Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Iwalked Washington D.C.’s Fdr Memorial Tidal Basin – Room Two (“SocialPolicy”)

Iwalked Washington D.C.’s Fdr Memorial Tidal Basin – Room Two (“Social Policy”) - The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Tidal Basin was the fourth memorial dedicated to a U.S. president located on the National Mall. Ironically Roosevelt, the only American President elected more than two terms, was actually opposed to the idea of being honored via a public monument. Despite his reservations, Roosevelt was quoted once as commenting to his good friend Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurther, “If they are to put up any memorial to me, I should like it to be placed in the center of that green plot in front of the Archives Building.” Although the site had to be moved to make room for this massive 7.5 acre monument, Congress did approve erection of a fitting tribute in 1955.

Memorial Tidal Basin
Memorial Tidal Basin
The memorial consists of four “rooms,” each of which represents one of Roosevelt’s presidential terms. In Room Two we move onto a reflection of FDR’s second term (1936-1940) titled “Social Policy.” The centerpieces of the room revolve around three sculptures by artist George Segal (known for his Gay Liberation sculpture in New York’s Christopher Park). The sculptures are set to depict three various emotions of hope, hunger and despair.

The first sculpture, Fireside Chat, shows a man leaning forward on a wooden chair while listening to one of Roosevelt’s famed radio addresses. Another sculpture, The Breadline, features five male figures in their trench coats and hats awaiting a ration of food. Lastly, The Rural Couple, depicts a male and female (assumingly man and wife) with a somber and tired looking expression on their faces. Also within this room is a large five panel bronze mural titled Social Programs. Depicted on the mural are random images of hands and faces interspersed with scenes symbolizing the various fifty-four programs from the period.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Iwalked New York City’s Washington Square Arch

Iwalked New York City’s Washington Square Arch - Washington Square’s most recognized monument, the Washington Square Arch was formally dedicated on the north side of the park in May 1895 (although technically the final blocks for the structure had been laid three years earlier in April 1892). The current arch is actually the third version that has resided within the park. The originally version was constructed in April 1889 in celebration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the inauguration of our nation’s first president, George Washington (which occurred on nearby Wall Street at Federal Hall).

Washington Square Arch
Washington Square Arch
This tribute, styled much like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, was intended only as a temporary structure and thus constructed in simple to tear down materials such as wood and plaster. The public response to the monument was so favorable, however, that its architect Stanford White decided to create a sturdier version constructed of limestone (which he did for the sum of $27,000). This second incarnation would only be unveiled for two days before White was finally asked to create a final manifestation which would be constructed of marble and still resides here today. The only significant change to the monument since then is the fact that traffic is no longer allowed to drive through the arch, as had been the case until 1971 when the park was redesigned.

Washington Square Arch also contains two magnificent statues of George Washington along the north side that were later additions. The earliest statue was added along the eastern half in 1916 and is titled, “Washington Accompanied by Fame and Valor.” This sixteen foot marble sculpture was created by Herman A. MacNeil who hailed from Queens and also created some noted sculptures along the Supreme Court Building in Washington D.C. Here we see Washington in his full military garb while he clutches a sword with both hands directly in front of himself. On the western half of the northern side of the arch is a work unveiled just two years later by Alexander Stirling Calder titled, “George Washington Accompanied by Wisdom and Justice.” Here, again, is a sixteen foot marble figure depicting Washington as he appeared during his years as our nation’s first president.

One other “hidden” element within the arch’s western leg is a spiral staircase that leads towards the summit. Unfortunately the public is not allowed within the interior as the roof has been deemed quite fragile and is said to even leak. For now you’ll have to trust us that the interior consists of a 102-step spiral stairwell.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Iwalked Washington D.C.’S White House

Iwalked Washington D.C.’S White House - When Pierre Charles L’Enfant was hired to design Washington D.C., part of his commission was to propose on the design of a grand new “Presidential Palace.” Unfortunately, L’Enfant was fired for insubordination prior to “getting around” to sharing his vision. In response, a design contest was held in 1792 for which nine proposals would be submitted. The winner of the contest would receive for their efforts $500 or a medal of equal value. Second prize would offer the sum of $150. The second place entry was awarded to an architect from Richmond, VA, John Collins, who submitted his entry under the pseudonym “A.Z.” The design was said to emulate the Villa Rotunda just outside of Vicenza, Italy. Its entry has long been speculated to have been submitted by Thomas Jefferson, however, no direct evidence to confirm this has ever been found. The first prize was awarded to a self-taught Irish-born architect named James Hoban on July 17, 1792. Hoban’s design called for construction of a home that drew inspiration from the Leinster House in Dublin, Ireland.

