Apro-Poe of Halloween

Poe gravesite

A raven marks the spot: Tavish lurks in the shadows behind the monument indicating where Edgar Allan Poe was originally interred.

As the literary master of the dark and dreary, Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) and his special brand of Gothic fiction tie in conveniently with the whole Halloween oeuvre. So, on this All Hallows’ Eve, allow Tavish the Intrepid Pup to take you on a virtual visit to Poe’s grave site in Maryland.

Several cities lay legitimate claims to Poe—Boston, New York, Richmond, and Philadelphia among them. Yet, it’s Baltimore where Poe not only lived with relatives in the early 1830s but also where he ultimately died under somewhat mysterious circumstances…turning what was to have been a brief stopover in October 1849 into an eternal one.

At the heart of downtown Baltimore and today encircled by the University of Maryland School of Law are the Westminster Hall Burying Grounds and Catacombs. Despite the name, these catacombs are nowhere near as creepy as the ones that figure in Poe’s own tale, The Cask of Amontillado. The burial grounds date to the late 1700s, and the 1852 church on the site—sans congregation—is now used for private event rentals.

Poe's final resting place

Poe’s final resting place at Westminster Hall Burying Grounds. There’s no Poe Toaster in sight…unless it’s the Intrepid Pup!?!

The cemetery is actually home to not one but two Poe memorials. Proceed to the rear of the cemetery to see Poe’s initial 1849 burial plot.  While this grave never had a marker, you can’t miss the monument eventually placed there in 1913 depicting the haunting raven immortalized in Poe’s 1845 poem by the same name. On the afternoon of our visit it was particularly hot, and Tavish managed to plunk himself down in the only piece of shade, which happened to be right behind the stone and therefore created a bit of a spooky effect (see photo, right).  As the marker’s accompanying inscription indicates, Poe was exhumed in November 1875 to be re-interred in a grave with his mother-in-law/aunt Maria Clemm (1790-1871) located near the cemetery’s entrance. A decade later, the remains of Poe’s young wife/cousin Virginia (1822-1847) were transported from New York and reunited with the others in the family plot. This marble monument (see photo, left) bears all three occupants’ names, as well as a large bas-relief of Poe’s likeness.

More than two centuries later, there’s still a morbid fascination with all things Poe, and perhaps nothing epitomizes this better than the anonymous soul (or souls?) known simply as the “Poe Toaster.” Beginning in 1949 on the anniversary of Poe’s birth—and continuing for 60 years!—a man would visit the monument in the dead of night to leave a half-full bottle of cognac and three red roses.  A no-show on what would’ve been Poe’s 201st birthday heralded the end of this curious tradition, prompting local headlines to proclaim the Poe Toaster “nevermore.”

Dogging the Details

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter means39°17′23.25″N,  76°37′23.35″W   Find it on the Intrepid Pup Map >
Westminster Hall Burying Grounds and Catacombs, Baltimore, Maryland

Literary history meets an easy bit of urban exploration to register a “1” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter for this excursion.

The nearest parking garage is a block away at the Baltimore Grand (5 North Paca Street).

Upon arrival, take care in traversing the uneven brick walkways within the cemetery, and respect the grave markers. Westminster Hall offers seasonal, guided tours, but there’s a surprising amount of information to be found on various historical plaques throughout the grounds should you prefer to do a self-guided version. Spoiler alert: Poe is not the only famous historical figure buried here! Among others, look for the grave of James McHenry (1753-1816), the namesake of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry of Star Spangled Banner fame.

There Be Dragons!

Tavish at Deal's Gap's Tail of the Dragon

Tavish seemingly not intimidated by the Tail of the Dragon with a motorcycle in its clutch.

Tavish the Intrepid Pup‘s therapy dog vest sports several pins, many of which represent places he’s traveled. Mostly they’re conversation starters, and by far the one that attracts the greatest attention—primarily from kids—is the Day-Glo yellow one shaped like a road sign bearing the silhouette of a dragon and the words, “At the Gap there be dragons.” Here’s the backstory:

Last July, Tavish and Team Tavish were visiting friends in Tennessee who were eager to show us the Tail of the Dragon. It’s a storied stretch of Highway 129 that straddles the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. More accurately, it’s 318 curves in 11 miles with up to a 12% grade and 1800 feet in elevation. Hence the vivid and apt comparison to a jagged dragon’s tail. Were it a TV commercial, it’d have that impossibly fine print flickering across the bottom of the screen saying, “Do not attempt. Professional driver on a closed course.” Indeed, there have been vehicle performance tests done here, and for obvious reasons, the road is a magnet for motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts.

