In September 2008, I wrote about our favorite weekend places in Washington. What constituted “favorite” for us centered on seeing a movie, visiting a bookstore, and having a good selection of restaurants, cafes, and retail nearby.
Four summers on, the game has changed a bit. Bookstores in Georgetown and Silver Spring have bit the dust.
So, let’s see how that affects my updated rankings, or if any new factors are involved.
Here is what I wrote before with an update, followed by the new rankings.
Theater: Bethesda Row
What I wrote before:
It takes about 40 minutes to drive to get there, but Bethesda is more than worth the effort. It is our crown jewel, not only meeting our every need, but exceeding them. The area has been praised by Smart Growth in Action.
The theater, that has the best behaved audiences (quiet) of all the ones I’ve ever been to and stadium seating, is situated right across the street from the main gathering square and the Barnes and Noble. A handful of great restaurants are right there, as well as a bagel shop and two places to get ice cream and coffee places.
Bethesda has a true sense of community with several different languages heard on the streets and an asymmetrical design of the roads. The parking garage is right there and free, and they have a Metro stop. Sidewalk cafes, brick sidewalks, trees and plazas beautify the experience.
The only ding, and it is a nit pick, is the intersection at Bethesda and Woodmont is too large. Cars that run the lights don’t realize this and they don’t make it through sometimes before the pedestrians start walking.
Rating: Five Stars
What I Think Now
We haven’t been going to Bethesda as much, probably due to the HOT lanes construction. We also don’t feel the need to go to their Barnes as much. They are replacing books with games and such, something that does not appeal to us. Plus, I am now mostly getting books from the library.
I still like Bethesda, all the things I said stay true, and Elm Street has sprouted even more restaurants. I’m wondering though, if it will retain my number one slot. We’ll see.
E Street Cinema
We should take Metro to the E Street Cinema) but we usually don’t. Traffic into the city is usually ok on weekends and they have an underground parking with a discount for movie goers.
Barnes and Noble is one block away as well as the offerings of the restaurants in the Penn Quarter area. We’ve even parked here for events on The Mall.
Rating: Four Stars
What I Think Now
Boy, did our panel just have a knock down, drag out fight over the Penn Quarter’s rating and what constitutes “nearby.” One of our judges, reminding me that I recently said PQ is Washington’s best neighborhood, said it deserves a five.
There’s no doubt Penn Quarter has blossomed into a beauty, and we love Luke’s Lobster and all the choices, so we’re bumping it up to a four and a half stars. Their Barnes is great for local books.
When I was kid growing up in Greensboro, one of the neatest things was going downtown to the Carolina Theater on Saturday afternoons. It was a big treat, a real movie going experience.
Going to the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring reminds me of that experience with the box office located right by the sidewalk and the street. Stepping inside, it is a little cramped but you get that instant cinematic vibe going. It’s a feeling in great contrast to the suburban theaters with their wide open lobbies where a plasma TV is blasting out some bombastic new blockbuster, and gaudy colors splashed all around. In the classic movie theaters, you feel a kinship with your fellow movie-goer.
Silver Spring has really come on in the last several years with a slew of restaurants all in the same area, a large Borders and a grocery store. There are also a couple of parking garages with free parking.
The only downside for Silver Spring is that the location is not apparent when you walk from Metro, and the whole set up is a little confusion. Visit google earth for sure.
Rating: Four Stars
Last year we went to AFI for “Catching Hell,” and were reminded how much we love the place. Unlike most other theaters, where the previews seem to go on forever, AFT limits them and they cherish the art of movies.
We also love the public square where pedestrians rule, and what’s not to like about the public bathroom between the Parking Garage on Wayne Street and the public square?
Also, the water fountain is quite the enchanting place in the summer time. There’s a good number of excellent choices for eating, including Panera and Chick-Fil-A. Silver Spring loses Borders but gains The Fillmore. Their new Transit Center is going to be great for the citizens, but the long delay is unfortunate.
AMC Loews 7
Arlington, an urban county just across the Potomac River from the District, is an interesting bird. It's considered a Central City by the Census Bureau and has two smart growth areas, both recognized by Smart Growth in Action. The Rosslyn-Ballston Metro Corridor has a bevy of great spots, but as far as movie theaters, the main one there is in the Ballston mall. In a sure sign I've gone too anti-70s and 80s, that is not my idea of a pleasant experience. To the rescue is The Village at Shirlington.