Washington D.C.’S White House
Washington D.C.’S White House
Construction on the White House would commence on October 13, 1792. Ironically, in very un-Washingtonian fashion, no formal ceremony was held. The building would be constructed over an eight-year period and was ready for occupancy on November 1, 1800. John Adams, the second President of the United States, was the first president to reside here. Washington, who oversaw a vast amount of the building’s construction, unfortunately never had the opportunity to live within the Presidential Palace. Adam’s residency would not last too long either though as he was only able to live within the White House during the final four months of his presidency.

When President Thomas Jefferson moved into the home in 1801 he was full of criticism of the building (perhaps in response to losing the design competition). Upon moving onto the premise Jefferson declared the property too big by stating it was, “big enough for two emperors, one Pope and the grand lama.” And Jefferson’s response to this declaration? Well, he immediately began making revisions to the structure by hiring US Capitol architect Benjamin Latrobe. These alterations included the addition of single-story wings to either side of the main building for added storage to Jefferson’s “already too big” home.

In August 1814, during the War of 1812, the British began to overtake the city of Washington and many occupants began to flee. Amongst those who left the city were President James Madison and his wife Dolley. Prior to her departure Dolley grabbed a copy of Gilbert Stuart’s famous portrait of George Washington (known to many as that which graces every $1 bill) while other aides ensured the safety of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. On August 14, 1814, the British officially set the White House to torch and the building would only be saved by the hard rains falling from the sky that evening. James Hoban would be brought back in March 1815 to begin to reconstruct the charred remains of his original design. During his reconstruction, Hoban added a series of porticos to the building’s north and side and also painted the entire structure white. Some has theorized that Hoban’s decision to paint the building white was to cover-up the smoke and burn stains that resided on the exterior.

Hoban’s revitalized White House was a social curiosity to one famed visitor in the 19th Century and also the site of a historic first a few years later. In 1842, the White House was visited by esteemed author Charles Dickens who later wrote of his unique experience. Expecting a warm reception upon arrival Dickens was taken aback when he arrived with his official White House invite and found no one to greet him. Instead he escorted himself onto the premises and inspected the entire property without an intervention or being questioning during his exploration. A few years later the White House was the happy site of the only marriage ceremony for a U.S. President when Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th President of the United States (and only president to serve two non-consecutive terms), married Frances Folsom. The wedding which occurred on June 2, 1886 was held within the White House’s Blue Room.

The White House would not see its next significant structural changes until just after the turn of the 20th century when a number of changes were set to occur. During President Theodore Roosevelt’s administration, he oversaw the addition of increased living space within the building’s third story attic. It was also Roosevelt who coined the official nickname of the White House around this time in 1901. Two other significant changes which would be implemented over the ensuing years included the additions of the West Wing and Oval Office. Originally known as the Yellow Room, the Oval Office served a number of purposes before becoming the official offices to the President of the United States. For instance, Thomas Jefferson was known to use it for practicing his violin. Woodrow Wilson, meanwhile, found the room a romantic setting sufficient to propose to his second wife, Edith Bolling. The last significant addition to the White House would occur in 1942 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt authorized construction of the East Wing which would occur in 1942. This final alteration would provide the symmetry of the building you see today.

Public tours of the White House are available, however, be prepared to plan ahead. Requests must be made a minimum of twenty one days in advance through your local Congressman and it is recommended that you provide your request up to six months in advance. Tours, as provided, may be offered Tuesday-Thursday 7:30-11:00am, Fridays 7:30am-12pm and Saturdays 7:30am-1pm. Please note, tours are typically offered only to U.S. citizens unless coordinated through your local embassy and providing a request directly through them.

Fun facts that you may learn as part of your tour include insight as to the building’s architecture, history and occupants. For instance you may learn how the White House requires five hundred seventy gallons of paint. When the exterior was recently restored in 1996, workers found up to twenty-eight coats of this paint (some of which covered the fire damage from 1814)! In relation to occupants, you may also get to witness or cross paths with one of the five full-time chefs on-site that may serve on the upwards of up to one hundred forty guests on any one occasion.
To learn about famous ghosts and haunts of the White House you may

Monday, July 2, 2012

Iwalked New York City’s Café Wha?

