Friday, January 14, 2011

3. Clarendon

Google maps distance: 5.4
Distance run: 5.61

I have a confession to make. Yesterday, I didn't actually run HOME from the Metro :/. I know, I know. It's the POINT of the BLOG! But before all four of my readers stop reading in contempt, hear me out. I have a car. A cute little blue jelly bean of a car. And it was sick so I took it to the car doctor. (More correctly, the boyfriend-type person took it to the car doctor, because he is nice like that.) So little blue jelly bean car has been sitting at the car doctor waiting for me. The car doctor is located approximately 1.5 blocks past the Clarendon Metro station, and closes at 5 pm, so my only option was to pick up the little car before work one day. It seemed like a no-brainer to me. So, I ran TO Clarendon, and was immediately reminded why I do not commute to work in my little blue car...rush hour is horrifying.

But about my run. It started like any other: Planned my route, checked the temperature (wind chill 16...oh boy this will be fun), put on some clothes (lest anyone should think I forgot that step) and I was off. Route planning is already starting to get a little difficult, because there are so many things that could be easily repeated, and so many things that I don't want to miss! But in the end I settled on this, the most obvious route (to me) and one that offered lovely scenic views of the sunrise over the Potomac (but more on that later).
My route:

Let me reiterate that it was insanely cold. And windy. And still dark when I left, which made taking pictures...interesting. The first nearly mile of the run wasn't terribly exciting. At least to me. Running straight up Porter from Connecticut Ave to Wisconsin Ave is something I do all the time. But I didn't go quite all the way to Wisconsin. I went to Idaho!

There is actually one street in the District named for every state in the country, as well as a tiny street I've never seen reportedly called Puerto Rico Avenue. They're usually large arteries or any number of smaller diagonal streets that aren't part of the "grid."I'm thinking a secondary goal of my little project here will be to see every state-named street. So here's a good one to start: Idaho! It's no Connecticut Ave, but I certainly couldn't overlook a state that is so integral to my diet.

Idaho can be found crossing Wisconsin at one of the weirdest intersections ever, and then proceeding through my old neighborhood to Massachusetts, where it disappears into the woods...That brings me to my old neighborhood. I used to live in McLean Gardens off the Wisconsin Ave corridor. The property along Wisconsin Avenue has a long history, but most interestingly it was owned at one time by John Roll McLean, who owned The Washington Post at the time. The family in the area is might have heard of a little place called McLean, Virginia? Same guy. His family owned the land and a very dramatic mansion on it for over 40 years. (His daughter was one of the owners of the Hope Diamond, ooh la la!) But, there was, as there often was in the upper crust of olde, drama, intrigue and divorce. The family sold the land to the federal government in 1941, who promptly built dorms. Well, really dorm-style apartments, but they were built to house all the Defense workers at the start of WWII. The history isn't so colorful after the war, but it remains a lovely place to live and I like living somewhere with a bit of a back story.

CACTUS. Say no more.
Burka's: the finest liquor store I've ever seen
Near McLean Gardens are some of my favorite shops and eateries. Burka's is the kind of liquor store that offers you samples when you walk in, has a grocery cart full of marked-down wine by the register, and has shelves of liquor-branded barware for sale in the back by the beer fridge and the chips. Any place that sells both single malt scotch and Cheetos is fine by me. Cactus Cantina is Lauriol Plaza's lesser-known and far superior little sister. Same 'ritas, no wait, and plenty of bar/outdoor space. What a novel idea! Around the corner from there of course is Two Amy's, widely known for having delicious pizza. There's also a Cafe Deluxe, which I recommend for the Sunday-night rib special. Yes, I'm 65.

The other great thing about this neighborhood? This old school Giant and the neighborhood war that has ensued over its redevelopment (slated to include...CONDOS! The HORROR!). If you have several extra hours to read, the vitriol spewed by those opposed and in favor of the development is fascinating. All Life is Local has been recapping.

