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If You Go:
The Washington Monument: This is perhaps the most iconic monument of the city; probably because it is also its tallest. For four years (1885 – 1889) this structure held the distinction of being the tallest structure in the world. Even today, at just over 550 feet, it still holds the title as the world's tallest stone structure as well as the world's tallest stone obelisk.
Construction of this monument began in 1848 but was temporarily halted from 1854 until 1877, first when funding was depleted, and then due to the Civil War. A difference in stone color is noted about 150 up the side of the structure where marble from a different souce was used when construction resumend in 1877. Although it was completed and dedicated on February 21, 1885, it was not officially opened to the public until 1888.
For over two centuries, our nation has been known around the world as today's leader of democracy. This capitol, like the nation it represents, is the peoples city. It's national museums, monuments, and memorials are open to the public free of charge. This makes Washington D.C. a great vacation destination for many travelers. It should also be a "must see" destination for every American citizen. What better way to learn about the history of our nation than to take a trip to Washington D.C. and immerse yourself in the history and traditions on display throughout the city. Here are several of the most popular sights that make a trip to this city worth your while.
The Capitol Building: In the beginning, our nation’s leaders and representatives met in a number of locations outside of Washington D.C., most notably New York City and Philadelphia, which was chosen as a temporary capital until the nation’s capital would be ready. In 1793 the cornerstone was laid by President George Washington. The building was completed in 1800 and, although the Senate and House of Representative wings were still incomplete, the Capitol held its first session with both chambers in session in November of that year.
The Lincoln Memorial: Following the assassination of President Lincoln, the American public voiced their desire for a fitting memorial to his remembrance. However, with the burden of the war costs, nothing was done until the beginning of the 20th century. In 1901 Congress approved $300,000 to begin work on the long overdue project near the shores of the Potomac. The plan met with opposition by those who considered it to be too swampy or otherwise inaccessible. But Congress stood firm, and in March of 1914 construction of the memorial began. Chief Justice William H. Taft (President during the ground-breaking
The Jefferson Memorial: Newly elected president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who admired Thomas Jefferson, inquired about building a memorial to the founding father, previous president, and author of the Declaration of Independence in 1934. Congress soon appropriated fund for the project and the cornerstone for the memorial was laid on November 15, 1939, and it was dedicated by President Roosevelt on the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birthday-April 13, 1943.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial: This site honors American service members who died in service in Vietnam/South East Asia, or who are still listed missing in action (MIA).
In 1979, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc., a non-profit organization to establish a memorial to Vietnam War veterans, raised over $8-million in private donations. A year later Congress authorized a memorial site near the Lincoln Memorial. A competition was held to determine the memorials design and the winning layout-the work of American architect Maya Lin-was selected from 1,421 design submissions.
Most travelers (foreign and domestic) visit Washington D.C. in the summer when the days are hot and humid. Many hotels, eager to bring families to the nation, offer discounted rooms to people traveling with children, so there may be some good deals to be found at hotels located closer to the Mall which are usually more expensive. Generally however, hotels and meals in this city can be not only pricey, but in some cases they are just plain expensive. Although there are bargains to be found, take care of the area you decide to book your room in. Many of the more affordably priced rooms are in areas deemed to be less savory than most people would find feel secure and comfortable staying at. For an alternate to more affordable room and board, consider lodging across the Patomiac in Arlington, Virginia and the surrounding area. Also, rather than drive, find a hotel near a subway station and use that service to get you around the city.
Although there is much written about the crime rate in the nations capital, the area known as the Mall (the park-like grassy area that stretches from the Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial) is known to keep travelers and tourist safe. The city's police forces patrol that area often and it is generally safe to wander through that area well into the night. Many monuments have park staff in attendance until late in the night.
Plan how you intend to spend your days well in advance of your trip, and don't try to see everying—it can't be done. The sights and all the experiences to be had will require more than one visit to this city. The Smithsonian museums are large and you could easily spend upwards of half a day here.
