Washington is full of buildings, roads, bridges, and other structures named for obscure historical figures. “Who’s That Named For” is an occasional series dedicated to deciphering as many of our area’s lesser-known memorials as possible. Got a name you can’t recognize? E-mail us and we’ll figure it out.
If you’re headed to the beach this weekend, chances are that at some point along the journey toward the Eastern Shore, you’ll find yourself sitting in traffic somewhere Maryland’s John Hanson Highway. Wait a sec, “John Hanson Highway”? What’s that?
That’s Maryland’s official name for the road that runs from the District’s border with Prince George’s County to the far side of the Severn River across from Annapolis. If it’s an unfamiliar name, that’s because it’s more commonly known—and cursed about—as US Route 50. (It also carries segments of US Route 301 and Maryland Route 2, in addition to also being an unmarked part of the Interstate Highway System.) But this is all still very fuzzy. Who is this John Hanson for whom this essential but contemptible highway is named?
John Hanson, part of Frederick County’s landed, slave-owning gentry, was one of Maryland’s signatories to the Articles of Confederation in 1781, but his more famous legacy is an apocryphal reputation promoted by his biographers that he, not George Washington, was actually the first president of the United States. Don’t worry, George's reputation is secure. But Hanson’s fans point to his stint as president of the Continental Congress, during which the Articles of Confederation, the United States’ primordial governing document, took effect.
It’s a nice title, but a pretty flimsy grasp at power. President of the Continental Congress was a completely ceremonial position rotated among the body’s members, and one could just as easily make the same “first president” claim for Hanson’s predecessors like Peyton Randolph or John Hancock. In Hanson’s case, the argument came primarily from a 1932 biography by Seymour Smith, which was roundly bashed by another Hanson biography published in 1976 as being devoid of actual academic research.
Like most secondary revolutionary figures, Hanson’s true legacy is in stamps, middle schools (in Oxon Hill and Waldorf), and a few statues. One is outside the courthouse in Frederick; the other sits in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, though Maryland lawmakers have recently considered yanking him in favor of Harriet Tubman. At least he still has the beach traffic.
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.
Shoppers came out to spend at Wear It Washington, Washingtonian’s sample sale at Long View Gallery on Wednesday, August 20. Guests sipped peach sangria, Champagne spritzers, and Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager and indulged in delicious bites from Ridgewells, while shopping extensive discounts for men and women at clothing, accessory, and shoe boutiques.
Specials thanks to participating stores South Moon Under, Julia Farr, Sylene, Sherman Pickey, Mars Vida, Tuckernuck, Wink, Duo, Little Birdies Boutique, Quetzal Jewelry, Meg Biram, Sara Campbell, Caramel Fashion, Dash’s of Old Town, Bull and Moose, Hysteria, Muleh, Ella Rue, Sophie Blake, Lettie Gooch, Stella and Dot, The Shoe Hive, Bishop Boutique, The Shirt, ADMK Jewelry, Tari, and Steven Alan.
Think that DC’s roadways today are ruled by an epic clash between cyclists and drivers? It was way worse for two-wheeled riders in 1982.
The District Department of Transportation just dug up a 32-year-old manual it used to distribute to the District’s cyclists back when bikes were scarce on city streets and more likely to be scolded than encouraged by the authorities.
The manual includes dozens of pages describing “D.C. Bikeways,” including most of the bridges that cross the Potomac and Anacostia river, but don’t mistake them for actual cycling paths—they’re just arbitrarily assigned corridors where street signs were affixed with “Bike Route” signs, markers that most urban cyclists interpret as not really carving out a safe co-existence with cars.
As for actual bike infrastructure, the District circa 1982 had just two marked bike lanes: 11th Street, Southeast, from East Capitol Street to the 11th Street Bridge, and East Capitol Street between the Capitol Building and Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. Throughout the rest of the city, the manual just lists the “Bike Route” signs and for much of the District, encourages riding on the sidewalk. (Although, the Washington Post’s John Kelly will be relieved to know that biking on sidewalks downtown has always been prohibited.)
Bike ownership was also a tightly controlled activity when this manual was written. The District required all bike owners to register their rides within two weeks of purchasing them. While registration was cheap—$1 for five years—it was enforced randomly, and sometimes led to complaints of police confiscating bikes from owners who simply didn’t follow the low-compliance statute. (Bike registration didn’t come off the books until 2008, and the Metropolitan Police Department now recommends that cyclists join the National Bike Registry instead.)
