Four score and seven years ago
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After coming up from the Smithsonian Metro station, I hurried through the grey day to the newly-reopened Museum of American History. Inside I paused to take in the Christmas decorations and glance at the entrance to the gallery for the Star Spangled Banner. However, my main focus was directed towards a small gallery down the hall to the right. Very simple lettering--Gettysburg Address--announced the room and its contents.
Only five copies of the address in Lincoln's handwriting exist. The earliest ones belonged to his secretaries. The one on loan to the Smithsonian was a later copy. Lincoln wrote it neatly because its purpose was to be copied into a book that would be sold to raise charity money then. At one point it was owned by the Cuban ambassador to the United States. In 1957 he donated it to the White House, and normally this copy hangs in the Lincoln Bedroom there. However, until Jan. 4 the general public can view it in the dimly lit Albert H Small Documents Gallery.
A few information placards on the wall explain the history related to the address: the battle, the dedication ceremony, the other copies. The document itself rests in a simple glass case in the middle. Ten years ago, I recited the Gettysburg Address at a Memorial Day ceremony. Today I was in awe to read those famous words in Lincoln's own hand from over 140 years ago.
Following a suggestion from andy99 (thanks!), my next major stop was the Botanic Gardens near the Capitol. I have been here several times before including at least once in the winter. However, I had never visited during their Winter Wonderland season. I am so glad I finally took the time for it! The garden court is transformed by dozens of red and white plants sheltering miniatures of the important sites around DC. Each miniature is created from an acrylic foam board base and then covered in plant materials. Here's a run down of some of the building materials found on the structures.
US Supreme Court: pinecones for the roof shingles, corncob husks for the clothing of its statues
Library of Congress: acorns
US Capitol: willow tree branches for the columns, beach nuts
US Botanic Garden Conservatory: horse chestnut bark for the limestone blocks, cinnamon bark
The Castle: sycamore tree leaves for the shingles, shelf fungi for the windowsills
Washington Monument: mosses
Jefferson Memorial: gourds for the big dome, birch bark for the vest of the Jefferson statue
White House: honeysuckle for the porch columns, seargrass
Lincoln Memorial: flower petals for the eagle wings, lichen for Lincoln's beard and hair
I found the entire display just amazing.
After wandering through the garden court, I entered a Winter Wonderland of trains and fantasy. The wing was divided into various "hamlets." First up, I saw Fairy Tale Trails featuring Rapunzel and the Three Little Pigs. Blue poinsettias hinted at cooler environs and soon Santa's Village appeared with its workshop and elf quarters. Secret Mountain required adults to duck but I loved peeking into three little alcoves revealing little rooms (a bedroom, a crystal cave, a living room).
I finished my visit to DC with lunch at Union Station and then a journey up top to see the Christmas tree from Norway and the display of a Norwegian Christmas. I liked the added trace of the trolls :)