We had visions of “slaying the dragon” Easy Rider-style, with a Doggles®-wearing Intrepid Pup in a cool sidecar. The biggest problem with this plan was that neither we nor our friends own motorcycles. So, we did this trip in decidedly less hip fashion in what was probably an affront to the road itself: our friends’ 2001 Hyundai Elantra. Eat your heart out, James Dean.

Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort's Tree of Shame

Who says that kinetic, post-modern sculpture can only be found in she-she art galleries? Deal’s Gap has a pretty good example with its “Tree of Shame.”

Our friend drove and would periodically concede to the far more intrepid bikers by easing into paved pull-offs, earning us many appreciative nods and an occasional wave. It was also blisteringly hot that day, so the Intrepid Pup was favoring the Elantra’s AC vents over lolling out the window. But even without a white-knuckled Nürburgring experience, this was still a drive we’re glad we did.

There are a handful of entrepreneurial outfits that station photographers along the Tail of the Dragon. The business model is akin to having your photo taken at an amusement park while on some giant roller coaster and then having the opportunity to purchase said photo as you exit the ride. (Editor’s note: We did go online afterwards and easily found ourselves in that day’s batch of pictures…after all, there aren’t exactly zillions of silver Elantras amid the supercars and slick Harley-Davidsons. And, as you might’ve guessed, our souvenir car shot is best left to your imagination.)

Rounding the final curves and easing down that last slope (Wheelie Hill), reward you with the gateway attraction that is Deal’s Gap. Touting its own special brand of self-proclaimed “two-lane tourism,” Deal’s Gap consists of Tail of the Dragon LLC (an outlet store and de facto visitor information center) on one side of the highway and Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort (with accommodations, a shop, and a 65-seat pub) on the other.

Deal's Gap statuaryThere are two standouts in this spectacle. One is the signature green “tail” pictured above. The other is the Tree of Shame  located in the motorcycle resort’s parking lot. This crowd-sourced totem is part whimsy, part rite-of-passage, and part cautionary tale. Basically it’s 20+ years of jetsam—smashed reflectors, blown tires, broken headlights, dented hubcaps, and shorn fenders—lobbed in frustration by those unlucky enough to have been “bitten by the dragon.”  The tree is always in flux as pieces get added or otherwise shift among the branches (a nearby sign warns, “CAUTION: Watch for falling parts from Tree of Shame”). It’s also a good reminder that riding the Tail of the Dragon carries an inherent risk; over the past 12 years, there’s been an average of slightly more than two deaths a year.

The parking lot is better than any showroom for gawking at the bikes, and it was here that Tavish made a few new friends. He plunked down in the shade by a random, concrete statue (doorstop?) of a bikini- and bandanna-clad biker and drew his fair share of affectionate pats from bikers returning to their rides. Many intended to traverse the route several times that day, and one biker nostalgically reminisced to us about his own pup that he never wanted to be away from for too long.

Maybe, just maybe, Tavish will get that ride in a sidecar yet!

Dogging the Details

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter means

35°27′59.77″N,  83°55′9.99″W
Highway 129
(a.k.a. Tail of the Dragon),  Tennessee/North Carolina, with a stop at Deal’s Gap

35°18′22.87″N,  84°00′46.45″W
Cherohola Skyway (Routes 143/165), North Carolina/Tennessee

This excursion rates a “1” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter. It was a fun, scenic outing and, aside from the driving, was not very strenuous…particularly if you’re a dog! In all, we covered 113 miles that afternoon, but this represented three hours of actual driving time, because speed limits are just 30 mph on the Tail of the Dragon and 40 mph on the Cherohala Skyway.

Cherohala Skyway

The Cherohala Skyway is the “mile-high legend.” Tavish proves it by standing at the Santeetlah Overlook, the route’s highest elevation at 5390 feet.