Much less blurry than the last one...
Moving down Wisconsin Avenue, we come to one of Washington's most recognizable landmarks, the National Cathedral. Although the Cathedral's gothic architecture has led many to believe that it's older than sin, I was surprised to learn the first time I went there that the cornerstone wasn't laid until 1907. The Cathedral's website says that Pierre L'Enfant himself, designer of the city, set aside land in the original plans for a great church, but somebody scrapped that and put the National Portrait Gallery there instead. I think it worked out for the best, because in the late 1800s they settled on Mount Saint Alban as the new, improved location for the church. At first I was confused, because, Mount Saint Alban? MOUNT? Sure enough, the grand hill on which the Cathedral sits has a name.

I continued down Wisconsin Ave through an interminable array of condos and apartment buildings and very nice houses called Cathedral Heights. I passed the Russian Embassy on the way. (Not all the embassies are clustered around Embassy Row on Massachusetts Ave).

South of Cathedral Heights is Glover Park. It's not really metro-accessible, so I know a lot of people who have never been there, but it's a really nice area, bordered on one side by the National Observatory, which is where the Veep lives (but I'll get to that in another post). I always wondered who this Glover person was, and according to Wikipedia, he was responsible for Rock Creek Park and for Embassy Row, due to his generous donations of land. What a stand-up guy! Glover Park has more lovely, expensive homes and some nice shops and restaurants, a great park, and a Vespa dealership!

Glover Park along Wisconsin Ave
Blacked-out windows...I'm sure
the neighbors LOVE Good Guys

A little bit down the road is something I've ridden past on my bike like a million times, but never bothered to look up or investigate.
The holiest of roods. Which means cross, for those of
you who never had to study really old English in school...
It's the Holy Rood Cemetery, which is SUPER old and apparently could have as many as 1,000 free and enslaved African Americans buried within it. Who knew? It's on one of the highest points in the city and has great views from the top, if you're not afraid of ghosts. It's also currently owned by Georgetown University, which wants to MOVE THE GRAVES and develop the land...awkward...If you can get this old site to load it's pretty interesting.

Across the street from this ancient and venerated ground is what purports to be the "Holiday Inn Washington-Georgetown." All I'll say is that if I booked online thinking I was going to be staying in Georgetown and then I ended up at this crappy Holiday Inn 1/2 mile up the road from Georgetown with a view of Wisconsin Ave and a cemetery, I'd be perturbed.

Down Wisconsin a bit further is like art and culture central, with the British School of Washington, Corcoran College of Art and Design, and the parking lot where the hold the Georgetown Flea Market on the weekends. Highly recommend the Flea Market. I turned right on 34th Street across from the ridiculously awesome, rebuilt 24-hour social Safeway (if you're not familiar with DCers' naming of their Safeways, Prince of Petworth has a good list from two years ago), to run through some 'hoods on my way to Virginia.

I cut over and made a detour to 35th Street to run by Duke Ellington School of the Arts, which boasts the second-most famous big chair in DC (the first, and purportedly the world's largest, being in Anacostia). It's small and green in the first picture, larger and still green in the second.

Duke Ellington School for the Arts

Chair. Big and green.

I didn't take a lot of pictures of the nice houses, because I feel weird about putting pictures of other people's homes up on the internet, so just believe me when I say I ran past some cool ones. When I got to Volta Place, I stopped, because Volta Place! How cool is that name? Mars Volta? Anyone? Ok then. That's where I ran into something ELSE I've never seen. It's a mysterious and dramatic building. The plaque says "Volta Bureau." The internet, via the NPS, informed me that it's a historic building, constructed by Alexander Graham Bell to be a center of information for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. It went through a few iterations, but eventually the Volta Bureau (named for the Volta Prize Bell got from the French) merged with the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf, and it's here now as the Volta Laboratory and Bureau.

Side note: On 34th Street at Volta is an awesome outdoor pool that's free for DC residents, if you're feeling in an aquatic mood.

A bit farther I heard this awesome church bell dinging, so I stopped to take a picture, but unfortunately I wasn't able to find anything out about the church. Anyone?

Mystery church...

