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The Decatur House, named for it's original resident, naval hero Stephen Decatur, is one of the oldest surviving homes in DC and one of only three surviving residential buildings built by Benjamin Latrobe, the father of American Architecture. It's proximity to the White House made this a very desirable address, it was the first and last private residence on Lafayette Square.
After Decatur was killed in a duel, his widow was forced to rent the house, among it's famous tenants were Henry Clay and Martin Van Buren.
The house is currently undergoing work to restore to it's original condition but you can join one of the guided tours and learn a bit about the famous residents. Entrance to Decatur House is free although they will gladly accept donations. Be sure to look for the parquet floor with the seal of California that was added by the Beale family, the final residents.
I asked our guide about the bricked in windows on the front of the house thinking that perhaps they also had a window tax like in London but she said that they were bricked in to cover chimney flues and that Latrobe had wanted the house to be symmetrical, not with protruding chimneys. She also added that in those days there was a tax on the number of rooms and even small closets were taxed which may explain the lack of closets in older homes (including mine!!!).
Closest metro: Farragut North
Located at 748 Jackson Place NW, just north of the White House on Lafayette Square
The Hay-Adams Hotel, located just north of Lafayette Square and the White House, takes it's name from John Hay (Sec. of State) and Henry Adams (author and descendant of Pres. John Adams and Pres. John Quincy Adams), both of whom had homes on this site. Those houses were razed in 1927 and the Hay-Adams Hotel was built and opened in 1928.
Many famous guests have stayed here- Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Sinclair Lewis and Ethel Barrymore. And the ghost of Henry Adams' wife is said to still be hanging out on the 4th floor.
I had to take a picture of this particular government building for the Environmental Protection Agency, my father and husband both worked for the EPA Region 5 in Chicago. The federal government agency buildings in Chicago aren't nearly as grand as the ones in Washington DC, in fact I think the black boxy steel and glass buildings in Chicago are some of the ugliest in the city.
You can see most of the EPA flag with the agency seal on the right side of the photo.
Missed by most non-American visitors
I'd have visited and paid more attention to the buildings in my pictures if I'd known that the Representatives, members of the lower chamber of US Congress lived and worked there. The edificies didn't look special, rather modest.
Despite location on the Capitol Hill it's off the beaten path as the buildings are missed by most non-American visitors, I am sure. Although I was told that many Americans go to these buildings to see their Senator or Representative. It is here that they can get a pass to the House of Representatives or to the Senate. Especially if they want their Congressmen to know how they feel on any issue, they go there to tell them. Well, I didn't see crowds that day. Don't they have any reason to complain or just prefer to use more sophisticated and technologically advanced methods to influence their polititians?
We, a group of VT-ers: Kathy, Urszula, Chris, Nat and I, had seen information sign for visitors about Cannon House Office Building but the Capitol police car blocking 1st St. attracted us more being a perfect background for our pictures. And I didn't figure out what House Office Building meant.
We walked westwards along Independence Avenue looking at 3 long, monumental House Office Buildings (HOB):
1. The Cannon HOB - the oldest congressional office building completed in 1908 in not my favourite Beaux Arts style;
2. The Longworth HOB completed in 1963 in the Neo-Classical Revival style with an impressive portico topped by a pediment looks similar to the buildings of the National Gallery of Art and the Jefferson Memorial;
3. The Rayburn HOB completed in 1965 in the classical style with a white marble facade above a pink granite base.
The only part of the buildings open for visitors is located in the Cannon HOB (entrance on the NW corner) but I missed it. There is an impressive Rotunda and the Caucus Room to see in the building.
- Budget Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Two classical bank buildings and... Pinochet
I've found these two classical buildings east of the White House. The smaller one, decorated with US national flags on the right houses Bank of America (BofA) and looks quite pretty. I've seen Bank of America many times travelling around the South. It is based in Charlotte, North Carolina and the third largest commercial bank in the United States of America, measured in assets.
The building on the left is monumental with a row of Doric columns on facade and a typical, a bit raised up flat roof. This building housed Riggs Bank, a Washington, DC-based commercial bank founded 1836 which in the early 2000' was beset with scandal. Riggs illegally allowed Pinochet, former dictator of Chile, to retain access to much of his fortune and were proved illegal international money transfers. Eventually the name Riggs stricken from its remaining facilities and units in 2005.
- Budget Travel
- Hiking and Walking
The third oldest building and money :-)
The Main Treasury Building is the third oldest building (after the Capitol and the White House) in downtown Washington (neighbourhood Georgetown is older), and dates from 1836. The rectanfular, large facility is built in impressive Greek Revival style with countless number of Doric columns put along its longer walls. I knew that there were some pretty, old interiors and decorative art to see there but unfortunately all tours of the Main Treasury building (1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW) have been suspended until further notice.
Keep in mind that this is NOT the tour for seeing the production of United States currency notes. If you are a dedicated fan of US dollars in large quantities (who isn't?) go to see US currency production:
- the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Washington, DC (switch to my Factory of my needs :-) general tip)
- Bureau of Engraving and Printing's Western Currency Facility in Fort Worth, Texas
- the United States Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- the United States Mint in Denver, Colorado
Unfortunately, for security reasons, there no tours at the Fort Knox Bullion Depository in Kentucky.
- Hiking and Walking
- Budget Travel
THE TREASURY DEPARTMENT
The Treasury Building may be DC's best kept architectural secret. The building was built in the Greek rivival style and was made from granite. At the time of it's completion in 1869 was one of the world's largest office buildings. Robert Mills, who was the architect for the Washington Monument, designed the east and center wings of the wonderful building. It is the 3rd oldest governmental building that has been in continual use in DC. Fore more than 150 years it has been a part of DC's and the US economic and financial history. In 1972, the building was declared a National Historic Landmark. The treasury building is located at 1500 Pennsylvania Ave, NW with the entrance at 15th & F sts., NW. Tours have been temporarily suspended.
