of aluminum. Solid aluminum. It was cast in 1884 by Tiffany and Co. and was, at the time, the largest aluminum casting in the world. In those days, aluminum was a somewhat exotic metal, fetching the same price as silver on commodity markets. The four sides of the capstone are inscribed, but I won’t spoil the surprise as to what they say.

Jefferson 2

I wandered a little south from the Mall in order to capture a few inages of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, one of the prettiest of the Presidential Memorials. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a presidential memorial in Washington, D.C. that is dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, an American Founding Father and the third president of the United States. The neoclassical building was designed by John Russell Pope. It was built by Philadelphia contractor John McShain and was completed in 1943. When completed, the memorial occupied one of the last significant sites left in the city.

Composed of circular marble steps, a portico, a circular colonnade of Ionic order columns, and a shallow dome, the building is open to the elements. Pope made references to the Roman Pantheon and Jefferson’s own design for the Rotunda at the University of Virginia. It is situated in West Potomac Park, on the shore of the Tidal Basin located directly north, form one of the main anchor points in the area of the of the Potomac River. The Washington Monument just east of the axis on the national Mall was intended to be located at the intersection of the White House and the site for the Jefferson Memorial to the south but soft swampy ground which defied nineteenth century engineering required it be sited to the east.

Jefferson 1

Here’s another photo in the series (I took about 60 here) with a bit more detail.

The cornerstone was laid on November 15, 1939 — two years after Pope’s death. Daniel P. Higgins and Otto R. Eggers took over construction of the memorial. The memorial was constructed with Danby Imperial marble (Vermont) for the exterior walls and columns, Tennessee pink marble for the interior floor, Georgian white marble for the interior wall panels, and Missouri gray marble for the pedestal. Indiana limestone was used in construction of the ceiling. The cost of construction was slightly more than $3 million.

The Jefferson Memorial was officially dedicated on April 13, 1943 — the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birthday. One of the last American public monuments in the Beaux-Arts tradition, it was severely criticized even as it was being built, by those who adhered to the modernist argument that dressing 20th century buildings like Greek and Roman temples constituted a “tired architectural lie.” More than 60 years ago, Pope responded with silence to critics who dismissed him as part of an enervated architectural elite practicing “styles that are safely dead”. As a National Memorial it was administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.

Jefferson 3

The interior of the memorial has a 19 foot (5.8 m) tall, 10,000 pound (5 ton) bronze statue of Jefferson by sculptor Rudulph Evans which was added four years after the dedication, and the interior walls are engraved with passages from Jefferson’s writings. Most prominent are the words which are inscribed in a frieze below the dome: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” This sentence is taken from a September 23, 1800, letter by Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush.


While I was shooting the Jefferson Memorial photos, this mallard was peacefully dozing at my feet in the Potomac Basin.

Lincoln 1

I returned back to the National Mall in order to end my photo shoot with some twilight views of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. They are gorgeous at night and even though I didn’t bring the tripod, I wanted to try a few shots.

The Lincoln Memorial is a United States Presidential memorial built to honor 16th President Abraham Lincoln. The architect was Henry Bacon, the sculptor was Daniel Chester French, and the painter of the interior murals was Jules Guerin.

The building is in the form of a Greek Doric temple and contains a large seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln and inscriptions of two well-known speeches by Lincoln. The memorial has been the site of many famous speeches, including Martin Luther King‘s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on August 28, 1963, during the rally at the end of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Like the other monuments on the National Mall, including the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and National World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial is administered by the National Park Service under its National Mall and Memorial Parks group. The National Memorial has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since October 15, 1966. It is open to the public 24 hours a day.

Lincoln 2

The Lincoln Monument Association was incorporated by the United States Congress in March 1867 to build a memorial to Lincoln. A site was not chosen until 1901, in an area that was then swampland. Congress formally authorized the memorial on February 9, 1911, and the first stone was put into place on Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, 1914. The monument was dedicated by Chief Justice William Howard Taft on May 30, 1922, a ceremony attended by Lincoln’s only surviving child, Robert Todd Lincoln. The stone for the building is Indiana limestone and Yule marble, quarried at the town of Marble, Colorado. The Lincoln sculpture within is made of Georgian marble, quarried at the town of Tate, Georgia. In 1923, designer Henry Bacon received the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects, his profession’s highest honor, for the design of the memorial. Originally under the care of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks, it was transferred to the National Park Service on August 10, 1933.