We had started out just south of Knoxville, snaking southeast on the Tail of the Dragon. En route we passed the Cheoah Dam. Besides holding back the water of the Little Tennessee River, it’s also famous for being the dam from which Dr. Richard Kimble—portrayed by actor Harrison Ford—swans dives in the 1993 thriller The Fugitive. It wasn’t easy for us to pull off the road right then, so there’s no Intrepid Pup photo…you’ll just have to take our word for it. We decided to extend our drive by daisy-chaining from the Tail of the Dragon right onto the Cherohala Skyway, a 60-mile, high-elevation road running west from Robbinsville, North Carolina, to Tellico Plains, Tennessee. But be sure to top off your fuel tank at Deal’s Gap as there are no gas stations on this segment. The route takes its name from the two national forests (Cherokee and Nantahala) it transects.

We made a couple stops along the Skyway to check out some pretty amazing vistas. From the sheer elevation, it’s easy to see why much of the highway gets closed during wintry weather.  Before a passing thunderstorm hit, we were also able to stretch our legs and get in a short 0.75-mile hike with Tavish along a roadside trail with interpretive signs about railroads and timber harvesting.

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Lest We Forget

Arlington National Cemetery: Tomb of the Unknowns

From a distance, Tavish witnesses the ceremony underway at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Sentinels from the Third U.S. Infantry headquartered at Fort Myer maintain a round-the-clock vigil. Guard changes occur every hour (and every 1/2 hour from April 1 through September 30) with a somber ritual.

UPDATE: As of October 26, 2016, Arlington National Cemetery no longer permits leashed dogs, except for service animals and military working dogs.

The last place you’d expect to find serenity is among vacationing families, high school field trippers, and trams loaded with tourists. And you’d be right…except this is Arlington National Cemetery. Even without the discreet signage to “conduct yourself with propriety,” most folks inherently realize that this is a place of honor. As such, you might pick up on the fact that there’s no recreational jogging or cycling on the grounds, and a general hush prevails. It’s a place that is at once peaceful but solemn, heroic yet tragic, both beautiful and brittle.

You don’t see many dogs at Arlington National Cemetery, though they are expressly permitted (see “Dogging the Details” below). Not to anthropomorphize, but Tavish our Intrepid Pup clearly picks up on the vibe during our visits that these are times for calm and respect. Usually most content only when his leash is fully extended, here—and without command—Tavish invariably sticks at a close heel.

We initially avoid the bulk of the crowds by walking up the steeply sloping Custis Walk. It winds by the grave of President William H. Taft as well as past the tomb of Mary Randolph, the first person known to be buried at Arlington. At the top of the hill are two memorable sights: Arlington House and a stunning panoramic view across the Potomac River of Washington, DC’s downtown monuments.

Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial

Maintained by the National Park Service, Arlington House is in the final phase of a multi-year restoration. The building is currently unfurnished, with certain rooms closed to the public, but visitors are encouraged to take a self-guided tour.

Quite simply, were it not for Arlington House, there would be no Arlington National Cemetery. The Greek temple-style house was constructed in 1802 by George Washington Parke Custis (1781-1857), who had been raised from infancy at Mount Vernon by none other than his grandmother Martha (Custis) Washington and her second husband George Washington. Custis intended for Arlington House to be both a family home and a tribute to his illustrious step-grandfather. Further cementing its place in history was the 1831 wedding in the parlor of Custis’s daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis and Lt. Robert E. Lee, son of Revolutionary War Hero Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee. The marriage united two prominent Virginia families. When Virginia seceded from the Union on April 19, 1861, Robert E. Lee resigned his commission from the U.S. Army the next day and sided with his home state. Lee’s decision not only inexorably altered the course of the American Civil War but also cost him his home. To defend the nation’s capital, Union troops made preparations to occupy the strategically situated Arlington House. The Lee family left in haste in May 1861, and when Lee’s wife failed to pay property taxes in person, the home was confiscated. Government officials—interpreting Lee’s loyalty to Virginia as an act of treason—further sought to ensure against the Lees’ return by establishing a military cemetery on their land.  Lee’s uprooted family would never again live at Arlington House, and Arlington National Cemetery was born.

Tavish at Arlington National Cemetery

Tavish on the Custis Walk at Arlington National Cemetery, overlooking the eternal flame at President John F. Kennedy’s grave.

