DC

The Deal Done in the Dark

"Signing of the Alaska Treaty," a famous painting by Emanuel Leutze, depicts Seward and Stoeckl negotiating the Alaska purchase in the State Department on March 30, 1867.

In 1866, State Department employees were forced out of their old offices in the Northeast Executive Building because an extension to the Treasury Department was being constructed on that site. As a result, they moved into the Washington City Orphan Asylum, a small and unassuming brick building on the corner of 14th and S streets NW. Though the move was less than ideal, the walls of the new State Department would soon see major historical and diplomatic events unfold. One sleepless night in particular occurred on March 30, 1867: when Secretary of State William H. Seward negotiated the Alaska purchase.

Forrest "Lefty" Brewer, pictured here in military uniform, was a minor league baseball player and paratrooper involved in D-Day during World War II. (Photo Credit: Gary Bedingfield, "Baseball in Wartime")

Lefty Brewer's Sacrifice

Scout Joe Cambria of the Washington Senators was in Florida in the summer of 1938, seeking out new recruits for D.C.’s major league baseball team. When he watched Forrest “Lefty” Brewer pitch for the St. Augustine Saints that summer, the scout had no doubt that this was a player who could help turn around the struggling D.C. club. On June 6, 1938, Brewer threw a no hitter in the minor leagues. Exactly six years later he jumped out of a plane over Normandy, France on D-Day.

How I.M. Pei Brought Modern Architecture to the National Mall

Exterior view of the East Building of the National Gallery of Art (Credit: Difference Engine on Wikipedia, licensed via Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license)

When I.M. Pei, the celebrated Chinese-American architect from New York, was selected to design a new addition for D.C.’s National Gallery of Art, the Washington Post’s architecture critic remarked it was “no doubt one of the toughest [assignments] since Michelangelo was asked to put a dome on St. Peter’s.” Pei knew it would be a difficult task to build the new gallery, but that did not deter him. This is the story of how one of Washington's most unique buildings came to be.   

When Autumn in D.C. Felt Like an Appalachian Spring

The Martha Graham Dance Company performs “Appalachian Spring” on the stage of the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium on Oct. 30, 1944. The Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation Collection, Music Division. https://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2014/10/documenting-dance-the-making-of-appalachian-spring/

On the evening of October 30, 1944, hundreds of people filled the seats of the Coolidge Auditorium in the Library of Congress for the 10th  annual festival of chamber music. In the last performance of the night, the audience was transported to rural, 1800’s Pennsylvania through Aaron Copland’s musical masterpiece, Appalachian Spring. The ballet, featuring choreography by renowned American dancer, Martha Graham, enjoyed an overwhelmingly positive premiere that night, and became the most well-known piece of music commissioned by the Coolidge Foundation and Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge—the “patron saint of American music.”

Fighting for D.C.'s Homeless: Mitch Snyder and CCNV

Homeless Advocate Mitch Snyder, Actor Martin Sheen, Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn, January 1987 (Source: Boston Mayor's Office, via Wikipedia)

“Anyone who thinks anyone is on the streets by choice is saying that out of a bed; a warm, comfortable home with a roof over their heads, money in their pocket and food in their stomachs.” - Mitch Snyder

Faced with a growing homeless crisis, the Reagan administration made a surprising policy decision in 1983.  Vacant federal buildings became available to “local governments and charitable organizations” for use as emergency shelters at a “cost basis.”  The properties included thousands of HUD and Department of Defense owned structures across the country, and one particularly notable building in the shadow of the United States Capitol. But while the new policy seemed to be a step forward, Mitch Snyder's fight for D.C.'s homeless was just beginning.

In the White House When the Eagle Landed

President Nixon - Welcome - Apollo XI Astronauts - USS Hornet” (Photo Credit: NASA/JSC) https://moon.nasa.gov/resources/195/president-nixon-welcome-apollo-xi-astronauts-uss-hornet/

Approximately 530 million Americans across the country, including those in the White House, sat glued to their television sets on the evening of July 20, 1969, watching as Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon. It may have been President John F. Kennedy who jumpstarted the space program in 1961, but it was Richard Nixon sitting in the Oval Office the day that JFK’s promise of putting a man on the moon became a reality. It was also Nixon who would mark the occassion by making the longest distance phone call in history that night, as he picked up the Oval Office phone and dialed Space.

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