Another of the central locations in my new thriller, Deep Plant, is our nation’s capital, Washington D.C.. Sitting along the banks of the Potomoc River on land ceded by the states of Maryland and Virginia, Washington D.C. was established on July 16, 1790.
From its very genesis, it was intended to be the metropolis of the world’s new great empire. The United States of America.
Washington DC Engineered to Impress and Intimidate
By Its Very Existence, Washington, DC, Would Be Engineered to Dazzle and Daunt, Impress and Intimidate, Welcome and Warn.
Let our allies draw near. Let our enemies take caution.
At its center, would be a new acropolis, an august setting where the teachers, philosophers, scientists, planners, thinkers, priests and ministers, doctors, leaders, and revered of this great new nation would gather and chart its future: The House of the People.
The Great Rotunda
As would befit a structure of this magnificence, its central feature would dominate the city’s skyline, the Great Rotunda. Soaring to almost three hundred feet, the massive dome stands watch at the East End of the National Mall and testifies to the bold ambition of the founders. To bring forth a new nation, committed to affording its citizens an opportunity to forge a better life—safeguarded through the creation of laws to nurture, guide, and protect it.
Below, on the circular floor of the great rotunda hall, are a host of statues dedicated to honored citizens such as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., Ulysses Grant, Dwight Eisenhower, and Women’s Suffragettes: Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. Each state is allowed two and as you can imagine, this occasionally leads to heated debate over who and who should not be so honored.
While you can tour most of the Capitol, the dome is not open to the public. Which is probably not a bad thing as there are 365 steps, representing the number of days in a year, from the basement to the top. That would be a good workout.
Across the ceiling, and through the oculus or eye of the massive dome, one can find the famous painting entitled The Apotheosis of Washington. Draped in purple, signifying royalty, Washington is being received into heaven and the pantheon of the greats.
The National Mall
There are a multitude of things to see in Washington, but for today, I’ll focus on the National Mall.
The first time you see it, from either the steps of the Capitol at the eastern end of the Mall or the Lincoln Memorial at the Western end of the mall, it is truly breathtaking.
According to the website Washington.org, the National Mall is America’s most visited National Park. If you were inclined, you can walk all the way from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, but be prepared. It’s a distance of one-point-nine miles. And be prepared to stop. I mean a lot.
Like Mid-Town Manhattan, many of the DC things in movies, TV shows, books and magazines, are situated on the Mall.
The Mall is bounded on the North by Madison Drive, on the South by Jefferson Drive. Leaving the Capitol for the Lincoln Memorial, along Madison you’d pass both buildings containing the National Gallery of Art, check out the time based media displays—very cool!
Next stop, the National Sculpture Garden, which is all outside. Watch out for the giant spider!
And if the outdoors is more your forte, you’ll love the Natural History Museum, the largest collection of natural specimens in the world. One of the coolest displays is the Butterfly Pavilion, containing over three flitting and floating hundred butterflies! The Natural History Museum is also home to the fabled and supposedly cursed, Hope Diamond.
National Museum of American History
American history is on display at the National Museum of American History. Here you’ll find a vast array of Americana, over 1.8 million artifacts to be specific. Try seeing it all in a day. Whew!
Among the stars are the original Star Bangled Banner, the flag that flew over Fort McHenry inspiring Francis Scott Key’s composition of the national anthem.
Other amazing finds are an original copy of the Gettysburg Address, Dorothy’s Red Slippers from the Wizard of Oz, a C-3PO costume from Return of the Jedi, Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves, First Ladies exhibits, the first computer called ENIAC, the first Levi’s blue jeans—colored brown, can you believe it?
There’s a pack of the first Crayons, the 1960 Greensboro Lunch counter which was one of the first battle sights of the Civil Rights movement, and the operating room from the TV show MASH was on display.
There is something that will touch the spirit of every visitor.
We’ll continue our tour of the National Mall next month. If you have a DC experience, please email me, I’d love to hear about it. Until next month!