Also, don't be decieved by the tourist maps. A few city blocks in the tourist guide books can easily become a mile long walk. Have a bottle of water with you to stay hydrated. And when it is empty, instead of buying another bottle, refill it at the most convenient drinking fountain.
The White House: Perhaps the best known address to Americans is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the street address of the Presidential residence; the White House. But this was not always home to our country's leader. George Washington began his role as President in New York City until 1790 when the capital was relocated to Philadelphia. Although the Philadelphia citizens wanted their city to become the nations capital, President Washington had already decided on a location for the capital city earlier that year; the 100 square mile property that would become the city of Washington D.C.
Construction of the Presidential residence began in 1792 and the building was not ready for occupancy until 1800, after John Adams became President. The building was set ablaze by the British during the war of 1812, but five years later it had been reconstructed to the point where it was habitable and President James Monroe moved in. The residence went by a number of monikers, including "Presidential Palace", "Presidential Mansion", "President's House", and "Executive Mansion" until President Theodore Roosevelt established its formal name-"White House"-by engraving it on stationery in 1901.
The White House, like so any other structures in Washington D.C., is a National Heritage Site under the stewardship of the National Park Service.
While the structure housing had been completed, the bronze statue had not yet been built. Due to the material shortages of World War II, the bronze required for the 19-foot tall likeness of Jefferson could not be completed until the restriction on its use was lifted after the war. So, for the first four years, a plaster cast of the work painted to look like bronze was installed in its place. The finished statue of Jefferson was finally installed in 1947, four years after the memorials dedication. Jefferson's statue is surrounded by tall panels that are inscribed with his quotes, including one panel with excerpts of the Declaration of Independence.
Shortly after the original construction ended, the British burned the Capitol in August of 1814, which required a reconstruction and redesign of the House and Senate chambers, which was completed by 1819. However even this revision was insufficient to house the government of the new, young nation. By 1850 it was evident that the legislators from newly admitted states would require more space so it was again expanded. The call went out for workers to be brought in from Europe, but because of a poor response it became the African Americans (some freemen, but many slaves) who made up the majority of the work force. Finally, in 1828, a new dome was added to the building that became three times the size of the original. Since then there have been lesser expansions, restorations, landscaping and consistent revisions, but the look of the Capitol hasn't changed all that much in the past century.
ceremony) presented the Memorial to President Warren G. Harding in May of 1922. The ceremony also had in attendance Lincoln's only surviving son, 78-year old Robert Todd Lincoln.
The memorial is surrounded by 36 columns, one representing each state of the Union when Lincoln died, with two additional columns at the main entry. Above the columns are the state names, and above that is listed the 48 states present at the time of the Memorial's dedication. A statue of a seated Lincoln is centered between the north and south chamber of the memorial. Etched into the stone at these chambers and behind the seated Lincoln are the text from two of his great speeches; the Gettysburg Address of 1863 and of the Second Inaugural Address of 1865. Originally the statue was intended to be only 10 feet tall, but it looked out of proportion compared to the rest of the cavernous structure, so it was enlarged to 19-feet tall. And, although appears to be carved from a single block, it is in fact composed of 28 pieces that fit together with such precision that no seam is visible.
Her design, however, was controversial and resulted in a lot of criticism from many of the memorial supporters. Unlike other memorials, which were typically white, raised high above the ground, and were lavish in their design, her design was a black wall, sank into the earth, and lacked any ornate features.
The memorial is made up of two 250-foot sections of wall, each made of 72 panels of black granite polished to a mirror finish. The first and last panels are only eight-inches high, and the panels taper to a maximum height of ten feet where the two wall sections meet. Etched into these panels are the names of 58,318 men and women lost in that war.
The wall was dedicated in November 13, 1982. Although it is the best known and first part of the memorial to be built, two additional parts have been added to the site.
In 1984 a bronze statue named The Three Soldiers was added, depicting three servicemen looking toward the wall and the names of their fallen comrades. Then, in 1993 a statue of three women with a wounded soldier, The Vietnam Women's Memorial, was dedicated to the women who served in that war.