I also saw cobblestones, and remnants of DC's old streetcar line.
35th Street becomes very steep, one-way (for cars) road as you approach the river and M Street, and there's a lovely view of Rosslyn at the top of it, but I wanted to run down 34th Street instead, because across the street from Georgetown Running Company on M and 34th is Francis Scott Key Park. You may have heard of this guy...he wrote a little ditty called "The Star Spangled Banner" or some shit. The park is right next to the Key Bridge. Francis' house used to be in Georgetown, but it was torn down in the 40s to build the eyesore known as the Whitehurst Freeway. Ahh, the wheels of progress!

Past the park, finally I was on my way to Virginia, across the Francis Scott Key Bridge (he's popular around here...) commonly known as just the Key Bridge. Apparently, the Key Bridge in a previous incarnation was actually an aqueduct! I'm learning so much :). Side note, I think it's fitting that the bridge is bookended by Francis Scott Key Park in DC, and the Key Bridge Marriott in VA, which is decidedly one of the ugliest hotels I've ever seen. Point, DC.

Virginia ahead...
Georgetown behind
Frozen Potomac and glaring sunrise
On the other side of the bridge is Rosslyn, which I will have to cover in another post, since they have their own Metro stop, so I didn't really take any pictures and I tried to ignore everything I passed (that's ridiculous..and not true).

I continued on Lynn St. through Rosslyn, then turned right on Wilson, which is an evil, evil hill that was at the time full of people on their way to work who looked even unhappier than the girl running uphill in 20-degree weather. Once on Wilson, I was honestly not sure where to start taking pictures, because I will have to cover the stop/neighborhood AFTER Rosslyn, Courthouse, in another post as well. Apparently I'm not the only person confused by these boundaries. Wikipedia lists four separate sets of boundaries to be used to define Clarendon. I rest my case.

I started picture-taking with this place I used to go to long ago, when I lived in Arlington:
RIP, Dremo's
Oh wait. I forgot. It's not there anymore. Dr. Dremo's used to be a fun bar. Then it closed. I think technically it was in Courthouse, but we can mourn its passing more than once.

I actually enjoy a lot of the shops in Clarendon, and used to hang out there a lot when I crossed the river for non-blog-related purposes. Apparently, a century ago, Clarendon was Arlington's original "downtown," thanks to the streetcar lines that went through the middle of this part of the city. In the 70s it also used to be known as "Little Saigon," but that concentration of Vietnamese restaurants and grocery stores has since moved farther out into the suburbs. Now, Clarendon is upscale and largely populated by apartments and corporate chains. It also hosts a huge cycling race every summer, the Clarendon Cup, which has gone through several iterations and is now a part of the Air Force Cycling Classic (proudly brought to you, apparently, by Northrup Grumman).
Clarendon's mecca
The Metro!
After I passed the Metro (cause remember...I had to run 1.5 extra blocks to the car doctor), I realized I had never checked out what's on the island in between the perennially confusing Wilson and Clarendon Blvds.
It's the American Legion War Memorial Monument, and according to this awesome site, was built in the late 1920s-early 1930s with stones from a retaining wall from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The site also says they MOVED the entire thing to Courthouse for safety reasons at one point, and then in the 1980s (a time of great reason, I'm told), they moved it right back to its original spot.

What this picture doesn't show is that the monument is basically in the middle of a traffic median, so I stood there like an idiot waiting for cars for a few minutes before making my way to the car doc (and passing my SECOND Vespa dealership of the day). My drive back to DC reminded me why I do not drive from Virginia into DC to get to work: traffic.

The white van in front of me claims to be
a "proffesional." I highly doubt that.

Tune in next time, when I take on: Northeast DC!


  1. I had never seen it when I was running around the neighborhood for cross country, but Puerto Rico Ave is apparently quite close to where I went to high school. Also, you can see in Google street view that its sign mis-identifies the city quadrant it's in. Fun facts.

  2. Seeing as I lived in Clarendon for a year and a half, I never knew what that monument was. Chalk it up me being that person who walked mindlessly to and from the metro, not paying attention to what was around me. I did a similar route to that when I was training for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer...loving the history lesson!