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Best Historic Locations in Washington DC

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The Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place of the soldiers who gave their lives in service to the country. Two of America's former presidents, John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft are buried here. The crew of the Challenger space shuttle, civil rights leader Medgar Evers and film star Audie Murphy are among the many honored here. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, containing remains of unidentified soldiers from World Wars I, II, and the Korean War, are protected by the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment or the Old Guard 24 hours a day. The changing of the guard ceremony is a moving tribute to them.

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.

The symbol of the city of Washington DC, this 555-foot (169-meter) marble obelisk on the National Mall honors the nation's first president, George Washington. The cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid in 1848, but construction was not completed until 1884. About one-third of the way up the obelisk is a visible change in the marble, evidence of the onset of the Civil War. Construction was halted during the war, and when the builders returned to the same quarry to complete the project afterward, enough time had passed to cause a significant change in the color. An emblem of the United States and an icon of the nation, the Washington Monument is a moving sight, its elegant form mirrored in the Reflecting Pool of the Lincoln Monument nearby.

Part of the original design for the federal city, this massive park stretches from the US Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial. It has played host to many momentous, world-changing events throughout history including the 1963 March on Washington, the Million Man March and several presidential inaugurations. Today, the National Mall serves as a place for reflection, a memorial to American heroes, a symbol of freedom and a forum for the exercise of democracy. The Smithsonian museums, the Vietnam Memorial, the Reflecting Pool and the iconic Washington Monument are a few of the most well-known of the National Mall's many iconic sites. Certainly, any visit to Washington DC should start with a tour of the United States National Mall, aptly named "America's front yard."

Located at the west end of the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial is one of the principal landmarks of Washington DC, its stately form overlooking the Reflecting Pool, a gleaming stretch of water that lays sprawled before its base. Daniel Chester French's 19-foot (5.7-meter) statue of Lincoln, seated and deep in thought, watches over the nation he helped create, alongside the carved text of the Gettysburg Address, providing a glimpse into a weighty period of American history. The memorial itself draws inspiration from the Greek architectural style, its 36 Doric columns representative of the number of states in the union at the time of Lincoln's death. Surrounded by greenery, on the banks of the Potomac River, the Lincoln Memorial makes for a soul-stirring, picturesque sight; a fitting ode to one of the nation's most revered Presidents.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial was unveiled in 1982, as a tribute to the 58,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam War or remain missing in action. Maya Ying Lin may have been no more than a 21-year-old graduate student when she won the design contest for this memorial, but her work is now etched in the memories of countless visitors who have walked along this black granite wall filled with names.

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass purchased this 21-room home, making him the first African-American to buy a home in that area. Known as Cedar Hill, the home became the nation's first Black National Historic Site. The original furnishings are in large part the ones Douglass himself owned. They include the 1200-volume library of this self-taught man. Also on display are gifts given to Douglass by such contemporaries as Mary Todd Lincoln and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

From beneath the 90-foot (30-meter) portico, lies an expanse of sloping lawn along the Potomac River as it flows past Mount Vernon. This 17th-century plantation house was once home to the first President of the United States, George Washington. The property was originally owned by Washington's father, Augustine, and George replaced a smaller, more modest home with Mount Vernon when he came into the property, beginning in 1758. Today, costumed guides narrate the history of the elegant mansion and of the surrounding buildings, which have been preserved to reflect the days when the first president resided here. The state also features tours around the 500-acre (200-hectare) estate, including its surrounding buildings, and historic exhibits that recreate farming techniques and colonial games. Awash in elegant semblances of Palladian architecture, Mount Vernon is a treasured centerpiece of history and culture.

An iconic theatre, Ford's Theatre is recognized as the place where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14th, 1865. A century later on January 1968, the theatre was reopened again for a performance after being under the management of numerous government organizations including the United States Department of War and National Park Service. Also found within the Ford's Theatre is a Lincoln Museum that displays artifacts from the assassination, including the gun Lincoln was shot with. Mementos from Lincoln's life are also on display. Across the street is Petersen House, the place where Lincoln died.

Originally intended as a small reference library, the Library of Congress is now home to the second largest collection of books and reading materials in the world, second only to the British Library. The collections comprises close to a 100 million items, including rare documents such as a Gutenberg Bible, early drafts of the Declaration of Independence and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The splendor of the magnificent Main Reading Room is just one of the attractions worth a visit at the Library of Congress. Browse through the many excellent exhibits on display in the library's three buildings, participate in a guided tour, or attend any of the concerts, lectures and other events hosted here. The library's collection is open to all who hold a valid Reader Identification Card, however materials cannot be taken outside the library premises. Other than the mind-blowing collection on display, the interiors of this centuries old building is equally mesmerizing. Huge, vaulted ceilings with classic frescoes and designs, ivory pillars of Greek design and the irreplaceable heritage surrounding the place makes it one of the most iconic locations in the country.

Built in 1932, The Arlington Memorial Bridge is part of the National Register of Historic Places and is used to connect two historic sites; The Lincoln Memorial and Columbia Island. Crossing over the Potomac River, the bridge is a gateway to the Arlington National Cemetery and it is told that former President Warren G. Harding expanded the construction after sitting in a three-hour traffic jam on a visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The architecture is grand and features multiple designs and horse sculptures by renowned artists Leo Friedlander and Carl Paul Jennewein. The view from the bridge is worth a stop, catch it on your way to the cemetery or the Lincoln Memorial.

The monumental cornerstone of the United States presidency, the White House is the formal abode and headquarters of the President of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, this gleaming neoclassical structure was originally referred to as the Presidential Mansion, before Theodore Roosevelt lovingly bestowed upon it the moniker of 'White House' - a name that would go on to signify not only the physical structure, but the entire collective unit that comprised of the President and his advisers. While John Adams was the first incumbent of this official home, several leaders that followed added their own elements to its interiors, the most noteworthy being the comprehensive redecoration carried out by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of erstwhile President John F. Kennedy. Today, the central building of the White House comprises of the Executive Residence, while the rest of this colossal structure consists of a total of 132 rooms, a tennis court, a putting green, 35 bathrooms, a cinema and a bowling alley named after Harry S. Truman.

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