Monday, January 10, 2011

2. U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo

Google maps walking distance: 2.4
Distance run: 2.6

First of all, this is DC, not the midwest. What is with this weather? There was a wind chill of 14 degrees as I made my way home this morning, on a route that unfortunately is largely uphill, because DC is weird like that.

So today, I explored that most misunderstood of metro lines, the green line. I don't have much to say about the green line yet, because I will be getting very acquainted with it over the next few months and will weigh in later.

I started my little journey at U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo. Yes, that is the official name of the stop...lots of DC's Metro stops are named after lots of points of interest or locations; it's a little city-level lobbying on the part of some of those locations. U Street has two exits, one at 13th and U, and the other on 10th Street below U. I may do this stop twice, because there are some things near the other exit that are worth discussing. Plus, it will give me the opportunity to run through Meridian Hill Park in the summer, but more on that later. So, here's my route, for those interested. (If you're not, then please check out after the jump.)

The U Street corridor is a really awesome part of town, a semi-center of the DC music scene filled with jazz clubs, boutiques, and bars/restaurants. I actually learned a new little tidbit about the area: Until Harlem took over in the 1920s, U Street was the nation's largest African American urban community. Thank you, Wikipedia. At any rate, U Street was a huge cultural epicenter for DC's African American community until the 60s, when in the 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated and riots broke out at the intersection of 14th St and U St, not far from where the Metro is now. (Side note, obviously King was not assassinated here, but he was in Memphis at the time, which is where I grew up, and the Civil Rights Museum there is incredible and worth going's in the Lorraine Motel, which is where King was staying for the sanitation workers' strike and is where he was shot.)

I forgot to take a picture of the actual Metro stop, but seriously I was there. Here's a terrible photo of two DC landmarks to prove it: 

In case you can't tell what those are (and honestly, no one would blame you if you couldn't...) we have here in the foreground the historic Lincoln Theater and next to that the equally historic and much less healthy (but more delicious) Ben's Chili Bowl.

The Lincoln is truly a work of art. In the 20s when it opened, U Street was known as "Black Broadway," and many big names from the time performed there, like Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway... you name it. It's been restored to what it was like back then (it was a movie house in the 70s). My family and I went here last fall to see The Fantasticks, the highlight of which (aside from the incredible performance) was my father dozing off during the quieter moments in the show. We had a large meal beforehand and the seats were incredibly comfy, so I can't fault him.

Ben's Chili Bowl got super famous when some random guy named Barack Obama decided he needed to have some chili cheese fries or whatever. No seriously, whether you like the food or not (put me in the like category), this place's history is a real testament to the change and upheaval that U Street has gone through over the years. The history page on the Ben's website is worth a read.

For what it's worth, here's a crappy photo of the U Street Corridor as I went west on U Street. Brilliant.

I went right on 14th, and did a little zigging and zagging, before ending up on the corner of 15th and W/Florida. It's a weird intersection. But it's at the bottom of Meridian Hill Park, which is an amazing place in the center of the city, but is also not quite as amazing in January as it is in warmer weather, but clearly I did not consider that. It's a part of the National Park Service, and the NPS website has a good piece on its history, much of which I did not know. I'll admit that when I first moved here I was skeptical of the park, with its decades-old reputation as a haven for drug dealers. My aunt, who has lived in Dupont Circle since the dawn of time (the 70s), always said to me "Don't live East of the park!" That's a ridiculous statement, because things are much different in the area than when she moved to town, but you know what they say about old dogs... Some park highlights:

Statue of Joan of Arc
Little compass in the concrete
Terraced fountain, from the highest point in the park... it looks much better with water :(
Memorial to James Buchanan, lesser-discussed President
From the exit at the top of the park, I moseyed my way on up 16th Street (and I mean moseyed...there are a lot of steps in that park, and 16th is quite a hill). 16th has a lot going on, which I will probably have to cover in another post, for the sake of brevity. But, I did notice a whole lot of religion going on up there, as evidenced by the corner of 16th St, Columbia Rd and Harvard St. Three churches on the corners.

Impressive-looking, old churches, no less. I also passed several embassies and this:

The Scottish Rite in DC. I'd write about this, but the very nature of the Freemasons means that I really don't know much about it, beyond some brief historical things I've read. I'd prefer to just watch National Treasure and Indiana Jones and form my own conspiracy theory-style opinions (that's actually not true...if anyone can shed light on this whole Freemason thing, I'm dying to know).

After leaving 16th Street, I ran down Irving Street, which, like much of Mt. Pleasant, is lined with lovely rowhouses, and currently houses a nice graffiti drawing of Pac-Man with teeth. Which I don't think is correct.

When you turn off of Irving/Adams Mill onto Klingle Road, you are greeted by one of my favorite things in DC, this happy mural:

I can't find a lot of information about the mural, other than that it was first painted in 1985, and has been added to/restored since then. There are a lot of photos online that show close-ups of the different panels. I do know that it always makes me smile, though :).

As a final punishment on my way home, I had to run up Porter Street. This hill is a bane of my existence. It's short but steep, and it exists solely to torment me as I near the end of any run that comes from Rock Creek Park, and it's just as stupid on a bike. But there are two buildings worth seeing on the small stretch of Porter between the park and Connecticut Ave.

This is someone's house. It's like a treehouse and I want to move there like, tomorrow. I run up Porter all the time, but I'm usually on the other side of the street, and I never noticed this before. I suppose that means mission: accomplished.

Extremely awesome building with crazy red front
This is...well I'm not sure what it is. I do know that they've been constructifying it for a while now, and it was a Chinese contractor that built it, and design-wise I find it fascinating. It looks like pretty much NOTHING else in Cleveland Park, especially not the typical brick condos that are next to it, but it's pretty spectacular looking and I plan on just waltzing inside at some point to check out the interior.

Sooo...I suppose that makes 2 down, 84 to go. Excellent.


  1. Entertaining as always, Kelsey.

    If you're bored, the 'story' of Klingle Road repair drama is fairly interesting.

  2. Oh trust...that segment of Klingle will have its time in the spotlight. Local politics around here is intense.

  3. Great post, Miss Kelsey! You've inspired me to checkout Lincoln Theater and to pay more attention to my surroundings during my normal routes in DC. I feel like there are so many cool things that I overlook. Can't wait to hear about your next run!

  4. I'll be honest. I was an avid reader of this blog. But ever since you called out my boy Buchanan....I'm sorry, you lost me.

    The man deserves better.