There are drawbacks, no Metro and it still has the old-style, pray-no-one-tall-sits-in-front-of-you-type theater with one bathroom upstairs. But Shirlington has transformed into a very desirable and attractive mixed use area. In addition to excellent restaurant choices, it features a new library, new parking garage, new Harris and Teeter, new Busboys and Poets, new Caribou Coffee and other new mixed-use. The really great thing is the very close proximity of everything. After eating, watching the movie and sipping our coffee, we can drop in at the Harris Teeter which is right by the parking garage. The drawback for this place is no bookstore, the theater is not stadium style seating and no Metro. There are plans, however, for rapid bus and possibly light rail.
There is also a potential danger at the main intersection. The tables at the Caribou Coffee are too close to the street. If someone were to turn and lose control, they could injure someone.
Rating: Three and a Half Stars
What I Think Now:
Last year their Octoberfest drew large crowds, a sight to behold and a bold statement for this community. I have come to appreciate libraries more, so it’s great the one here is right in the mix, and Harris Teeter, oh la, la.
The on-going question for Shirlington Village is when are they going to get out of the ice age and get seating that doesn’t require you to be a Giraffe to see the screen.
AMC Loews 14
Georgetown sells itself but the problem is no metro and its riverside, fortress like location that produces a lot of traffic. For movie goers, they lessened this problem several years ago by building a new theater and underground parking garages two blocks south of busy M Street. They have one of the better Barnes and Nobles in the area and the usual excellent restaurants. The design of the theater is really cool, lots of glass and built into the bedrock.
Rating: Four Stars
What I Think Now:
Perhaps because of a greater appreciation for its history, I love Georgetown now more than ever. Some of it is the closer proximity to our house. Despite the traffic snarls on M Street, there’s something transformative about Georgetown. They’ve finished the lovely new waterside park and added a new Apple store.
They have lost the Barnes but are supposed to be re-configuring their mall shops.
Proximity was not a factor last time, as I ranked Bethesda number one. It is more of a factor now. The loss of bookstores had less of an impact than I thought. Of course, we still use the one at Potomac Yard.
1. Georgetown 5
Despite losing the Barnes, Georgetown is our new number one. The new park is a huge plus.
2. Shirlington 4.5
Everything right there, great restaurants, great people and dog watching. Fingers crossed for a new theater with more than one bathroom!
3. Bethesda Row 4.5
Defending champ drops but it is still a jewel, with the best audiences as far as being quiet. Disappointing to see the Barnes have fewer books and more games and such. Maybe when the HOT lanes are done, we’ll go there more often.
4. Penn Quarter 4.5
I know, our DC friends are screaming - Metro! Metro! Metro! We should take it more.
5. Silver Spring 4.5
All eyes on the new Transit Center. Keep wanting to see a concert to the Fillmore.
We love going to the movies, and appreciate the above places as great places to see them. On the downside, seems like there are now even more previews. I say four is enough!
A small bone to pick with our fellow movie lovers. Some people continue to turn on their devices during the movie. The eye catches the light and is distracting.
Still, there’s still nothing like going to the movies, a real bargain for the $8 or so bucks we pay for a matinee. Enjoy the show!
Here are some photos from yesterday’s event at Arlington Cemetery.
A Fife and Drum Corps from Fort McHenry kicked things off with spirited renditions of War of 1812 music. Great job and you just know they are ready for fall weather.
NPS Ranger Matthew Penrod gave an excellent interpretive talk on the political situation leading up to the war, why Baltimore was such a hot-bed of activity, and touched on the Canadian and native American aspects. Afterwards, two rangers led us over to the graves of General Lingan, George Washington Parke Custis, and others.
Custis, step-grandson of George Washington, was raised by George and Martha. He built Arlington House as a tribute and living memorial to Washington. A Federalist who was at the Battle of Bladensburg, he delivered Lingan’s eulogy.
About 2,260 Americans died from combat, or 1 for every 3,000.
We passed by the grave of Abner Doubleday. Interesting that his marker does not mention baseball. It’s as if they knew of the myth, or suspected so.
The event ended with a bang. Tongue-in-cheek, I asked the man next to me, “Is it just a coincidence the cannon points southward?”
Here are some photos from my visit to the Belmont estate on Friday.
Belmont is a green oasis in the middle of Howard County’s suburbs. This view is protected by law.
The manor was built in 1738 with a Georgian portico.
The Hanson family burial plot. The old oak is hanging in there.
Nearby is Historic Ellicott City, once famous for its mills, a stop on the B&O and the National Road. Adding to its charm is natural beauty, including the Patapsco River and steep Piedmont hills. This truck provided a contrast...
"A scene of horror and murder ensued, which for its barbarity has no parallel in the history of the American people…" - Report from Maryland House of Delegate (Donald Hickey, “The War of 1812, A Forgotten Conflict”)
Journalism is a dangerous and even deadly business. So much so that the “Journalists Memorial” at the “Newseum” in Washington, D.C. contains the names of over 2,000 reporters, photographers and broadcasters who have died bringing us the news.
Alexander Contee Hanson (1786-1819), founder and publisher of the Federal Republican in Baltimore, is not so honored. A case, however, could be made for his inclusion. About a month after President James Madison signed the declaration of war against Great Britain in June 1812, a savage mob beat Hanson to within an inch of his life. The native of Maryland never fully recovered from his injuries and died at age 33.
The attack on Hanson and those who supported him came during the “Great Baltimore Riots of 1812.” The Arlington House at Arlington Cemetery commemorated the event yesterday with a program that featured an interpretive talk, walking tours of War of 1812 graves, drum and fife war music, and a procession to the grave of General James Lingan, a supporter of Hanson who was beaten to death during the riots.
In the months leading up to the war, Baltimore, the fastest growing and third largest city in the country, held strong anti-British and pro-war feelings. In an act they called “impressment,” the Royal Navy has been seizing American merchant sailors for their war against France. Maryland men numbering in the thousands had met this fate.
Politically, Baltimore supported the Madison administration (Republican party). Hanson, pro-Federalist, was a natural rival. Three times a week his oddly-named newspaper, fully titled Federal Republican and Commercial Gazette, attacked the President’s policies.
Fairly or unfairly, Baltimore would soon earn the nickname, “Mobtown.” Another reason for the increase in civic unrest was a change in the way Americans got their news. Stephanie R. Hurter (“A Riotous Affair”) writes:
In the port city of Baltimore, the world of the public sphere was experiencing a huge transition from an oral culture dependent upon spoken rhetoric to a print culture dependent upon publications began to occur. Newspapers, such as Hanson's Federal Republican or the democratically led Whig, began publicly airing debates that previously had been restricted to those few men gathered in the local tavern. The consensus and homogeneity previously enjoyed by the inhabitants of Baltimore was crumbling and the tensions that emerged erupted against Hanson.
Mobs had torched or torn down buildings before, but mostly refrained from killing. In his Journal of History article, author Paul A. Gilje notes:
…the near anarchic and brutal massacre at the jailhouse is an example of the disintegration of the traditional Anglo-American mob behavior and the emergence of a new form of rioting.
Hanson and his partner published their newspaper on Gay Street. On June 22nd, an angry mob torn down the building and destroyed the presses. Hanson retreated to Georgetown and printed at 30th and M Street in Georgetown. A passion for politics ran high in the family. In a largely honorary position, Hanson’s grandfather, John Hanson, served as the first president of the Continental Congress from 1781 to 1782.
That summer, the mobs continued to own the night. They picked fights in the streets, dismantled ships in the harbor and destroyed property of African-Americans. Standing somewhere between stubborn and brave, Hanson returned to Baltimore and began publishing at 45 S. Charles Street.
On July 27, another rowdy bunch gathered in front of the three-story brick building. A week or so later, when the rioters threatened again, police force and militia quelled the disturbances. On this lawless night, however, the mob ruled. Lubricated in some instances with booze, the crowd began to throw stones and break windows. Some in the crowd were riffraff, but leadership came from men such as Dr. Thadeus Gale. Some others were members of the militia.
Hanson, Lingan, Harry “Light Horse” Lee and about two-dozen supporters were armed and ready for the attack. When the mob broke down the door, the Federalists shot and killed Gale (Hanson was charged and found not guilty.)
At daylight, a truce of sorts was worked out. 23 of the Federalists who had stayed the night were taken into custody and hauled to the city jail. Strengthened by ruffians, the crowd proceeded to destroy and loot the house. That evening they rumbled to the city jail. The mayor tried calming measures, but his words of authority were no longer enough. The mob stormed into the cell. A dozen or so of the Federalists escaped while the rest, including Hanson, Lingan and Lee, did not and were repeatedly beaten and tortured.