And what about taking a bike on Metro? These days, it’s only verboten to bring one on a train during rush hour. In 1982, bikes were only permitted on Metro on the weekends, and only then with a special permit.
Perhaps the most antiquated item in this manual—Courtland Milloy might disagree—is an institutional statement from DDOT saying that “the majority of bicycle/motor vehicle accidents in the District are caused by bicyclists.” A quick glance at the five most common types of bike-car collisions, according to Bicycling magazine, including blind left turns and dooring, show that in most cases, it’s actually the car’s fault. Fortunately, DDOT’s current guidelines are more balanced.
Read the full document below.
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.
1. Gerry Connolly
Since his days as a Fairfax County supervisor, he’s dreamed of bringing transit and development to the car-oriented county. With the Silver Line finally open, Connolly—now a congressman—won’t even need a ride to dinner.
2. Michele Roberts
The Skadden Arps litigator, whom we once called “one of the city’s most feared trial lawyers,” becomes the first woman to lead the NBA players’ association—or any major sports union. Notice served.
3. Debbie Dingell
A shoo-in for husband John’s seat in Congress, she’ll go from being one of Washington’s most powerful lobbyists to being a backbench member of the minority party. Invite her while she can still dish on the influential.
4. Wayne Frederick
Howard University’s new president, hired to lead the financially troubled, vision-challenged school, knows what he’s getting into. A cancer surgeon, the Trinidad native has a long history with life-or-death battles.
5. Aba Kwawu
The founder of the publicity agency TAA PR recently added Daniel Boulud’s forthcoming DC restaurant to a client list that includes a José Andrés eatery and Fabio Trabocchi. She’ll owe us a meal!
6. Pedro Ribeiro
As Vince Gray’s flack, he delighted in punching back against the DC mayor’s critics during an ongoing federal ethics probe. Now doing PR at Homeland Security, Ribeiro goes from bemoaning aggressive feds to working on their behalf.
Disinvited: Benny Johnson
Everyone disapproves of plagiarism, but when a “viral politics” writer gets canned for lifting political information from Wikipedia, it brings a special scorn. Johnson lost his BuzzFeed job, became the butt of jokes, and won a spot on our disinvited list.
This article appears in the September 2014 issue of Washingtonian. In our print issue, photos of Michele Roberts and Aba Kwawu were misidentified. We have corrected the error in this version.
For all the headlines that President Obama, Hillary Clinton, half the US Senate, and various journalists garner when they announce their desire to see Washington’s NFL team change its name, they all have something in common: They’re not exactly football experts with years of experience in the NFL, a $9 billion business whose executives vigorously defend the team’s name.
But it appears opposition to the Washington team’s name, which most dictionaries define as a racial slur against Native Americans, runs far deeper in the league than the management might care to admit. The Washington Post’s Mike Wise has a column today about Mike Carey, a referee who refused to officiate a Washington game for the last eight seasons of his 19-year career. Carey, Wise writes, asked the league beginning in 2006 to not schedule him for any Washington games, and the NFL granted his request:
“It just became clear to me that to be in the middle of the field, where something disrespectful is happening, was probably not the best thing for me,” Carey said.
Told how uncommon his social stance was for a referee, whose primary professional goal is to be unbiased, Carey shook his head.
“Human beings take social stances,” he said. “And if you’re respectful of all human beings, you have to decide what you’re going to do and why you’re going to do it.”
Wise’s full column is worth the read, especially because Carey's story eats away at the argument that opposition to the Washington team’s name is very recent and driven only by—in the words of, oh, say, Mike Ditka—“politically correct idiots.” More of Ditka’s former colleagues are siding against the name.
Carey, who put away his zebra suit after the 2013 season, is now a commentator for CBS Sports, where on Monday, former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms announced he’ll only refer to the Washington team as “Washington” when he calls its September 25 game against the Giants. Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, now an anyalyst for NBC Sports, says he’ll do the same this season.
Rumblings about the Washington team’s name have even come from members of the current roster, if short-lived. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall said in January that “they probably should” change it, though he quickly walked back those comments before signing a four-year, $20 million contract.
The NFL’s top brass might be able to keep a lid on their current employees. But with respected veteran players, coaches, and referees refusing to engage the Washington team’s name, the push to change it suddenly has a lot more gridiron legitimacy.
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.
UPDATE, 3:19 PM: The Supreme Court issued a stay in the Virginia same-sex marriage case, meaning gay couples who might have lined up to get married starting Thursday morning will have to wait while the court decides whether to take up the case in its next term. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the order in response to requests to delay a lower court ruling from county clerks who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who opposes the state's 2006 ban but has said he wants the case settled by the high court.
