(My noontime running buddy, H, on the left with her friend, A.)
Last month a running buddy of mine at work asked if I would conduct an evening historical run on the Mall with her and a friend of hers who was leaving her job in DC to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago, as a sort of going away present from one Chicago native to another. Because I was a history major and I like pointing out historical tidbits during runs, I readily agreed.
(The view of the Mall from the Lincoln.)
My plan was to run from our work area near Union Station to the Capitol then down the Mall to Lincoln and back, pointing out references along the way, but due to time constraints that was a monument too far so we doubled back at World War I. A run on the Mall has innumerable things to see and infinite things to ruminate on.
(The view of Capital Hill from Labor Hill (the top of the steps at the Department of Labor),)
We ran to the Japanese American Memorial on Louisiana Avenue first and contemplated the great injustice done during World War II to the Japanese-Americans in the country, who were relocated from the west coast to bleak barbed-wire enclosed internment camps in the interior due to war hysteria. Many of these loyal Americans lost everything as a result yet this terribly maligned ethnic group unfailingly remained true to the country, even furnishing a much-decorated combat brigade that was famous for its bloody, heroic service in our Italian campaign slugging match against the Germans.
(The Imprisoned Cranes statue,)
Next we stopped in the little park at the bottom of Capital Hill to view the towering statue of Robert A. Taft, the powerful Republican senator from Ohio from mid-last century, respected, if grudgingly, by all as an outstanding legislator although not admired by all for his isolationist policies. The statue of Freedom atop the Capitol deserved a point-out from this location as well.
(General Winfield Scott Hancock, hero of Gettysburg.)
Along First Street NW we ran by the Peace Statue, the Civil War statue diorama dedicated to General Grant and the statue of our "martyred president" James Garfield, who was shot nearby by a disappointed office seeker before Garfield had even served a half year as president.
(Looking down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol grounds at dusk.)
I showed my co-worker H and the departing student A my favorite pocket park on the Mall with its quietly burbling (in season) fountain and its ever-changing array of flowers and plants inside its elevated curvy brick walls. Then we ran by the working National Carousel, a fine example of a 1940's era Merry-Go-Round, the Smithsonian Castle with its statue of Joseph Henry out front, past the Holocaust Museum on the left and the Washington Monument on the right and straight through the National Tulip Library, a year-round working flower-bed garden on the Jeffersonian Tidal Basin, to the Martin Luther King Memorial right next to the FDR Memorial.
(At the entrance to the Pocket Park.)
We started back by running past World War I to World War II. At this memorial I showed them the battle names etched in stone of the two battles my father fought in (a First Marine Division veteran), the several Pacific sea battles my uncle fought in (a shipboard gunnery-officer Marine), the campaign another uncle participated in as a rear-echelon support officer hunting down fugitive Japanese troops in the Philippines, the campaigns another uncle participated in while piloting a B-26 Marauder in the Mediterranean and the battles fought in by a Third Army (Patton's army) veteran I had the pleasure of meeting in recent years, the father of a close friend of mine. All of these heroes are departed now.
(The Washington Monument, with its steel-beam exoskeleton complete, is undergoing repair to fix damage it incurred during the 2011 earthquake.)
The visit to World War II produced the hit of the running tour because I told H and A about the hidden memorials dedicated to Kilroy, as in "Kilroy was here", and showed them to them (there are two identical semi-concealed monuments to the ubiquitous Kilroy). H and A both found the story fascinating and were delighted to see the long-nosed caricatures.
(The National Carousel.)
We had to hasten our pace as time grew pressing but we ran by the great petrified wood block outside the National History museum, telling its tale about the work of president Teddy Roosevelt preserving our national heritage, the Archives building containing its monumental documents dedicated to individual freedom, the Federal Trade Commission building with its fine statues depicting a man reigning in the powerful horses of commerce and trade, past the statues dedicated to the heroic general Winfield Scott Hancock and the triumphant general George Gordon Meade, both of Gettysburg fame, and over the small Labor hill affording a good view of the Capitol. A few-block run down New Jersey Avenue back to the Georgetown Law School ("I'm not a potted plant!") completed our historical fun run.
(The National Tulip Library in springtime.)
There were lots more historical places we could have run past within 5 or 10 minutes of where we actually were, such as the John Paul Jones statue, the Jefferson, the George Mason seat, Korea, Iwo Jima, the Dutch Bell Tower, the Pentagon, the Air Force Missing Man statue, Arlington National Cemetery, Vietnam, Einstein, the White House, the First Division statue, the Boy Scout statue . . .shall I go on? Any 60 minute run on the Mall can only partially expose all the places to visit in the City of Monuments, each site with a story or stories to tell.
(Good luck in Chicago!)