Standing apart from the somewhat triumphal and Roman manner of most of Washington, the memorial takes the severe form of a Greek Doric temple. It is ‘peripteral,’ with 36 massive columns, each 37 feet (10 m) high, surrounding the cella of the building itself, which rises above the porticos. As an afterthought, the 36 columns required for the design were seen to represent the 36 U.S. states at the time of Lincoln’s death, and their names were inscribed in the entablature above each column. The names of the 48 states of the Union when the memorial was completed are carved on the exterior attic walls, and a later plaque commemorates the admission of Alaska and Hawaii in 1959.

WM 1

From my vantage point at the foot of the reflecting pool, I had a great view of both monuments. Here is a late twilight shot of the obelisk.

Lincoln 3

As the sunlight continued to dissipate, the hues deepened and the lighted figure of Abraham Lincoln started to pop. The main influence on the style of the Lincoln Memorial was the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, Greece. The focus of the memorial is Daniel Chester French’s sculpture of Lincoln, seated on a throne. French studied many of Mathew Brady’s photographs of Lincoln and depicted the President as worn and pensive, gazing eastwards down the Reflecting Pool toward the capital’s starkest emblem of the Union, the Washington Monument. Beneath his hands, the Roman fasces, symbols of the authority of the Republic, are sculpted in relief on the seat. The statue stands 19 feet 9 inches (6 m) tall and 19 feet (6 m) wide, and was carved from 28 blocks of white Georgia marble.

The central cella is flanked by two others. In one, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is inscribed on the south wall, and in the other, Lincoln’s second inaugural address is inscribed on the north wall.On the latter, the word Future was carved with an E instead of F and had to be filled in and can still be seen today. Above the texts are a series of murals by Jules Guerin that depict an angel (representing truth), the freeing of a slave (on the south wall, above the Gettysburg Address) and the unity of the American North and South (above the Second Inaugural Address). On the wall behind the statue, and over Abraham’s head is this dedication:






WM 2

Turning back around, night filled the eastern sky and provided a beautiful backdrop for Washington Monument.

Lincoln 4

There are a number of urban legends associated with the memorial. Some have claimed that Robert E. Lee’s face is carved onto the back of Lincoln’s statue. Another popular legend is that Lincoln is shown using sign language to represent his initials, with his left hand shaped to form an “A” and his right hand to form an “L”. The National Park Service denies both stories. However, historian Gerald Prokopowicz writes that, while it is not clear that sculptor Daniel Chester French intended Lincoln’s hands to be formed into sign language versions of his initials, it is possible that French did intend it, since he was familiar with American Sign Language, and he would have had a reason to do so, i.e., to pay tribute to Lincoln for having signed the federal legislation giving Gallaudet University, a university for the deaf, the authority to grant college degrees.

This was my last shot of the monuments today, and I do hope that my friends who have not yet had a chance to visit Washington will enjoy the photographs in the interim. When you DO visit Washington, it is best to get around using the city’s rail system, called ‘The Metro’.

Metro 1

This is the Smithsonian station, which, like all Metro stations, is very clean and well-policed. This rail system is truly one of the hidden gems of Washington DC and it makes getting around easy, convenient, and affordable. It is often faster getting across the city via metro than by using the city cabs.

Metro 3

The train cars are all clean and relatively ad-free compared to some other cities I’ve visited. Graffiti? What graffiti?

Metro 2

At top speed, Metro trains reach 65 miles per hour, faster than the posted speed limits for highways in and out of DC.

Once again, I apologize for the length of this post, and I do hope that the download time was worth it in the end. Please feel free to leave comments, ideas, and hate mail. Everyone likes getting mail, right?


~ by JG on March 2, 2008.

3 Responses to “Another Sunday in Washington”

  1. Brilliant stuff, sir. I’m enjoying your blog for both the pics and the prose.

  2. I make it all up as I go along, which is half the fun. Thank you for your kind comment, sir.


  3. Great work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: