In 2012 Two of my colleagues, Hyrum Conrad and Richard Clifford and I made a research trip to Washington DC. We were gathering research for a play called "First Freedom". Hyrum was going to direct and Richard was going to do the scenic design. I was assigned to do the costume design. In the end, because of creative differences with the playwright, we did not do "First Freedom", but we did not allow the research trip to be in vain. Instead, in spring semester of 2013 we did the play, She Stoops to Conquer (click on title to be taken to the blog post for that show) and each of us performed the roles we had been assigned for the other play.
The first day of our adventure, we spent walking around The National Mall, seeing monuments and The Smithsonian. The second day, we rented a car and spent the morning at James Madison's home, Montpelier. We spent the afternoon a few miles away at Jefferson's home, Monticello. We spent the third day at Colonial Williamsburg. We flew out the next day, but spent the morning at the National Portrait Gallery.
It was an intense trip, and one I'd like to reprise. We saw a great deal and many of the things we learned ended up influencing our designs on the show. Because it was such an intense trip, I believe I will break it up into five blog posts. Post #1 will be The National Mall. Post #2 will be about Montpelier. Post #3 will be about Monticello. Post #4 will be about Colonial Williamsburg, and post #5 will be about the National Portrait Gallery and the flight home.
We flew out of Idaho Falls, Idaho, on October 7th, 2012, caught a connecting flight out of SLC and flew straight to DC. I always like flying out of Idaho Falls because we get to fly over one of my favorite areas in southern Idaho, Hell's Half Acre Lava Field. In 1976, the National Park Service declared Hell's Half Acre to be a "Natural National Landmark." The lava flow covers about 150 square miles, slightly bigger than a half acre. It erupted roughly 5000 years ago. I've always thought it would make a great location for a movie shoot.
|Flying over Hell's Half Acre|
|It's pretty significant|
|Cool from the air and the ground|
|Flying over another cool geologic feature, the Great Salt Lake|
The National Mall
We arose on October 8th, and we spent the day wandering about the National Mall. Instead of going place to place, I think I'll divide this blog post logically into categories. Starting with Architectural Details and Cool Stuff. Then Museums. After that it will be War Memorials and finally Presidential Memorials. This will not follow chronologically.
Architectural Details and Cool Stuff
As we walked around the National Mall, I was amazed at how much everything was carved or decorated. Three dimensional decoration and detail abounded. Most of it was Greek or Roman inspired but there were a few Art Deco inspired elements as well. It was kind of like Political Disneyland. There were sculpture gardens and an all wooden carousel. It was almost overwhelming.
|Art Deco gryphon|
|From the front|
|Street lamp Washington DC style with Richard Clifford for scale|
|Carved detail was everywhere|
|What I really mean was everywhere|
|Mostly Greek and Roman inspired|
|In other cities, this shape might exist but the interior detail would not|
|Another kind of street light|
|Even stuff that is mostly covered with brush is carved|
|Like I say|
|Even the iron was in on the gag|
|And the bronze|
|Where else has this cool of manhole covers?|
|Might be part of a Death Star prototype|
|Then there was a different sculpture garden|
|A carousel is kind of like a spinning sculpture garden|
|Who has faces on their knees? Loincloth is kind of weird|
|Then there was this guy|
It seems the National Mall is just one big memorial museum. They have museums for everything and it would actually take days to see everything. We didn't have days so we picked a few things that were interesting to us. I really wanted to go to the geology museum and there were a few others we went to. All the museums in the National Mall are free. Pretty incredible. They are all managed by the National Park Service.
|Statue of some dude|
|I believe these came from Petrified Forest National Park. They were bigger than me|
|Natural History part|
|I believe this was from Wyoming|
|More Arizona Peetrified Wood|
|Hairdo from one of the original members of the B-52's (I think it's a fossil tree, really)|
|Mammoth or mastodon, I won't know till I look at it's teeth|
|Minerals. I thought I had a photo of the Talmadge gypsum but alas I do not|
There were war memorials for most of our major wars. We saw the memorials for the American Civil War, WWII, Korea and Vietnam. The WWII and the Vietnam memorials were especially emotional for me. WWII because my Dad was a navy veteran of that war, and Vietnam because it was the war of my youth and it shaped so much of my formative years. My generation, while we did not fight in that war, it was ever present. When I was a young man, I served a mission for my church and for a significant portion of that mission, I served Laotian and Hmong refugees from that conflict. The Vietnam War Memorial felt like a sacred space to me.
