We had already had so many adventures in Washington DC, but we wanted to make our last day just as exciting. Our first stop of the day was Ford’s Theater. The tickets to the theater are free and can be reserved on the day of your visit. However, we opted to reserve our tour online($3.00 per person) so that we could be on one with the ranger talk. Ford’s Theater is where President Abraham Lincoln was shot while watching a play. The tour we were on included the museum. It had numerous displays about the Civil war.
There was an interesting area on Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
There were biographers on the assassination conspirators.
John Wilkes Booth was behind the planning to originally kidnap President Lincoln. However, after the South’s surrender by General Lee, the plan changed to assassinating the president.
Originally, the plan called for Lincoln, Secretary of State Seward, Vice President Johnson all to be killed on the same night. Only Booth, who was a stage actor, was successful, shooting Lincoln at Ford’s Theater. As you leave the museum to walk to the theater, the walls show Lincoln’s day, hour by hour. There is a clock ticking in the distance.
The theater is relatively small but very ornate.
The NP ranger gave interesting information as he recounted the events of the evening, you felt that you were actually there…he was excellent.
We were given time to explore the theater after the ranger talk. Jade took advantage to sit in the VIP seats, front row center stage.
We were able to get a close look at the presidential suite where the President Lincoln was shot. After Booth shot the President, he attempted to jump onto the stage. However, he became tangled in the flag bunting and fell, breaking his ankle. This slowed his escape and resulted in his death after a shoot out with the Union troops.
The first person to enter the Presidential Box was a young doctor, named Charles Augustus Leale. After examining President Lincoln, he determined that wound was mortal and ordered for the President to be moved across the street from Ford’s Theater is the Petersen House. The Petersen family aided as they could and their lives forever changed at 7:22 am the following morning, April 15th. Their house would forever be known as the house that President Lincoln died.
We had been on the run all week, grabbing quick snacks here and there. We decided to splurge a bit and ate lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe.
After lunch, we started our walk towards the World War II Memorial. On the way we passed the Harrington Hotel. Earlier in the week, on the Hop On Hop Off bus tour, we had learned about this hotel.. Some people call it the Batman Hotel as it has a similar logo. Wyatt was a bit disappointed that we hadn’t stayed there. It is family owned and was one of the first hotel in Washington DC to have air-conditioning.
We stopped at Freedom Plaza originally known as Western Plaza. It is constructed of light and dark inlaid marble and depicts Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s plan for the city of Washington. The White House and Capitol are outlined in brass. There are quotes from residents and visitors carved into the marble surface.
Our next stop was the World War II Memorial. It was dedicated in 2004 and it’s construction was funded mostly by private donation. Senator Bob Dole and Fredrick Smith, CEO of Fedex, lead the fundraising effort.
On each side of the entrance, are 12 wall sculptures that depict life during the war, both at home and abroad.
The memorial has an Atlantic and a Pacific side, each with a tower, representing the 2 areas where American forces fought during the war.
At the base of each tower, are the respective key battles.
On the floor of each tower is the WWII Victory Medal that each person who served during the war received. The medal depicts the Greek goddess Nike ushering in a new era of peace. Surrounding the medal are the years the US was in the war, as well as Victory in the Air, Victory on Land, and Victory at Sea, for the different arenas the war was fought. The ceiling is adorned with 4 flying eagles.
In the center of the memorial is a large water feature. You are allowed to soak your feet but not to wade.
Surrounding the water, are 56 columns, representing the military from 48 states and 8 territories of the United States from 1941 – 1945. Each has a wreath sculpture of oak and wheat symbolizing the nation’s industrial and agricultural strength aiding the war effort.
Around the memorial are quotes from presidents and military officers about the heroic efforts of our service men and women.
There are also 2 Kilroy inscription, one on each side of the memorial. It was a popular catch phrase with troops overseas, with a denotation that “the Yanks were here”.
The Freedom Wall is located on the reflecting pool side of the memorial. Each gold star represents 100 Americans who died in the war. There are 4,048 stars that reflect the loss of 405,399 Americans.
We walked to the District of Columbia War Memorial. It was built in 1931 to honor the 26,000 residents who served during World War I.
Our Congressman, Mike Crapo’s office had arranged tickets to tour the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. We made our way across Kutz Bridge, walking past the Japanese Cherry trees, and our last glimpse of the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial.
We passed the Floral Library, which contained a wide variety of flowering plants.
As we walked, we passed the Holocaust Museum. Some of our party had been to Auschwitz and since we had two little ones with us, we left this museum for another visit.
To get tickets to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), you either need to arrive early in the day and then come back at your tour time or arrange for tickets with a member of Congress from your state. Our Senator’s office arranged for our tickets.
After going through security, you wait for your tour in a large area, with numerous displays.
There was information on the history of the BEP. It was originally organized in 1862, to print paper money and now isthe Nation’s sole producer of US paper currency.
An early model folding machine
And posing with a million dollars – in uncut notes. It is not considered money until it reaches the Federal Reserve.
Since you couldn’t take notes or pictures during the tour, we were trying to remember everything we saw. The process is incredible. It takes a 10 year apprenticeship to become a printer. We watched as $20.00 bills were being printed, stacked, cut, and wrapped. A serial number on a bill can be used again but it then contains a letter. So a serial number with a B is in it’s second edition. The workers would curl the paper into rolls to flip it and lay it out for the machines. They held up signs that told us how much money was being printed, $80,000 while we stood there. They also had a sign that said, “I love my job”. At the end of the tour, there is a small gift shop with more displays. You then walk out the “front” of the building.
We caught the circular bus back to Union Station, and decided to drive to the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul also known as the Washington National Cathedral. It is located on a hill over-looking Washington DC and can be seen from the National Mall. It is the second largest church building in the United States and is owned by the Episcopal Church.
Construction was started in 1907, with the last addition in 1990. It is a Neo-Gothic design and is very much like the cathedrals in Europe.
There is still decorative work being done. A Darth Vader head was placed on the North Tower in the 80s after a National Geographic contest to design new sculptures for the Cathedral.
We had thought we were too late to enter the cathedral, but we had 25 minutes, so we did a very quick self-guided tour.
Congress has designated the cathedral as the National House of Prayer. State funerals for 3 American Presidents have been held there as well as 6 memorial services for other presidents. It has held the Presidential prayer services after the inaugurations of 6 presidents starting with FDR in 1937.
We rode the elevator to the 7th floor. There are narrow “hallways” that lead you around the cathedral.
We were able to catch a somewhat hazy view of Washington DC.
The 2011 Virginia earthquake caused damage to some pinnacles, gargoyles, and the roof. They are still being repaired today.
It was a last minute decision to go and we were abit rushed to see everything, but we were so glad we did, as the Washington National Cathedral was very impressive and awe-inspiring.
This would be our last sight-seeing event in Washington DC. Day 8 was going to take us to Baltimore and then Pennsylvania. After dragging the two little ones around to historical sites for a week, we had a surprise in store.