Roads through the cemetery are named almost entirely for American military heroes (Pershing, Nimitz, MacArthur, Eisenhower, etc.). Following them takes you on an introspective journey among the cemetery’s more than 250,000 graves. If you’re of a certain age, the memorials for the crews of Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia will hold special meaning. And if you’re of another certain age, the eternal flame marking the grave of President John F. Kennedy will take you back to that fateful day in Dallas. Then there’s the main mast of the U.S.S. Maine, erected in the memory of those who died in the explosion in Havana Harbor in 1898. Individual headstones honor the final resting places of veterans who also distinguished themselves in other arenas—folks like heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist,  polar explorer Richard Byrd, and astronaut Gus Grissom. The iconic Memorial Amphitheater provides the backdrop for the Tomb of the Unknowns, and the changing of the guard ceremony will leave a lump in your throat no matter how many times you see it. Further afield is the Pentagon Group Burial Marker, a five-sided black granite memorial to those who died in the Pentagon or on American Airlines Flight 77 during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

It was here, on our most recent visit (this very Memorial Day weekend), that we were joined by a small group who had just pulled up on their Harley-Davidsons. One middle-aged women initiated conversation, explaining that she was in town for the Memorial Day Rolling Thunder activities that heighten awareness for POW/MIAs. “Best thing I’ve ever done,” she said. She gestures in the direction of another woman, clad in a white leather biker jacket. “Do you see that lady there?” she asked. “She’s a gold star mother. Her son died in Iraq in ’03. We just came from visiting his grave.” She tugged at the back of her own leather jacket to show us the patch that all her chapter members wear in his memory. A sobering moment.

And then there is Section 60.

The tenor of the cemetery perceptibly changes here from past to present. It’s the only area in Arlington National Cemetery where placing mementos beyond traditional flowers is officially sanctioned. Here you see snapshots propped up against the headstones. Candles spelling out “Happy Birthday.” A tethered heart-shaped balloon emblazoned with “I Love You.” Here the emotional scars are still as raw as the ground where grass has yet to grow over, where—in some instances—a permanent marker has yet to be placed. The standard signage seen elsewhere in the cemetery gives way here to signs that read simply, “Funeral Route.” Removed from the throngs is where Arlington is experienced at perhaps its most profound. Here is where the nation’s war dead from Afghanistan are being buried.

Oddly, your visit to Arlington up to this point isn’t quite adequate preparation for the visceral reality of Section 60, and it hits you like the proverbial ton of bricks. Ahead on the path, several rows in, we noticed a woman (a wife? mother? sister?) standing stock still before a grave where she had spread what appeared to be a red, white, and blue handmade quilt. We maintained a respectful distance so as not to intrude, and she was unaware of our presence. Yet, just as we were about to pass, she stirred, and in one fluid movement lay down upon the quilt, curling onto her side, eyes closed in a private, unspeakable grief.

Dogging the Details

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter means 38°52′34.59″N,  77° 4′13.83″W
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

38°52′51.92″N,  77° 4′20.91″W
Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial
, Arlington, Virginia

Arlington National CemeteryFor as many times as we’ve visited Arlington National Cemetery over the years, it wasn’t until a friend and fellow dog owner recently mentioned it, that we were aware that leashed dogs are allowed on the grounds. Unless they’re service animals, they aren’t permitted in the visitor center buildings or inside Arlington House.

The Cemetery’s accessibility earns it a “1” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter. The Cemetery has its own Metrorail  stop on the blue line and is regular destination on most guided tours of the area , but if you’re coming with your pet, these aren’t options. If you’re coming on foot, you can reach the Cemetery’s main entrance from the pedestrian trails that run over the Memorial Bridge and along Route 110 and the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Your best bet, however, is simply to park onsite at the Cemetery. There is ample vehicle parking in the paid lot off Memorial Drive, and rates are quite reasonable (currently, $1.75/hour for the first three hours and $2.50/hour thereafter). There is no admission fee to the Cemetery or to Arlington House. Once on the grounds, the Cemetery is extremely walkable, with well-marked paved drives and posted locator maps. Maps are also available from the visitors center. Be mindful that much of the cemetery’s 624 acres is hilly (“Uphill in both directions!” we overheard one family remark), so plan accordingly and bring plenty of water for yourself and your dog. Temperatures, particularly in the summer months, routinely exceed 80 degrees. Though the sheer expanse of the grounds readily absorbs crowds, Arlington National Cemetery attracts upwards of 4 million visitors annually, so be prepared for lots of people at popular locations like the Tomb of the Unknowns.

