• 1874 Illustration of U.S. Botanic Garden
    National Mall
     
     
    The U.S. Botanic Garden dates to the earliest planning of the capital city. Many of the Founding Fathers believed that a living repository for plants would have countless benefits, from the production of food and medicine to the scientific study of international specimens to the enjoyment of aesthetic beauty.
  • The real life "Smokey the Bear," shown here frolicking in a pool at the National Zoo c.1950, was the embodiment of a fire safety public awareness campaign that started during World War II. (Photo credit: Francine Schroeder, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Used for educational purposes in accordance with the Smithsonian Archives terms of use.)
    Strange But True
     
     
    How did Smokey the Bear come to have his very own personal Washington, D.C. zipcode? Glad you asked.
  • David Bowie jams at a party thrown by publicist Rodney Bingenheimer at lawyer Paul Figen's house in January 1971, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
    David Bowie: 1947-2016
     
     
    In 1971 a largely unknown David Bowie landed at Dulles Airport and stayed in the Washington, D.C. area on his first visit to America.
  • Sam's Park and Shop
     
     
    In 1930, it shaped the modern American shopping experience and was the model for the type of shopping-center that is still standard today.
  • Women suffragists picketing in front of the White House in 1917. (Source Library of Congress via Wikipedia)
    Women's Suffrage
     
     
    While tame by today's standards, a century ago, Washington was the site of "the most militant move ever made by the suffragists of this country."

Respect, Unity, and Brotherhood at the Million Man March

Group of six men at the Million Man March, 1995

If you visited any major U.S. city in the early fall of 1995, there’s no doubt you would have heard of the Million Man March for Black men in Washington, D.C., on October 16, either from flyers posted around town or through word of mouth. After all, plans for a massive gathering of African American men on the National Mall had been in motion for over a year.

Dinner and Debates: Boardinghouses of the District

Handy, Levin C, photographer. SE view from dome of U.S. Capitol, showing Carroll Row present site of Library of Congress in left foreground. Washington D.C, ca. 1880. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2005697020/.

Long before the invention of the airplane and a short time before trains were used for commercial transportation, congressmen traveling to Washington for extended periods faced a complicated issue: where would they live in the developing capital city while Congress was in session? Some wealthier members of Congress could purchase private residences or stay with a colleague, but this was not a realistic option for most. The most common solution by far, was to reside in one of the District’s many boardinghouses. Several former presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, found boardinghouses to be a phenomenally sufficient option during their congressional years— for a reasonable fee, a boardinghouse would provide you a room, quality meals, place to work, and lively conversation with fellow residents, many of whom were also politicians. Boardinghouses were scattered throughout the city, but the majority of them were located on Capitol Hill in the area where the Library of Congress stands today.

Thrice Uprooted: The U.S. Botanic Garden

1859 Garden & the Capitol, showing the Capitol dome under construction (Source: USBG Flickr, courtesy of Architect of the Capitol)

The U.S. Botanic Garden—located adjacent to the Capitol in a triangle between Maryland Ave SW, Washington Ave SW, and First Street—is rooted in the earliest planning of the capital city. Many of the Founding Fathers believed that a living repository for plants would have countless benefits, from the production of food and medicine to the scientific study of international specimens to the enjoyment of aesthetic beauty. George Washington himself wrote an impassioned letter in 1796 about how a botanic garden should be included in the city plan, even suggesting a few feasible locations.

Man Missing: Scarlet Crow's Fateful Visit to Washington, D.C.

Scarlet Crow's gravestone at Congressional Cemetery

On the night of February 24, 1867 in the nation’s capital, Scarlet Crow, a visiting Sioux chief, mysteriously disappeared. No one knows for sure what happened. Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate oral history proposed that he was kidnapped, while the Evening Star newspaper put forth that he had simply wandered and gotten lost. What is indisputable, however, is that after that night, Scarlet Crow was never seen alive again. 

Savior or Slumlord?

Row of rundown homes on 7th St SW

In 1933, eleven words made Minnie Keyes a wealthy woman. They were scrawled on a blank telegram slip, tied to a pencil with an elastic band, and stuffed under a mattress. “Minnie Keyes: You have been good to me. All is yours.” These sentences were the final will and testament of Leonard A. Hamilton, who had lived as a boarder at Keyes’ home for 30 years. Once a court accepted the scrap as legitimate, Keyes inherited Hamilton’s $100,000 estate, about $2.1 million in today’s money. Most of its value lay in real estate: dozens of homes scattered across Washington. The properties Minnie Keyes came to own, however, were not the city’s best. And what should happen to them became the source of great debate.

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