We've just spent 4 intensive days in the US federal Capital. Museums, Federal buildings and other famous sight-seeings were at the menu. Luckily Washington DC has 99.9% of its attractions concentrated around the Mall, a huge rectangle delimited by the Lincoln Memorial on the left and the US Capitol complex on the right. The main museums delimit the borders, hence everything was at walking distance from each other. This article will focus on the iconic buildings, seen so many times on TV and movies.
The Mall is the big green horizontal rectangle on the map below.
Lincoln Memorial: Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Best remembered for ending Slavery, after the civil war.
The Washington Monument, the Obelisk below, is a tribute to George Washington's military leadership from 1775-1783 during the American Revolution.
The National WWII Memorial (an ugly Staline-like styled enormous thing) honors the 16 million people who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort in the US. The memorial opened to the public on April 29, 2004 and was dedicated one month later on May 2 by President G. II Bush.
The White House (we almost forgot to go to see it, and no, Mr. President was nowhere to be seen, sadly) is the official residence and workplace of the US Presidents. It was built between 1792 and 1800, and its first tenants were President John Adams and his wife. Every subsequent President and family have lived there since.
Celine is adamant I should mention that the White House architecture was directly copied on a French castle from the Dordogne region, the castle of Rastignac. Follow the Google link to check it, it's undeniable!
The Supreme Court is the highest tribunal in the Nation for all cases and controversies arising under the Constitution or the US laws. It receives 8000 arguments per year and hears only 80 of them. The 9 Supreme Court justices are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Theoretically everybody, even us, could be choosen by the President but will never be confirmed by the Senat. They are appointed for life terms but can resign or retire if they wish too. In case of misconduct they can be impeached (like President Clinton during the Monicagate or Nixon). It happened just once in 200 years.
We assisted to a fantastic 45mn-lecture given by a very informative, passionate and lively guide, who had all the answers to our numerous questions. She managed to make a subject as dry as law riveting.
Facing the 9 most important US seats during the lecture was very humbling and moving.
Building seen in numerous TV Shows and Movies...The FBI, the highest level of American law enforcement, that serves both federal and internal intelligence agency. Its motto is the backronym of FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation): "Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity".
Public tours used to be offered, not anymore unfortunately.
The US Capitol: Our guide had a headache, or had had a bad night, or something like that, which means that after only 5min we wished that we had chosen the other guide... really the least good visit of all we've done. The surprise came when we managed to get passes to attend the Senate live session. You can't wear anything electronic, no camera, no phone, no car keys, nothing to go and enter the Senate... Celine was flabbergasted to see that the room was almost empty, but for 4 secretaries, the person who records the speeches and the little 'pages'. She imagined that all the senators were actually attending each session... Despite the hot subject of the day (the few trillion dollars deficit reduction, the extension of tax credit for the super rich and the extension of unemployment benefits), only the current speaker and the next one were actually in the room...
We were amused/bemused to see the use of 'pages' to assist refilling the glasses of the speakers, distributing various papers...and sitting on the floor, waiting to be needed. It would be interesting to know how many of them actually desire to become politician after such a treatment! Not mentioning that they have to attend school from 6.30am to 10am in order to start serving the Senate/House members from 10am.
The old Supreme Court used to be in the Capitol building, before the construction of its own proper building:
And finally the main purpose of our trip: the Library of Congress.
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the US and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington,D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and number of books (35million books currently). They receive on average another 7000 books per day...
The Library of Congress was established by Congress in 1800, and was housed in the United States Capitol for most of the 19th century. After much of the original collection had been destroyed by the English, during the War of 1812, Thomas Jefferson sold 6487 books, his entire personal collection, to the library in 1815. After a period of decline during the mid-19th century the Library of Congress began to grow rapidly in both size and importance after the American Civil War, culminating in the construction of a separate library building and the transference of all copyright deposit holdings to the Library. During the rapid expansion of the 20th century the Library of Congress assumed a preeminent public role, becoming a "library of last resort" and expanding its mission for the benefit of scholars and the American people.
The guided visit was really nice and entertaining. We wished we had enough time to see the exhibitions, explore some of the incredible treasures they have. Imagine seeing Columbus' Book of Privileges or the first map mentioning the word 'America' around 1510!
The Main Reading room. We could not get a ticket unfortunately as we were a bit running out of time