• Washington Mero, CAF 5026 railcar leads a Green Line train to Greenbelt at Fort Totten station lower level in Washington DC. (Credit: Ben Schumin, used via CC BY-SA 3.0)
    Transit History
     
     
    After years of waiting for a train that seemed to be infinitely delayed, DC celebrated the Green Line's opening in December 1991.
  • The Peacock Room (Source: Wikipedia, used via CC BY-SA 2.0)
    Art History
     
     
    When the Smithsonian dragged its feet, Teddy Roosevelt stepped in to secure one of the world greatest art collections for the nation.
  • Resurrection City spent six muddy weeks on the National Mall, within view of landmarks such as the Capitol. (Photo source: Wikipedia Commons)
    MLK's Final Dream
     
     
    In 1968, just weeks after Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, impoverished Americans flocked to Washington to live out his final dream: economic equality for all.
  • Gov. George Wallace
    Maryland History
     
     
    Gov. George Wallace predicted his politics might make him a target of violence but would-be assassin Arthur Bremer was probably not who he had in mind.
  • Washington Senators players c. 1920
    Baseball History
     
     
    Spending a Sunday afternoon at the ol’ ballpark is pretty commonplace nowadays. But 100 years ago? Notsomuch.

The Lesser-Known National Aquarium

Photo of empty National Aquarium in basement of Department of Commerce, 1932. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Since opening in 1981, the National Aquarium in Baltimore has proved a popular tourist destination, an educational excursion, and a great refuge from the heat in summer months. Many people don’t know, however, that there was a smaller, more modest National Aquarium in D.C. for years before the one in Baltimore popped up.

Those who recall the original National Aquarium will remember it as a dark, tiny exhibit tucked away in the basement of a gigantic government building. But how exactly did this little-known Washington spot end up on the lowest floor of the Department of Commerce—today known as the Herbert C. Hoover building—on 14th St NW?

L'Enfant's Guide to Getting Fired

It takes a lot of talent to design a city, especially one with such sweeping vistas and wide, radial streets as our Nation’s Capital.  It’s hard not to admire the vision of Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the engineer behind Washington, D.C. But everybody makes mistakes—even visionaries— and L’Enfant was certainly no exception.

His biggest blunder was probably tearing down the house of his boss’s nephew. 

An Evening at the White House with Johnny Cash

The Nixons and the Cashes pose for a photo on the evening that Cash performed at the White House. Image Source: National Archives.

April 17, 1970 was a big day for the United States—President Richard Nixon even described it as the “proudest day of [his] life and in the life of the country.” That afternoon, the ill-fated Apollo 13 crew splashed down in the Pacific Ocean and made it to safety. The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief.

But the day wasn’t over yet. That evening, President Nixon would sit in the East Room of the White House for another cultural milestone: a legendary performance by country music star Johnny Cash.

Maryland was almost "Almost Heaven"

In the summer of 1970, Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert were driving down Clopper Road to a family reunion in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Montgomery County was a much more rural place in those days, and the scenery inspired Danoff to repetitively sing “country roads, country roads, country roads.” 

Under normal circumstances, this burst of creativity might have gone nowhere, but the couple happened to be a duo of professional musicians. So, with the help of John Denver, they soon turned the phrase into the earworm we know today. 

Washington's "Official" Song

From left to right, Jimmie Dodd and his wife, Ruth, are presented with a record of "Washington" by James H. Simon.

What songs come to mind when you think of Washington, D.C.? Maybe Go-go music, or patriotic Sousa marches? Then of course there’s the “official” song, that instantly recognizable classic— “Washington,” by Jimmie Dodd (Yes, the composer is the same grown man who went on to lead the Mouseketeers in the original “Mickey Mouse Club” in 1955).

Doesn’t ring a bell? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

1969: Georgetown Becomes Fully Coed

Cartoon from Georgetown student publication The Hoya, picturing a woman jumping out of a cake labelled "The College" to the surprise of several male faculty and students.

“They’ll admit women to the College over my dead body!”

When the Georgetown University Board of Directors announced big changes coming to campus in 1969, at least one Jesuit priest was clearly not thrilled. Perhaps he had just read the headline: “Georgetown Breaks Tradition, Allows Women into the College of Arts and Sciences.” Perhaps he had not heard the rumors that his university needed money, and would be increasing its enrollment rate in the coming years. Perhaps he had neglected to look outside the window of his office and notice that women had been walking across Georgetown’s campus for many years already.

Washington Hosts the 1969 All-Star Game

American League players at the 1969 All-Star game

Washington, D.C. hosted the 1969 All-Star game at RFK stadium. It was a thrilling event that drew baseball fans together to watch the greats of the MLB, including hometown hero Frank Howard, go head-to-head. But the game also made history as the first, and only, All-Star game to be postponed due to weather. A torrential rain storm disrupted the city's plans, but that didn't stop more than 45,000 fans from coming out to RFK the next afternoon. 

Goddard Signals Apollo 11 Success

“NASA Goddard on Twitter: ‘1961: The Manned Space Flight Network Control Center Was Established at Goddard in July 1961 to Provide Communications Support for Astronauts on the Mercury and Apollo Missions.… Https://T.Co/QxK429nBfu.’” n.d. Accessed June 17, 2019. https://twitter.com/nasagoddard/status/1046843793536897024.

When Neil Armstrong announced that man had successfully landed on the moon’s surface July 20, 1969, he addressed his message to mission control, based at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas. While Armstrong’s first word may have been “Houston,” those at mission control in Texas were not actually the first ones to hear this historic message from space. Rather, the first people to hear of man landing on the moon, were NASA personnel at the Goddard Space Center, just 12 miles from D.C. in Greenbelt, Maryland. Goddard served as the main control center for receiving and directing signals and information between the manned Apollo 11 spacecraft and mission control in Houston. In fact, much of the technical success and amazement surrounding the Apollo 11 moon landing was thanks to the hard work of the scientists and engineers in Greenbelt.

Wishing in a Fountain: The Protest for more D.C. Pools

Children splash in the fountain at Columbus Circle to protest a shortage of pools in Washington, D.C.

In the early 1960s, the Evening Star called the Columbus Circle fountain in front of Union Station “a ready made swimming pool with ledges, platforms, and friendly statues. It is a grand place to wrestle and splash during the heat of the day, to get the shivers, and to finally recapture the heat by stretching full length on the warm bricks of the surrounding walk. Columbus looks on — pleased and noble.” However, as inviting as it was, swimming in the fountain was technically against Park Police regulations ... which made it the perfect place to protest Washington’s shortage of accessible swimming pools.

L'Enfant's Funeral: An Honor 84 Years Overdue

On April 28, 1909, a funeral procession nearly a mile long paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue and M Street, complete with fine carriages and a military escort. Throughout Washington, D.C., flags were displayed at half mast, spectators lined the streets, and school children were allowed a break from their studies to glimpse out the window and see it pass by. The man they were there to honor was Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant… who died in 1825.

Pages