Civil War Memorial
|Civil War Memorial|
|Closeup of one of the sculptures in that memorial|
|Another part of the memorial|
|Navy, for my Dad|
|Entrance to the memorial|
|Bas relief of navy gunners|
|The Pacific side. There was another side identical for the Atlantic. I stuck to the Pacific side because that was the theater of war my Dad served in|
|A pylon honoring those Idaho soldiers and sailors|
|In honor of the Pacific campaign|
|Each of these stars represent 100 Americans who died in WWII|
|Bronze detail inside the Pacific Pylon|
|Bronze medallion in the floor|
Korean War Memorial
|Korean War Memorial|
|Another part of the memorial|
Vietnam War Memorial
The Vietnam War was, at the time the most controversial war we had ever fought in. When the memorial was designed and built it was controversial then too. People thought the wall with the names of the war dead looked like a big scar in the ground. As a compromise, they added a second part with bronze sculptures of servicemen and nurses nearby. No one on the committees or anywhere else could have predicted what has happened at the Vietnam Memorial though. People still leave tokens and relics of their fallen serviceman's life near his name on the wall. The National Park Service collects these tokens every day and very carefully archives them. They take it very seriously. In many ways, the Vietnam Memorial really helped to give the nation and it's people closure on a really tough war. The time I spent at this memorial felt very sacred to me. As I began taking photos, I wanted to shoot around the people who were there. Then something interesting happened. I looked through the viewfinder and saw the reflection of people without the people. It felt very symbolic to me and I took most of my pictures that way.
|In honor of the Nurses who served in Vietnam|
|In honor of the servicemen who fought in Vietnam|
We saw three Presidential Memorials while in Washington. The big three. Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson, in that order. The Washington Monument was closed for repairs, so we just saw it from a distance. We spent a great deal of time in the Lincoln Memorial though, and I stood at the spot where the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech. Even though there were a thousand people or so milling about right there, I had a profound personal experience at the Lincoln Memorial. Yes there were a lot of people there, but it was reverent.
We went to the Jefferson Memorial as the sun had begun to go down. There were so many other memorials, museums and other sights we wanted to see, but just didn't have the time to do so. I would have liked to see the White House and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. I would have also liked to walk around Arlington National Cemetery but we simply did not have time.
|My friend, Richard Clifford in front of the Lincoln Memorial|
|Brazier by the stairs|
|Base of giant Ionic Columns inside|
|Text from Lincoln's speeches were carved into the walls|
|As well as symbolisim|
|Legend has it that his hands are forming the letters A and L in American Sign Language. The sculptor had a deaf child and it is speculated that he did it for his child. The NPS denies it.|
|Giant Doric Columns|
|Washington Memorial from inside the Lincoln Memorial|
|Corner of the memorial|
|This stone was placed after the Civil Rights Movement in honor of the "I Have a Dream" speech. Hallowed ground.|
|The Jefferson Memorial|
|Colossal Sculpture of Thomas Jefferson|
|Coffered ceiling in dome|
|Washington Monument from the Jefferson Memorial|
|Carved speeches here too|
|Jefferson Memorial from across the Potomac River|
End of the Day, LDS Temple
We ended our day by visiting the Washington DC LDS Temple. We are all LDS and attended a worship service there as the end of a very long but very good day. Washington DC was information overload for us. It was a pretty incredible day, and one I wish to redo. There are so many things I did not get to see that I would love to. Our nation may be young by civilization's standards, but our history is packed full in our short 240 or so years. I am proud to be an American.
|Washington DC, LDS Temple|
|Some of the stained glass from the DC Temple|
Next Post: Montpelier