A Portrait of F Street
Washington Travel Blog› entry 10 of 66 › view all entries
You may recall from over in my Virginia blog that my daughter has a very innovative high school history teacher--one who sends his students out on their own independent field trips. Her assignment for Winter Break was to pay a call on the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.
New Year's Eve day. It's time to get that assignment done before school resumes! So, she and I drove over to the Franconia/Springfield Metro Station to catch a train for the District. Monday was sunny and pleasant after a damp weekend. A lot of visitors were out and crowding the farecard machines at Franconia/Springfield, the Virginia terminus of the Metro Blue Line. But, we quickly paid our fares, boarded a waiting train, and were soon on our way to Washington.
The excellent signage at Gallery Place Metro led us to an exit right beside the National Portrait Gallery. Well, we still had to walk around the block to the main entrance. The building is really two museums in one--both operated by the Smithsonian Institution. Together are the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. Inside, it's sometimes difficult to tell exactly which one of the complementary collections you have entered. The 1836-1868 Greek Revival building was once the US Patent Office.
The assignment at hand directed us to galleries focused on the Abolitionist movement, the Civil War era, and the contrasts between interpretive or idealized paintings and drawings and and the reality presented by early photographs.
With the assignment completed, it was time to explore a bit. As she is interested in theatre, I wanted my daughter to see nearby Ford's Theatre. We walked two blocks down F Street to 10th Street, NW. There are a growing number of attractions in this part of town. The International Spy Museum is across the street from the Portrait Gallery. Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum just opened its Washington location in October at the corner of F and 10th streets.
Ford's Theatre is located on 10th Street NW, between E and F Streets. It's a National Historic Site, forever remembered as the site where actor John Wilkes Booth assasinated Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. It is a museum, but also remains an active theatre where plays are presented. I had forgotten that Ford's Theatre is undergoing rennovation.
Across the street from the theatre is the House Where Lincoln Died historic site, the boarding house where the wounded President was taken. (On a side note, the contents of Lincoln's pockets that night made their way to the Library of Congress, where they are placed on display from time to time.)
We hadn't had lunch. I suggested we might try Hard Rock Cafe, located right next door to Ford's Theatre (or even Ben's Chili Bowl, an institution, a few subway stops away).
On the way back to Gallery Place Metro, we passed the Martin Luther King Library, the central DC Public Library, designed by modernist architect Mies van der Rohe in 1965.
We didn't explore F Steet in the opposite direction from the Portrait Gallery, but there is much for visitors and residents. Just beyond the Portrait Gallery is Verizon Center (formerly MCI Center). The indoor sports arena is the downtown venue for basketball (Washington Wizards), hockey (Washington Capitals), mega shows, and concerts (Mylie Cyrus, aka Hannah Montana, was soon to appear).
A bit further along F Street and occupying an entire city block is the huge red brick Pension Building. Constructed in 1882-1887 to house the Civil War Pension Bureau, it is now the National Building Museum. A frieze by sculptor Caspar Buberl depicting a continuous parade of Civil War military units surrounds the structure.