 

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Around the “World” with Tavish

Around the "World" with TavishWith much public  attention focused on what happens on Capitol Hill it’s easy to overlook that Washington, DC has a vibrant international scene.  Amid the smörgåsbord of national associations, government agencies and multinational corporations are an astounding 176 official diplomatic missions. They’re all within northwest DC. While a few outliers are in Cathedral Heights, Penn Quarter or the U Street corridor, the vast majority are clustered on Embassy Row and in the Cleveland Park, Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom, Georgetown, and Kalorama neighborhoods. The architecture of the chanceries and ambassadorial residences are as varied as the countries themselves. And while you might think that embassies and their staffs are cloistered entities, nothing could be further from the truth.

Over the years the diplomatic community has developed creative and far-reaching ties with its host city. Many embassies sponsor or coordinate events with DC museums and institutions like the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Washington Performing Arts Society collaborates with 52 embassies annually as part of its Embassy Adoption Program, connecting 1,500 DC middle schoolers with embassy personnel for curriculum on world cultures. Ambassadors regularly entertain at their personal residences, and within several chanceries are public exhibition galleries that orient visitors to a country’s history, art and culture. Scan a  DC calendar of events and in any given month you’re bound to find an array of embassy-based lectures, film festivals, or national holiday celebrations. There’s even a highly-anticipated annual Embassy Chef Challenge.

Perhaps the best way to instant immersion in the DC embassy scene is to partake in Cultural Tourism DC‘s perennial “Passport DC” celebration. Drawing more than 160,000 visitors throughout the entire month of May are a series of festivals and open houses showcasing the embassies. The true extravaganza is the Around the World Embassy Tour that takes place, rain or shine. Admission is free and no advance reservations are necessary. Participants vary from year to year with consistently more than 40 featured.  As you tour you’re apt to take in everything from fashion shows to folk dancing and crafts to cuisine. Highlights from past years’ celebrations included seeing at the British Embassy a  place setting from Kate Middleton and Prince William’s royal wedding, experiencing a Dvořák concert and Tatras car show at the embassy of the Czech Republic, being drawn into a festive dance demonstration at the embassy of Trinidad and Tobago, tasting Marmite at the Australian embassy, and sampling goulash at the Hungarian embassy.

While you most definitely need to leave your dog at home (repeat, do not bring your dog!) if you’re attending this event, there’s nothing to say you can’t get in the international spirit and re-create the experience by doing a little “globe-trotting” with your pooch later on. Take your cue from the Intrepid Pup, who managed to go spanning the globe without ever leaving the city limits. Here’s his whirlwind tour of embassies from six continents that are also representative of the various styles and neighborhoods. Bon voyage!

Dogging the Details

Australian flag

38°54′27.65″N,
77°14′53.5″W
Embassy of Australia, Washington DC

Did you know that Australia is the only country to govern an entire continent? Australia’s embassy is on Massachusetts Avenue near Dupont Circle. Embassies often prominently display near their entrances symbolic works of public art by artists from their home countries. Outside the Australian embassy is a bronze by Australian sculptor Thomas Bass (1916-2010). It depicts a stylized version of Australia’s coat of arms where a red kangaroo and emu flank a shield that contains the badges of the Commonwealth’s six states.

Embassy of Australia

Dogging the Details

Canadian flag

37°53′34.2″N, 77°1′6.52″W
Embassy of Canada,
Washington DC

In 1989, the Embassy of Canada moved off Embassy Row to this building designed by Canadian architect Arthur Erickson. It dominates the Pennsylvania Avenue streetscape in the busy, high-profile Penn Quarter neighborhood. It was a cold afternoon in mid January when Tavish visited, so he is wearing a sweater to keep warm.

Canadian Embassy

Dogging the Details

Flag of China38°56′32.20″N, 77°3′58.90″W
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China,
Washington DC

The Embassy of China sits within an enclave of embassies in the Cleveland Park area of Washington, DC. Opened in 2009, this massive limestone building was designed by renowned Chinese American architect I. M. Pei (b. 1917) and constructed by Chinese contractors.