Blaine Tayor (Military Heritage, October 2011) writes:
Lingan was fatally stabbed in the chest while on his knees, begging for mercy as the crowd danced with glee. Children clapped their hands and women shouted, “Kill the Tories.”
Some of the victims tried to play dead but were cut in the face with penknives. Hot candle grease was poured into their eyes.
The irony behind the murder of Lingan, born in Maryland and raised in Georgetown, was a cruel one. During the Revolutionary War, he rose from the rank of Lieutenant to General. Fighting at the battle at Fort Washington in 1776, a Hessian bayonet pierced his chest. Imprisoned for three years, Lingan refused an offer to don a British turncoat against his country.
The General survived and became a respected merchant in Georgetown. He was one of the original property owners who conveyed land to George Washington in the forming of the new Federal capital in 1791. Around the turn of the century, Lingan built the “Prospect House” in Georgetown, and served as a founding member of the Society of Cincinnati, the nation’s oldest patriotic organization.
The beating and stabbing at the jail kept coming, and nearly killed Lee, father of Robert E. Lee, and a Revolutionary War veteran himself. Hanson suffered internal injuries, damage to his spinal chord and collarbone, wounds to his head and hands, and a broken nose. About a dozen of the others were bludgeoned, stripped of clothing and piled into a heap.
Hanson survived and served in Congress for several years, but suffered relapses and succumbed in 1819. According to the “Encyclopedia of Media and Propaganda in Wartime America,” “he never fully recovered from the injuries he had sustained which contributed to his early death on December 23, 1819.” Hanson was buried at the family plot behind the Belmont Manor in Elkridge, Maryland.
The massacre shocked the nation. The funeral in Washington for Lingan, a native of Maryland and resident of Georgetown, drew thousands of mourners. George Washington Parker Custis, step grandson of George Washington and builder of Arlington House (“Custis-Lee Mansion”), gave a fiery speech denouncing the actions of the mobs and noting the end of innocence.
(Lingan’s body had been hastily buried in Baltimore, then moved a year later to Georgetown. In 1908, his remains were re-interred at Arlington Cemetery).
In 1996, Rob Hiaasen of the Baltimore Sun wrote an article about Lingan (“When an editorial could get you killed”). The Newseum, then located in Rosslyn, had honored the General by placing his name on the Journalists Memorial. Further research by the Freedom Forum, however, revealed he was not a journalist. His name was removed from the Memorial.
Hanson has not been so honored by the Freedom Forum, but perhaps they will some day. Either way, it is important to remember the bravery this publisher showed 200 years ago. The First Amendment gives Americans the right of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, as well as the right of the people to assemble. Please note, however, it says to do so “peaceably.”
"The Baltimore Riots of 1812 and the Breakdown of the Anglo-American Mob Tradition," Paul A. Gilje, Journal of American History (1980)
"Rioting in America," Paul A. Gilje
"The War of 1812, A Forgotten Conflict," Donald Hickey
"Encyclopedia of Media and Propaganda in Wartime America," Martin J. Manning, Clarence R. Wyatt
"The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812," Troy Bickham
"A Riotous Affair," Stephanie R. Hurter
Historic American Buildings Survey, Prospect House, Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, Washington, D.C
Newspaper accounts by Nancy Piper
"A Site for the “Federal City”: The Original Proprietors and Their Negotiations with Washington" Louis Dow Scisco
"Maryland: A History of Its People," Suzanne Ellery Greene Chapelle
"The Story of Belmont," Barbara Brand (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1974)
My special thanks to Mary Ellen Baker, General Manager of the Belmont Manor and Historic Park, for showing me the final resting place of Hanson in Elkridge, Maryland.
To help preserve the Manor, please visit the SaveBelmont website.
Thank you also to Patty Rhule of the Newseum for answering my inquiries. I suggested Hanson be considered for the Journalist Memorial. They looked at his case previously, but are considering a re-look, if you will.
Nine of the victims appeared before John Fleming, Justice of the Peace for Montgomery County on August 12, 1812, and gave their testimony.
Peregrine Warfield, Richard I. Crabb, Charles J. Kilgour, Henry Nelson, Ephraim Gaither, Robert Kilgour, John A. Payne, H. C. Gaither, and Alexander C. Hanson.
