Washington DC Trivia

The driver of the last bus we travelled on in Washington DC, ‘Big Joe’, told us a number of anecdotes and interesting little things about DC and I decided to share them here.

Layout of DC

The city was very carefully planned and the layout of the streets is such that it easy to find your way around. In 1n 790 Abe Lincoln selected the piece of land on the Potomac River near a settlement known as Georgetown which now forms part of DC itself. He called it the District of Columbia and it is not a state as are the 50 federal states. Lincoln appointed a French architect, Pierre L'Enfant to design this new capital. He based on a number of European cities in the Baroque style of layout. He divided the city into 4 quadrants radiating from the Capitol, naming them NE, NW, SE and SW each street and avenue has one of these at the end of its name. Hence, our hotel was 11th Street NW making it easy to find on a map. Streets which run East to West are allocated letters eg A street while those streets which run North to South are allocated numbers. Those streets which are diagonal are named avenues after different states. The street numbers are allocated according to the number of blocks they are from the Capitol. There is so much more on this subject that I invite you to go to the link. It is quite fascinating to read.

Freedom Plaza with Potomac RiverFreedom Plaza with street layout. The 'wavy' section at the front denotes the Potomac River

Residents of DC

As Washington DC is not a state but a completely separate entity which must be seen as independent and unbiased when considering Federal Law. As a result the persons who reside in DC do not vote for the President or any representatives in Congress or the Senate. They do elect their own Mayor, Council and other officials. Like every state in the US, DC has its own verbal logo which is "Taxation without Representation" and this appears on their vehicle Licence Plates.

DC Lisence Plate 1

Freedom Plaza

This Plaza is directly related to the street layout of DC as it has a pattern of the city centre as its floor. It was from this Plaza that Martin Luther King Jr led 25 000 people in “The March on Washington” to the Abe Lincoln Monument where he gave his famous “I have a dream” speech in 1963. The step on which he stood to deliver the speech at the monument is etched with the December 1963 date. The March was held to advocate for civil and economic rights and freedom for Blacks. While we were at the Plaza it was very busy with youngsters on skate boards and workers rushing back and forth.

Freedom Plaza EntEntrance to Freedom Plaza

The Trump Hotel

On Pennsylvania Avenue, around the corner from the White House and the Capitol is the new Trump Hotel. It is in the old General Post Office Building which had been built from 1892 – 1899. It was used as the Post Office until 1914. In the 1920s the whole are around Pennsylvania Avenue became very run down, including this building. In 1970, the National Planning Committee for DC agreed that the building should be demolished but they had not planned for the protestors led by Wolf Von Eckardt who were totally opposed to the demolition of the building. It was never demolished and in time tenders were called for the buildings to be sold. The Trump Administration won the Award and have converted it into an hotel. He, as President, cannot own any part of the hotel so it is held by the Trust. Besides not being permitted to change any outer part of the building, there is one attraction which had to remain and the public have free access and that was the Clock Tower.

Trump HotelTrump Hotel with the Clock Tower

The Post Office/Trump Hotel Clock Tower

Big Joe told us that there was one thing that we absolutely must do and that was to go up the Tower before we left DC so on our last morning before leaving for the airport, we walked down to the Trump Hotel. Although it has free entry, the entrance to the Tower has been transferred to the rear of the building. The Tower is still manned by the National Park Service. We had to sign in and then a security guard took us to the lift and another met us when we arrived at the top and walked us to the viewing area. Everything ‘smelled’ of excellence and money but we were disappointed in that the openings from where one could see across the city had metal bars so it was difficult to get photos but the views of the city were wonderful. It was still an incredible experience and on the way back down, with the same procedure, we walked down a passage which had the whole history on its walls. At one point we had been able to look down on to the Hotel Atrium which was beautiful.

Trump Hotel History of the buildingPassage with history of this building

Trump Hotel FoyerHotel Atrium from above

Chinatown

Almost every city in the US and maybe the world has a Chinatown and DC is no exception. It was just up the road from our hotel. At the entrance to Chinatown was a large beautifully decorated arch and the paintings on the road for pedestrians at the intersection were pictures of Chinese mythical animals.

Chinese Arch 2Chinatown Arch with painted signs on the road

There were probably other points of interest which are not commonly known but these few struck a chord with us.

About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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