Roberts also referred the case to his fellow justices, who could soon review writs by parties in the case for the Supreme Court to take up the matter. The stay issued in Virginia is consistent with other recent cases in which lower courts have overturned state bans on same-sex marriage, like Utah's. If the justices decide not hear Bostic v. Rainey, as the Virginia case is known, the decision last month by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold an earlier verdict striking down the marriage ban will take effect.
Courts in suburban Washington had been preparing to receive gay couples Thursday morning. Unlike many cases that are stayed pending an appeal by the losing party, Fourth Circuit Judge Henry F. Floyd only ordered that there be a three-week gap between when he issued his decision in Bostic v. Rainey and when it would take effect.
“Here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.”
Try the Washington Post.
The advice comes from a veteran police officer, writing on the Post’s PostEverything site, which since its launch been a reliable bucket of patently offensive takes on issues that are consuming the rest of the internet (recently, two university professors wrote on PostEverything that marriage is the best antidote to domestic violence). Los Angeles Police Department officer Sunil Dutta takes up the question of how to avoid running afoul of the police, Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shot at least six times and killed August 8 by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.
“Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names,” Dutta writes. “Don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge.”
In other words, shut up and take it, because even the slightest bit of intransigence is grounds for the cops to unleash a world of hurt. If you've got complaints, shelve them for later, Dutta says.
"Do what the officer tells you to and it will end safely for both of you," he writes. "We have a justice system in which you are presumed innocent; if a cop can do his or her job unmolested, that system can run its course. Later, you can ask for a supervisor, lodge a complaint or contact civil rights organizations if you believe your rights were violated." Or, wait for your complaint to get buried under mountains of paperwork and or dismissed outright. In DC, for instance, only 66 of the 358 complaints filed last year against Metropolitan Police Department officers were sustained, according to figures released this week.
Dutta admits that he, like nearly every other observer in this case, doesn’t know exactly what transpired before Wilson fired his gun, but Dutta’s take on the Ferguson situation is dosed with enough experience—in addition to spending 17 years with the LAPD, he also moonlights as a college instructor in Colorado—to make his points at least appear logical. But to say that putting up a verbal argument warrants bringing out the billy clubs, stun guns, or actual guns only stokes what’s been seen coming out of Ferguson in the past week—images of peaceful demonstrators being met with a lines of officers rigged with military-grade equipment, marchers being fogged with canisters of tear gas, and people being slugged with rubber bullets after not moving quickly enough.
Dutta tries to generate some sympathy for the cops, writing, “An average person cannot comprehend the risks and has no true understanding of a cop’s job.” Neither does Dutta, however, if he thinks encounters with police officers can only end with immediate submission or the deployment of overwhelming force.
That’s the argument by New York Police Department Sergeant Jon Murad, another scholar-cop who wrote on his blog over the weekend that even if Brown did physically engage the officer who shot him, if he signaled his surrender, Wilson’s gun should have remained holstered.
“Shooting someone trying to take your gun is lawful, especially if he’s a significant physical threat; shooting someone surrendering with their hands up is not, even when it’s the same guy and mere seconds separate the events,” Murad writes.
Murad assessment is more sober, though far less click-baiting than something that screams “I’m the police! Do as I say or else!”
Having already upended markets for taxis, ice cream, and long-stem roses, Uber is now attempting to disrupt the sundry market. The app-based transportation company is launching a new experiment called Uber Corner Store, in which its affiliated drivers will deliver items one usually picks up at convenience stores and pharmacies.
Too busy to walk to the nearest CVS? No problem, says Uber. Customers for whom the Corner Store upgrade appears can order off a menu that spans from allergy pills to chewing gum to heartburn medicine to condoms and lube. The items will be picked up by an Uber driver and delivered to the user, whose account will be charged just like an ordinary UberX ride. There’s no set delivery fee, but the company is setting its own prices. (A tin of Altoids, for instance, is $3, while a stick of Degree deodorant will set you back $11.)
For now, Uber says the Corner Store program will only run in DC for a few weeks and only for selected users on weekdays between 9 AM and 9 PM. An Uber spokesman did not say if it will expand outside a few small delivery areas (Most of Northwest, Capitol Hill, H Street, and Navy Yard).