The transcribing of markers continues. I am now focused on the 17 interpretive markers at Jones Point Park. The amount of work that went into these is extraordinary. The lower portions of my palm hate it, but thumbs up to those who made it happen.
I don’t know that the park has a signature piece, but one of the stars of the show so far is the World War I-era rudder. For all you ship geeks, here we go with the wording.
Evidence of the Shipyard at Jones Point
In May 2000, this rudder was recovered along the banks of the Potomac River near Jones Point. Measuring over 22 feet high and 4.5 feet wide, the rudder is of the variety used to outfit steel cargo ships constructed between 1918 and 1920 at the Virginia Shipbuilding Corporation site. Except for concrete building foundations and the finishing pier, the rudder is the last remnant of the shipbuilding industry at Jones Point.
Why put a wood rudder on a steel ship?
The answer is unknown, but modifications to shipbuilding and outfitting during times of war were often completed on an ad hoc basis, and were not recorded. A rudder of this type may have been pre-fabricated by a contractor, using more readily available materials. A wooden rudder could also have been produced more quickly, was less costly than a metal rudder, and was easier to repair at sea.
Cargo ships produced by this shipyard were the first modern steel vessels ever launched on the Potomac River.
Workers found the rudder while driving piles for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Once pulled from the mud, archeologists and historians studied the artifact. Though of a slightly different shape than the one shown in the diagram at right, research indicates that the rudder is an alternate style for the ships built on site. This fragile artifact is displayed horizontally to provide better support.
The cargo ships produced on this site by the Virginia Shipbuilding Corporation were the Emergency Fleet Corporation Design No. 1015.
Deadweight (Or Carrying Capacity): 9,400 tons
Fuel Type: Oil
Engine Horsepower: 2,500
Guaranteed Speed: 10.5 knots per hour
Length: 403 feet
Beam (Width): 53 feet
Rudder Stock: connects rudder head with rudder body.
Side Plating Bracket: attachment point for bulk iron components.
Side Plating: protects the portion of rudder at waterline.
Pintle: a pin that fits into a pivot point and suspends the rudder.
Pintle Strap: secures pintles to the rudder body.
Rudder Shoe: an iron plate that protects the bottom of the rudder.
All aboard the “Eye-candy Express,” we’re taking you to renderings of Union Station’s proposed transformation - high-speed rail hub, triple the passenger capacity, new glass-encased concourses, easy access to streetcars, new restaurants, shopping, offices, the Big Apple in an hour and a half!
Two summers ago, when I canvassed the streets of Old Town looking for commemorative markers, the best aspect of the hunt was the joy of discovery. I rekindled some of those strong emotions yesterday morning. On an errand, I cam to a stop at the dangerous intersection of Southgate and S. Kings Highway near Route 1 in Alexandria.
For once, all quiet on the front, so I glanced over at the Mount Comfort Cemetery. Spotting a square metal object affixed to the 10-foot high brick entrance way, my historical plaque radar went on high alert.
Is that a marker at the entrance? Why have I not seen it before? What does it cover? Probably the cemetery genius.
How about sheet music for the “Star Spangled Banner?”
It’s a familiar story in Washington, D.C. Seeking employment or the next step up the ladder, people come to the nation’s capital to try and make a difference.
There is no greater cause in the world than finding a cure for the AIDS disease, and this week scientists and doctors are gathering in the nation’s capital for the 16th International AIDS Conference. The conference was last held in the U.S. in San Francisco in 1990.
Along with the conference and events, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is being shown. Fittingly, raindrops dampened the Mall yesterday morning for the Opening Ceremony.
Portions of the Quilt are on display throughout the city and area. We went to the Torpedo Factory Arts Center in Old Town Alexandria to see some of the panels there. Alexandria has a higher rate of new HIV infections than anywhere else in Northern Virginia.
I spoke briefly with two volunteers who have worked with the Quilt program for over ten years. AIDS is not an easy subject to talk about but there’s something about the Memorial Quilt that washes away the need to remain silent. I've never attended any AIDS-related events, but I was touched by the quilt, and one in particular, because the lost soul was clearly a baseball fan.
I'm sure there is still a stigma attached to having the disease, but some advice I once heard seems appropriate.
“To thine own self be true.”
Translation: Get tested. Take care of yourself. Don't add one more name to the quilt.