Embassy of China

Dogging the Details

Flag of Ghana38°56′32.30N,
77°4′4.65″W
Embassy of Ghana,
Washington DC

Ghana’s embassy shares International Drive with 15 others. As opposed to some embassies that have adapted existing buildings throughout the city for their use, the embassies in this neighborhood were all built intentionally for consular services.

Embassy of Ghana

Dogging the Details

Flag of the Holy See

38°55′28.26″N,
77°3′58.56″W
Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See, Washington, DC

You’re probably not the only one who can’t readily identify the yellow and white flag flying over the entrance to this impressive structure on Embassy Row. It’s the flag for Vatican City denoting this building as a nunciature, effectively a Vatican embassy and an administrative center of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. While the Vatican has had a delegation in Washington, DC since 1893, formal diplomatic relations were not established until 1984, the result of growing friendship between Pope John Paul II and U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

Holy See

Dogging the Details

Flag of the Czech Republic38°56′23.10″N,
77°3′16.16″W
Embassy of the Czech Republic, Washington, DC

This compound includes both the ambassador’s residence and the chancery, where consulate business is conducted. It’s located in the Cleveland Park neighborhood, and the extensive grounds border a section of picturesque Rock Creek Park.

Tavish at the Czech Embassy

 

Dogging the Details

Flag of India38°54′39.6″N,
77°2′49.12″W
Embassy of India,
Washington DC

Hailed as the father of India and a crusader for human rights via non-violent civil disobedience, Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) is memorialized in this 9-foot bronze statue by Gautam Pal (b. 1949). Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Prime Minister of India, dedicated the Gandhi Memorial in front of the Embassy of India during his state visit to the United States in 2000.

Embassy of India

 

Dogging the Details

Swedish flag38°54′4.08″N,
77°3′32.33″W
Embassy of Sweden
, Washington, DC

The House of Sweden opened in 2006 on the Georgetown waterfront as a stunning example of contemporary Scandinavian architecture. The House of Sweden contains the embassies for Sweden and Iceland, galleries, and premier event space.

House of Sweden

Dogging the Details

Flag of the United Kingdom38°55′11.36″N,
77°3′41.56″W
Embassy of the United Kingdom, Washington DC

The British Embassy is undoubtedly one of the grand dames of Embassy Row and is the largest of the UK’s embassies anywhere in the world. It’s also the largest of all the embassies in Washington, DC. The British government has had diplomatic representation in DC since 1791 and was the first to build on Embassy Row; its current embassy dates to the late 1920s/early 1930s. This statue of Winston Churchill (1874-1965) on Massachusetts Avenue in front of the ambassador’s majestic Queen Anne-style residence stands with one foot on embassy property and the other on American soil to symbolize Churchill’s Anglo-American heritage and honorary U.S. citizenship, as well as the long-standing relationship between the two countries.

Embassy of the United Kingdom

Dogging the Details

38°54′5.15″N,
77°2′38.81″W
Embassy of Uruguay, Washington, DC

This is an example of a smaller embassy located in a modern office building in the heart of the Foggy Bottom neighborhood in the nation’s capital. It’s strategically situated within close proximity to the World Bank, Organization of American States, and the International Monetary Fund. In addition to consular offices, this embassy has space for presenting programs and exhibitions on Uruguayan art and culture.

Embassy of Uruguay

The Intrepid Pup has also visited the embassies of Austria, Chile, Kingdom of Bahrain, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Georgia, Greece, Haiti, Kenya, Myanmar, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turkmenistan. You can see these additional photos by locating the embassies on the Intrepid Pup Map!

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter means Prepare to log some serious mileage if you’re going embassy-hopping with your dog, and plan accordingly. Keep in mind that you’re simply out for a fascinating stroll past some beautiful and culturally significant diplomatic missions—not to create an international incident by romping around on embassy grounds!  Your ’round-the-world tour ranks a “1” on the Intrepid Pup Wag-a-Meter for the ease in being to experience DC’s unique international flair.

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A Synagogue’s Moving Story

 

Tavish at the Adas Israel SynagogueNow that the calendar has flipped to May, the national observance of Jewish American Heritage Month has begun. President George W. Bush first enacted it in April 2006, and it’s been an annual celebration ever since.

Apropos of the month, Tavish the Intrepid Pup recently visited Washington, DC’s first Adas Israel Synagogue, now home to the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington‘s (JHSGW) Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum. The next time you’re zipping along (or sitting in traffic?) on I-395 near Massachusetts Avenue in the District, cast a glance high up on the west side of the interstate to catch a glimpse of it. Better yet, go visit!