While the company adds on its website that this is still a test, Uber’s aim seems apparent: It wants to compete with companies such as Postmates, whose app will take same-day delivery orders for goods from just about any store or restaurant a user desires. Postmates entered the Washington market in December and quickly took off with the same crowd that made Uber popular. Corner Store isn’t Uber’s first foray into deliveries, either. It’s been testing out a courier service in New York since April. Don’t be surprised if this new experiement turns permanent.
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.
It’s official: The Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art and Design will be dissolved in October after a District judge upheld the financially failed institution’s plan to be taken over by the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University.
In the ruling issued Monday afternoon, Judge Robert Okun of DC Superior Court rejected a last-minute case by Save the Corcoran, a group of Corcoran students, staff, and benefactors seeking to block the 145-year-old institution’s bureacratic death. Okun’s ruling allows the Corcoran’s cy-prés petition to move forward, meaning its 17,000-item collection will fall under the auspices of the NGA, while the art school is absorbed into GWU. The university will also take over the Corcoran’s building, an iconic Beaux Arts landmark from 1897 that needs as much as $130 million in repairs.
Because the Corcoran is a nonprofit organization, changes to its charter need to be approved by a judge. In his opinion, Okun seems sensitive to founder William Corcoran’s desire that the museum bearing his name remain “an institution in Washington City,” as Corcoran wrote in the original 1869 charter.
“[T]he Court is aware that the GW/NGA proposal is inconsistent with Mr. Corcoran’s intent in one important respect—unlike the UMD proposal from February 2014, the GW/NGA proposal effectively eliminates the Corcoran as an independent institution, leaving behind only an untethered Board of Trustees to advise GW and NGA on future plans for the College and Gallery,” Okun writes. “Undoubtedly, Mr. Corcoran would not be pleased by this turn of events. It seems likely, however, that he would be pleased to see that the College will be preserved through its partnership with the very university to which he donated both property and his company’s archives, and where he served as Chairman of the Board for several years, and that the Gallery will be preserved through its partnership with one of the country’s pre-eminent art institutions.”
The Corcoran has been struggling for years under its current management. Save the Corcoran argued in court that the museum’s board, led by Harry Hopper, raised just $4 million in 2012 and spent $3.7 million of it. The Corcoran also attempted to raise money by selling off some of its most prized items, such as the Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet, a Persian rug that went for $33.8 million in a 2013 auction.
Under terms of the arrangements with the NGA and GWU announced in February, the museum will close around October 1. Students, now enrolled in GWU’s Columbian College, will continue to attend classes at the Corcoran building, though current students’ tuition will remain the same. While most of the current galleries will be closed to the public, parts of the building will eventually reopen with exhibits presented by the NGA under the banner “Corcoran Contemporary, National Gallery of Art” featuring small selections from the Corcoran’s vault.
Save the Corcoran, led by former instructor Jayme McLellan, has been brief so far in its obviously disappointment.
“The Corcoran as we know it is gone,” the group says on its Facebook page. “We fought the good fight.”
Closing out his ruling, Okun writes that his decision, while “painful” to issue, likely staved off complete disaster given the Corcoran’s unsteady leadership.
“[T]his Court would find it even more painful to deny the relief requested and allow the Corcoran to face its likely demise—the likely dissolution of the College, the closing of the Gallery, and the dispersal of the Gallery’s entire collection,” he writes. “Fortunately, two internationally recognized institutions, with strong and enduring commitments to education and the arts, have agreed to sustain the College under the Corcoran name, and to provide the same educational and employment opportunities to its students, faculty, and staff; to maintain the Gallery and much of the collection under the Corcoran name, and to keep it open to the public; and to renovate the iconic building which houses both the College and the Gallery.”
Read the full opinion below.
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.
In the wake of numerous instances of DC residents not being able to fly home because airport security personnel did not understand that a driver’s license issued by the District counts as valid identification, the Transportation Security Agency will start training its employees to recognize that, in fact, a DC license is as good as any state’s. Licenses issued by the city will be part of TSA agents’ daily shift briefings, according to a press release from Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office, which is taking credit for the change.
Norton met again with top TSA officials last week, as she had done several times already in 2014 following reports of District residents getting held up at airports around the country, but it appears the most recent sit-down finally produced results.
Beside the daily briefings, TSA employees who check travel documents—the blue-shirted ranks who sift you through security gates—will also go through a four-hour training session in September that will feature a special emphasis on driver's licenses, especially those issued by DC’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
“Residents are sensitive about invidious treatment, considering what Congress throws at them,” Norton says in the press release. “I appreciate the remedial actions led by top officials at the TSA.”
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.