THE WHITE HOUSE
Home to the First Family, the nation’s most famous address needs no introduction. Construction on the White House began in 1792 and has been the residence of every president since John Adams moved in in 1800. Several expansions and restorations over the years have altered the footprint, but the neoclassical façade looks much as it did in James Hoban’s original design. Earlier this month, the White House announced photos would now be permitted on tours of the famous estate. Tours can be arranged through the office of your congressmen and run Tuesday through Saturday at select times.
Thanks in large part to the Smithsonian Institution, Washington is absolutely stuffed with some of the country’s best museums, all of which are free to the public. Endowed by a donation from James Smithson in 1846, the Smithsonian is responsible for ten of D.C.’s top museums, including the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of American History, and the National Postal Museum, as well as several galleries.
Other free museums include the National Gallery of Art and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. On the other side of town, in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, you’ll find the Anderson House, headquarters of the prestigious Society of the Cincinnati.
NATIONAL MALL AND MEMORIAL PARKS
Forming the spine of the city, the National Mall is one of the most picturesque and landmark-filled strolls in the country. The Lincoln Memorial stands tall at the west end of the Mall, which stretches for 1.9 miles to the steps of the Capitol. Punctuated by the Washington Monument in the middle, the Mall is lined with several commemorative monuments, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and other memorials recognizing service to the country. The site of many important protests and presidential inaugurations, the Mall functions as a work of public art, a space for its many commemorations, a public park, and a stage for national civic engagement.
In the 1930s Congress decided that Thomas Jefferson deserved a monument positioned as prominently as those honoring Washington and Lincoln. Workers scooped and moved tons of the river bottom to create dry land for the spot directly south of the White House where the monument was built. Jefferson had always admired the Pantheon in Rome, so the memorial’s architect, John Russell Pope, drew on it for inspiration. His finished work was dedicated on April 13, 1943, the bicentennial of Jefferson’s birth.
Many consider this to be the most inspiring monument in Washington, but that hasn’t always been the case: early detractors thought it inappropriate that a president known for his humility should be honored with what some felt amounts to a grandiose Greek temple. The memorial was intended to be a symbol of national unity, but over time it has come to represent social justice and civil rights.
United States Supreme Court
It wasn’t until 1935 that the Supreme Court got its own building: a white-marble temple with twin rows of Corinthian columns designed by Cass Gilbert. Before then, the justices had been moved around to various rooms in the Capitol; for a while they even met in a tavern. William Howard Taft, the only man to serve as both president and chief justice, was instrumental in getting the court a home of its own, though he died before the building was completed. Today you can sit in the gallery and see the court in action. Even when court isn’t in session, there are still things to see.