This just so happens to be the oldest synagogue building in the nation’s capital. On the day we stopped by, both JHSGW’s education specialist Lisa and long-time archivist Wendy were on hand, and it was clear from conversing with them that the story of this synagogue is relevant to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences alike.

On one level, it’s an immigrant saga that has played out in countless cities throughout the country. In this case, the year is 1873, and 38 families among a rapidly growing Jewish community yearn for a permanent home for their Adas Israel congregation, which had split from Washington Hebrew in 1869. They enlist Max Kleinman and J. William & Co. to design and build a two-story brick synagogue at the corner of Sixth & G Streets, NW.

But here’s where an otherwise very local story intersects with the national stage. After years of planning and construction, the Adas Israel Synagogue’s completion is celebrated in 1876 with a three-hour Orthodox service. President Ulysses S. Grant is there, making him the first U.S. president to attend a synagogue service. While having a sitting president at a grand opening is a coup by any standard, Grant’s presence in particular is both significant and highly intentional on the part of the synagogue’s founders. Back in December 1862, while still serving as Union general in the Civil War, Grant issues “General Orders #11” calling for the expulsion of Jews from all territories under his command as a means of cracking down on black marketeers. President Abraham Lincoln quickly intervenes to overrule Grant’s astonishingly ill-conceived order, and Grant is scathingly criticized for anti-Semitism. The scandal festers throughout Grant’s 1868 presidential campaign and presidency (1869-1877). Through his many conciliatory actions, Grant eventually restores much of his integrity with the Jewish community nationally, and his attendance at Adas Israel in 1876 is met favorably. (Note: Historian Jonathan D. Sarna has just come out with a book on the subject entitled, When Grant Expelled the Jews and will be presenting a lecture and book signing with JHSGW later this week.)

On another level, the synagogue’s story reflects the changes in a congregation and in a neighborhood. The congregation ends up outgrowing the synagogue in less than 30 years and by 1906 sells the building. As part of an ethnically diverse neighborhood full of row houses and small businesses owned by African American, Chinese, Irish, Italian, German, Greek, Jewish and Russian families, it’s little wonder that the synagogue structure gets redefined in myriad ways throughout the 20th century. Other religious denominations use the space and, ironically, for a time there’s even a pork BBQ joint on the first floor!

Ultimately, though, the synagogue’s legacy is one of successful historic preservation. When the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (aka Metro) bought the land at Sixth & G Streets for building its headquarters, the Adas Israel Synagogue building seemed destined for a wrecking ball. The JHSGW, formed by volunteers in 1960, recognized the synagogue’s importance as a designated DC historic landmark and sprang into action to save it. In 1969, JHSGW had the synagogue moved in its entirety to its current site three blocks away at Third & G Streets, NW. The synagogue was added to the National Register of Historic Places that same year and, after extensive renovations, opened as the JHSGW’s museum in 1975.

With a number of JHSGW events specifically planned for this May’s Jewish American Heritage Month—from a challah sale (a traditional, braided egg bread…yum!) to a guided walking tour of Jewish sites at Arlington National Cemetery—there are plenty of reasons to put JHSGW on your agenda.

Dogging the Details

38°53’54.25″N,   77° 0’54.37″W
Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington (JHSGW), Adas Israel Synagogue, Washington, DC

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter meansLike most museums, JHSGW doesn’t permit pet dogs inside the synagogue building, but that shouldn’t stop you and your pup from visiting the museum’s small but nicely landscaped grounds. Getting there on foot is easiest as there’s limited public parking nearby. Additional points of interest within the vicinity include the Judiciary Square complex, the National Building Museum, and the National Law Enforcement Memorial.

However, the best way to extend the JHSGW experience with your dog is to pick up two of the museum’s informative (and free!) tri-fold brochures. One is for a self-guided walking tour throughout the synagogue’s immediate neighborhood, highlighting a dozen buildings with various connections to Jewish heritage in DC. The other pamphlet is similar but provides a walking tour of Jewish sites within Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, just 8.5 miles south. Learn a little local history and get your dog (and yourself!) out for some exercise! For the compelling history and pleasant strolls, visiting JHSGW scores a “1” on the Intrepid Pup Wag-A-Meter.