A frequent site of nationally significant memorial services, the National Cathedral is open to worshipers of all denominations. Under construction for most of the 20th Century and completed and consecrated in 1990, this Gothic cathedral is the sixth largest in the world. Flying buttresses, gargoyles, crypts, a 98-foot (30-meter) vaulted ceiling and many intimate chapels contribute to this architectural masterpiece. The grounds invite exploration with curving walkways, well-kept hedges and spacious lawns from which to view the city.
Dedicated on May 29, 2004, the World War II Memorial is the first national memorial to honor “Americans who took up the struggle during the Second World War and made the sacrifices to perpetuate the gift our forefathers entrusted to us: A nation conceived in liberty and justice,” as the announcement stone proclaims. The design by architect Friedrich St. Florian marks the Pacific and European Theaters of World War II with magnificent arches and remembers the 400,000 Americans who died with 4,000 stars along the Freedom Wall. It is located on the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.
The famous assassination of President Abraham Lincoln here on April 14, 1865 has placed this theater firmly in history. Opened just four years before that fateful night, the theater has now been restored to its 1865 appearance and is again a showcase for plays. The basement-level Lincoln Museum displays artifacts from the assassination, including the gun John Wilkes Booth used to kill Lincoln. Mementos from Lincoln's life are also on display. Across the street is Petersen House, the place where Lincoln died.
This basilica, the largest Roman Catholic church in the Western Hemisphere, was dedicated in 1959. The architecture of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is a mix of Romanesque and Byzantine styles. The Great Upper Church boasts fantastic mosaics, stained glass windows and individual chapels. The lower level Crypt Church is smaller and darker, but equally impressive in atmosphere and ornamentation. The basilica has a bookstore, gift shop and cafeteria.
The largest mosque in the United States, the Islamic Center is built with white limestone and has a 162-foot (49-meter) high minaret. Within, stained-glass windows and fine Persian carpets contribute to the mosque's ornate and lavish artistry. In the Center complex, only the mosque is open to the public. Women must wear headscarves and visitors wearing shorts are not admitted. Tours are offered daily.
Because of its close proximity to the White House, St John's has become known as the "Church of the Presidents." In fact, since its establishment in 1815, every chief executive has attended services here; some on a regular basis. Pew 54 has been designated the "Presidents Pew." It was designed by Henry LaTrobe, who also did the restoration of the U.S. Capitol and White House after the War of 1812. In the 1870s, the plain glass windows were gradually replaced with exquisitely crafted stained glass depicting presidents and other notable parishioners.
This neo-classical church, National City Christian Church, contains one of the largest pipe organs in Washington DC. Visitors can hear free organ recitals at 12:15pm Thursdays, February through December. The sanctuary, which rises 200 feet above Thomas Circle, was designed by famed architect John Russell Pope. Also on the premises is an International Gift Shop, which sells the crafts of artisans from Third World countries.
Established in 1793, this church has played an integral part in the lives of many political leaders. Several presidents and cabinet members regularly worshipped here including John Quincy Adams and Dwight Eisenhower. Abraham Lincoln came with his family throughout his presidency. The Lincoln Parlor displays the original hand-written draft of an 'Emancipation Document' from Lincoln to Congress suggesting a bill designed to free the slaves. New York Avenue Presbyterian Church played an active role in the Civil Rights movement; its members joined the March on Selma and worked with local organizations. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was often a guest preacher.
This palatial townhouse on Embassy Row is a showpiece of the collections, interests, and lavish decor of Ambassador Lars Anderson and his heiress wife, Isabel. Housing an exhibit of revolutionary artifacts, the museum also offers some quirkier displays such as murals of Anderson's favorite motorcar tours of the city. But the biggest draw is the decor, which, from the grand ballroom to the original furnishings, gives a clear sense of how the cream of society once lived. Free chamber recitals are performed weekly.