Theodore Roosevelt Island

Many people who visit the FDR Memorial in D.C. don’t realize that his fifth cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt, also has a memorial nearby. In fact, he has a whole island named after him. blog roos island sign

If you stand on the dock at the Washington Harbor in Georgetown (or the balcony of The Kennedy Center) and look across the Potomac River, you’ll see the heavily wooded national park blocking your view of the Virginia shoreline.TheodoreRooseveltIsland

Once known as Analostan Island and Mason’s Island- the most oft-used of many names- its recorded European history dates back to the 1600s. The Anacotan, Native Algonquin-speaking people, had several villages in what is now D.C. and most likely were the first ones to use, if not inhabit, the island.

It’s got a cool history that illustrates the social and land-use evolution of Washington- private summer home for a wealthy Georgetown family; occupied by Union forces during the Civil War; training camp for African American infantry regiment; freedman’s refugee camp; returned to its natural state by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.; cleared of structures by the Civilian Conservation Corps; and now operated as a memorial and hiking trails by the National Park Service.

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Union soldiers guarding what was then called Mason’s Island in 1861 during the Civil War. The Aqueduct Bridge and Georgetown University are in the background.

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View from similar vantage point today. The Key Bridge (which replaced the Aqueduct Bridge in 1923) and Georgetown University are in the background.

Check out some great sites that offer more detailed histories and recreations of the island:

http://washingtonarchitecture.blogspot.com/2012/05/gen-john-mason-house-analostan.html

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/3061/lost-washington-analostan/

You can get to the island on a footbridge from Virginia or rent a kayak from one of Georgetown’s boat houses and paddle over. Once there, you can walk (with or without your dog) or run the paths, picnic on the tiny beach, or visit the very large statue of Roosevelt in the center of the island.

Bring sunscreen, bug spray, and be ready to explore one of the more unusual presidential memorials in Washington.

 

 

Scandalous Washington- President Harding’s Love Child

Send the man a box of cigars! President Warren G. Harding, often considered one of America’s most scandalous presidents, is a father. Yes, he’s been dead for 92 years. But DNA tests just confirmed that he IS the father of a long-rumoured love child.

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President Warren G. Harding

 

The married Harding started a long-term affair with Nan Britton, a woman 31 years his junior, while serving as a U.S. senator from Ohio. It continued through his presidency and until his death in 1923. The couple met for adventurous sexcapades in his senate office and even in a small coat room off the Oval Office.

 

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Nan and Elizabeth Britton

One of those trysts in the senate resulted in Britton giving birth to their daughter, Elizabeth, in 1919. Harding never acknowledged his parentage but did offer the two financial  support.  After his death, Harding’s family refused to continue the support- they doubted Britton’s claim as they were convinced that a childhood bout with mumps had left Harding unable to have children. Britton needed money and so she wrote a tell-all book about her affair.

 

Historians, journalists, and scandal-lovers debated Britton’s claim over the years. After all, it’s a juicy story. Now, thanks to technology, it seems that we know for sure. Here’s a New York Times article that gives more details on the DNA test:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/13/us/dna-is-said-to-solve-a-mystery-of-warren-hardings-love-life.html?_r=1

Speaking of juicy….randy-handy Harding’s love life made news last year with the release of a batch of love letters to ANOTHER MISTRESS, Carrie Phillips.

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Carrie Fulton Phillips and a younger photo of Harding

The impressively passionate and dirty letters were donated to the Library of Congress by the Harding family in 1964 with the restriction that they remain sealed for 50 years. That expired last year, so we can all read bawdy excerpts such as:

Dec. 24, 1910

I love you more than all the world and have no hope of reward on earth or hereafter, so precious as that in your dear arms, in your thrilling lips, in your matchless breasts, in your incomparable embrace.

Sept. 15, 1913

Honestly, I hurt with the insatiate longing, until I feel that there will never be any relief untilI take a long, deep, wild draught on your lips and then bury my face on your pillowing breasts. Oh, Carrie! I want the solace you only can give. It is awful to hunger so and be so wholly denied. . . . Wouldn’t you like to hear me ask if we only dared and answer, “We dare,” while souls rejoicing sang the sweetest of choruses in the music room? Wouldn’t you like to get sopping wet out on Superior — not the lake — for the joy of fevered fondling and melting kisses? Wouldn’t you like to make the suspected occupant of the next room jealous of the joys he could not know, as we did in morning communion at Richmond?. . .

Hardingletter

In this letter, Harding describes his “mad, tender, devoted, ardent, eager, passion-wild, jealous, reverent, wistful, hungry, happy love” for Carrie Phillips

 

Hard to believe the man in the photos is the author, let alone actor, in the steamy affair he carried on with one of his best friend’s wife. This affair almost cost Harding the presidency. The tale of blackmail, spies, and payoffs are covered in the articles listed below.

And these were just two of the many scandals connected to Harding and his presidency! Since the recent news focuses on his love life, we’ll lcover more on Harding’s other escapades in a later post. In the meantime, with my condolences to the long-suffering Mrs. Florence Harding….

Happy Father’s Day, President Harding!