- Historical Travel
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
Supreme Court of the United States
Nice court to visit for those interested in Law.
Lecture in court C every hour on the half hour 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. when court is not in session.
Open Monday-Friday 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m
Metro: Capitol South, Union Station
Not to be confused with the Pentagon, the Octagon has nothing to do with the military, nor, as far as I can tell, does it have eight sides as the name suggests. Maybe if you count the semicircular front as one of the octagon's sides then it might be considered an octagon.
The building was constructed from 1799 to 1801 as one of the first new residences in the new capital city. In this house lived John Tayloe and his 15 children, not to mention their servants. When the White House was burned in 1814, during the War of 1812, President and Dolley Madison moved to the Octagon. It was in this house that President Madison signed the Treaty of Ghent in 1915 to end the war. Supposedly the ghosts of two of Tayloe's daughters still haunt the house after they both mysteriously fell from the stairs to their deaths.
The building later became a Civil War hospital, a girl’s school, and the US Hydrographic Office before it was purchased as the headquarters of the American Institute of Architects. It has served as their museum for many years, but now the building is being renovated and is closed to the public.
The house is near the Executive Office Building and can be reached via Metro at Farragut West Station.
Church of the Presidents
St. John's Episcopal Church is located at 16th and H Streets, across Lafayette Square from the White House. This church was nicknamed the Church of the Presidents because every President from Madison onwards has come to this church at least now and then. President Tyler reserved the use of pew 58 for Presidents of the United States in perpetuity.
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
2nd Nicest Aerial View of Washington
Most people want to go to the top of the Washington Monument to get a bird's eye view of the city, but the lines tend to be very long and you waste a lot of time.
A nice but relatively unknown alternative however is the Old Post Office building, which has been renovated and turned into a food court, office building, etc. You go down to the lower level to access the elevator to the top of the tower. It's free and the line is much shorter, if there even is a line.
1100 Pennsylvania Ave. @ 11th St.-One block N of the National Museum of Natural History
Metro: Federal Triangle
- Historical Travel
- Family Travel
The Summer House - US Capitol Grounds
The Summer House is a small, red hexagonal brick building just downhill of the Capitol Building on the northwest side. It really resembles an old World War II bunker, but don't be confused. The Summer House was completed in 1880 or 1881 as a place for visitors to stop to get water on their way to the Capitol Building.
The building has three arched doorways and an open roof surrounding a fountain that used to be fed by a local spring. Inside the Summer House you will also find numerous benches. Original designs called for two identical summer houses, but members of congress objected to the design of the first and present building. The water supply in the building originally fed a large bowl with ladles for drinking, and the runoff was intended to play music in a water carillon which apparently never worked. Today the original fountain bowl is surrounded by modern drinking water fountains with city water.
The Summer House, like most other facilities around the Capitol Building, is maintained by the Architect of the Capitol. During the fall of the 2008 the Summer House was being renovated, but the fences were removed for the 2009 presidential inauguration. I suspect the work will continue after the inauguration, since it seems parts of the roof still need work to complete the Spanish tile designs.
American Red Cross Headquarters
If you are walking toward the White House after coming from seeing the monuments stop for a moment to take a long look at the mansions around the square. In front of you will be the Old Executive Building with the large shiny statue in front of it
On 17th Street (right next to the Corcoran) you will see a lovely Neo-Classical mansion. The dead givaway as to its identity is immediate, the red cross on top of the portico. This is not one of the common places most tourists would go.
The building was erected about 1915 and (at least initially) served as a memorial to the women who served in the American Civil War. Eventually it came to serve as the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross. Perhaps the single best reason to take the tour of the building would have to be to see the Tiffany windows, designed by the famous New York jeweler, and the only Tiffany windows outside of a relgious instituion.
Tours at the Red Cross Headquarters are free but MUST be scheduled in advance. You cannot just walk off the street and demand to see the building. Free tours are offered on Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 am to 2 pm. Your group should be no larger than 15 people.
To schedule a tour please call 202-303-4333 or email them at
tours @ redcross.org
In this area, you can forget about parking. Nearest Metro is Farragut North, just up 17th street across from Farragut Park.
- Museum Visits
Visit Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon was the home of our first President, George Washington and his wife Martha. The property of Mount Vernon is situated in Alexandria overlooking the Potomac. The property is quite extensive with the main house, gardens, distillery, farm, wharf and several other houses along the property that were used for farming and domestic staff. The propety is also the site of Washington's Tomb where George ashington, his wife Martha and other family members are entombed.
The tour begins when you enter the visitor's Center. Here are shops, a film that tells the story of the saving of the property, food court, Restaurant, and a museum. The grounds are extensive and it is amazing to walk in the gardens, under the historic trees, touring the houses and enjoying the beautiful views of the Potomac River.
Our last visit to Mount Vernon was for a special Memorial Day weekend event in 2010. It was a sunset tour of the property complete with colonial dancing, music, food and a splendid sunset view. It was a fun time and we had perfect warm weather. We enjoyed a tour of the house and grounds, enjoyed the museum and watched some historical films. We enjoyed a tasty red velvet cupcake and some champagne under the magnolia trees as the sun set in the sky.
Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon
Located north of the Capitol on Constitution Avenue, between New Jersey Avenue and First Street NW, the Memorial consists of a marble tower and a ten foot tall bronze statue of Senator Taft.
The carillon consists of 27 bells in the upper part of the tower. They automatically strike the hour and quarter hour and can be operated manually as well.
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Washington D.C. Travel Guide
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