Iwalked New York City’s Café Wha? - On a wintery January 24, 1961, a young nineteen year old Robert Zimmerman arrived to New York City having hitchhiked all the way from Minnesota. His first destination? A small club which he had heard about called Café Wha? That day, Zimmerman convinced the club’s owner, Manny Roth, to allow him to play here despite having a limited resume of performances. (Zimmerman had in actuality only played once publicly prior to this.) Roth impressed with Zimmerman’s dedication (having moved from Minnesota after all) provided Zimmerman the opportunity. Young Robert would proceed to play a full set that day consisting exclusively of Woody Guthrie covers.

 Café Wha?
 Café Wha?
Over the ensuing months, Zimmerman would become a staple of Café Wha? And Robert’s status as a folk legend would begin to build as the man originally known as Robert Zimmerman would be transformed into Bob Dylan (named after his idol, poet Dylan Thomas). Others would later follow in Dylan’s footsteps at Café Wha? as this small club began to be recognized as one of the top havens for musical talent during the 1960s.

The cast of musicians and comedians which has graced the stages of Café Wha? has included the likes of Ritchie Havens, Bill Cosby, Kool and the Gang, Richard Prior and Bruce Springsteen. Mary Travers, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, was a former waitress here before being discovered. And Louis Gossett, Jr. actually sang folk songs here before deciding to pursue acting full-time.

In June of 1966, the house band for Café Wha? was an unknown act that dubbed themselves Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. Amongst the band’s members was an aspiring guitarist named Jimi Hendrix (then going by the name Jimmy James). Hendrix, although not a native New Yorker, had played in the city for a period beginning in 1964. He did not stay long though. After being discovered by the Animals manager Chas Chandler, who had taken a liking to a little song called “Hey Joe,” Chandler swept Hendrix out of New York and off to London where larger fame would await.

As for the club itself, Café Wha? first opened its doors in 1959. Its original owner, Manny Roth, had a knack for discovering talent in those days. His gift may have been aided by having such a talented nephew (David Lee Roth). Manny owned the club until 1988 when he sold the business. Today Café Wha? continues to function as a music venue that primarily features a roster of varying house bands (depending upon the day of the week).

  • Website: http://cafewha.com/

  • Address: 115 MacDougal Street, New York City, NY

  • Cost: May vary by night. See website for details.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Iwalked Boston’s Park Street Church

Iwalked Boston’s Park Street Church - Park Street Church is an active Conservative Congregational Church located along Boston’s Freedom Trail that dates back to 1809 (just five years after Park Street itself was established). Prior to its erection, the largest building in all of Boston resided on this site. A building known as the Granary (built in 1738), was located here for nearly seventy-five years, serving the purpose of storing corn and wheat for sale. It was inside the former Granary building in which the sails for the U.S.S. Constitution were said to be sewn. The Granary was demolished in 1809 to make room for the Park Street Church which was founded by twenty-six parishioners from the nearby Old South Meeting House.

Boston’s Park Street Church
Boston’s Park Street Church
Park Street Church was formally constructed in a very short period of time between 1809 and 1810 and was designed by architect Peter Banner. Banner based his plans on a similar London church by Sir Christopher Wren who is most noted for having designed St. Paul’s Cathedral. Integrated within Banner’s designs include a 217 foot Georgia steeple and some intricately carved wooden capitals on the front columns that were done by Solomon Willard. An addition of a stained glass window caused a bit of controversy when it was installed in 1904 for its anti-Puritan flare. The controversy eventually led the church to install a plain-glass window over the exterior so that this single example of stained glass may only be viewed from the interior.

When masses began here in 1810, the congregation was known as a very serious and passionate bunch. Masses would last approximately two to three hours each week and in the event that attendees were found to be “resting their eyes” they were awaken via a wooden stick.

Over the years Park Street Church earned the nickname of “Brimstone Corner,” both for the fiery speakers who used to preach both inside and outside the church and for the gunpowder which was housed there during the War of 1812. Amongst those who spoke here included William Lloyd Garrison who delivered his first anti-slavery speech here on July 4, 1829. It was during this address that he spoke the famous words, “Since the cause of emancipation must progress heavily, and must meet with must unhallowed opposition—why delay the work?”

A number of other notable firsts are said to have occurred within the Park Street Church. The first Sunday school program was held here in 1816. The church’s first organist, Lowell Mason, composed “Joy to the World” here. Another noted song, “America” (aka “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”) was sung for the first time of the church’s steps on July 4, 1831 by the Park Street’s Children Choir. And lastly, some unrelated organizations including the Animal Rescue League (a predecessor of the humane society) and the Prison Discipline Society (the first U.S. prison ministry) were also founded here.

Today the church continues to be an active congregation that is said to have nearly 2,000 mass attendees each week.