 

The Letter That Warren G. Harding’s Family Didn’t Want You to See:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/13/magazine/letters-warren-g-harding.html

Warren Harding’s Love Letters Finally Give Us Something to Remember Him For:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/warren-hardings-love-letters-finally-give-us-something-remember-him-180952528/

AND FOR MORE SCANDALOUS WASHINGTON POSTS GO TOhttp://SCANDALOUSWASHINGTON.COM

Scandalous Washington: World War II Edition- Part 1

The newest episode of Scandalous Washington- Part 1 of a World War II trilogy- explores the murder of a young newlywed, Rose Abramowitz.

 

 

AND FOR MORE SCANDALOUS WASHINGTON POSTS GO TOhttp://SCANDALOUSWASHINGTON.COM

Iwo Jima Memorial

The Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, VA is an emotionally moving statue, which is impressive considering its massive size- the figures alone are 32-feet high. But it’s even more touching if you happen to be there when veterans arrive courtesy of Honor Flight. I was lucky enough to experience that this weekend.

This amazing program flies US vets from around the country to visit Washington and the memorials dedicated to the wars they fought. Many of these vets are in their 80s and 90s. I get choked up every single time I’m at a memorial and see these men and women experiencing the respect of their country. It’s not only the statues and quotes, it’s the other visitors- from kids to seniors- who stop and thank them for their service, shake their hands, salute them, and connect for a moment with the strong, proud serviceman or woman that still exists inside an often elderly exterior.

I’m not sure if it’s the kindness and gratitude of strangers or the reminder that we are quickly losing the human element, the humanity, of these important markers of American history that I find the most emotionally gripping. But I feel lucky to witness and participate in these exchanges.

A few photos from the Memorial and of an Honor Flight with vets from Rochester, NY:

While the Memorial depicts Joe Rosenthal’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman raising the American flag after the eponymous World War II battle in the Pacific, it honors all Marines who have given their lives throughout US history.

More info on Honor Flights: https://www.honorflight.org

Cherry Blossoms in Wartime Washington

Although it feels more like winter in Washington this week, the beginning of spring marks the annual countdown to the frothy pink explosion of cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin.

A little backstory: in a gesture of friendship, Japan sent 2,000 cherry trees to the US as a gift in 1910. Nice thought. But the trees were infested with roundworms and insects and burned (fuller and interesting history at: http://www.history.com/news/the-drama-behind-100-years-of-washingtons-cherry-blossoms).

Another batch of 3,000 arrived in 1912. Those worked. First Lady Helen Taft and the Japanese Ambassador’s wife planted the first 2 trees on the north side of the Tidal Basin. Further horticultural exchanges, festivals, parades, concerts, and crowned princesses followed. Bloom Watch is now a local tradition.

Since I’m celebrating- and obviously promoting- the release of my book Lipstick Brigade: The Untold True Story of Washington’s World War II Government Girls, I thought I’d share some fun photos of residents, tourists, Government Girls and servicemen visiting the cherry blossoms in wartime Washington (all thanks to the Library of Congress).

 

After the Japanese bombing at Pearl Harbor, angry vandals hacked down four of the symbolic trees. Added security kept the rest of the trees safe throughout the war.

There are now about 3,750 cherry trees (a mix of at least 10 different species) surrounding the Tidal Basin. Parking is a nightmare, walking around is difficult as every other person stops to take a picture, and the weather is annoyingly unpredictable. But when you’re engulfed in hundreds of thousands of pink petals that offer perfectly framed glimpses of the DC’s famous monuments, it’s definitely worth the effort.

This year the trees are expected to be in full bloom (meaning about 70% of the blossoms are open) from April 11th thru the 14th.

The National Park Service offers maps and trail guides you can download here: http://www.nps.gov/cherry/cherry-blossom-maps.htm

Find a full calendar of events from the official festival website: http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/category/events/

Another White Winter in Washington

Today, D.C. is digging out from its first snowfall of the year. We got about 4”- a bit more than expected- and it’s created havoc for schools, roads, and airports. Yes, yes, Washingtonians are called wimpy when it comes to dealing with snow. I personally think cancelling everything to stay home with hot chocolate and Netflix is a perfect way to deal with it, but that only adds fuel to the reputation.

I figure this was a good time to share some terrific photos of Washington during the snowstorm of January 1922. The city registered 28” of snow between January 27th &28th. These great pictures showing a heartier generation ice skating by the Lincoln Memorial, commuting through snowdrifts, and slogging down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the Old Post Office are from the Harris & Ewing collection at the Library of Congress.

 

This was also called the Knickerbocker Storm. On Saturday evening, January 28th, just after 9pm, over 400 people were gathered to watch the silent film Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford at the Knickerbocker Theater in Adams Morgan. During intermission, the roof split in the middle, crashing through the balcony, and flattening portions of the brick walls onto the audience and musicians working in the orchestra (including Joseph Beal, the first violinist- and WWI veteran- who had been married just 3 days earlier). Ninety-eight people died in the collapse and 133 were injured. Rescue efforts were hampered by snow drifts up to 16 feet high.

 

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Documentary filmmaker Jeff Krulik included this newsreel footage of the disaster in his film Twenty-Five Cents Before Noon:

 

For more info on the Knickerbocker:

A 2008 Washington Post article on the collapse: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2008/01/the_great_knickerbocker_snowst_1.html

 

Lyman v. Knickerbocker Theatre Co., a case brought against the theater by the estate of one of the victims:

https://casetext.com/case/lyman-v-knickerbocker-theatre-co

 

 

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