Washington can be a city of grumblers and grim prognosticators. Disaster lurks in every election cycle. It’s all too easy to compare ourselves unfavorably with rival cities such as New York and Los Angeles when it comes to fashion and food. But Thanksgiving’s a great moment to remember why it’s wonderful to be a Washingtonian. Here are some regional reasons to be grateful this holiday season.
1. In the less-news-is-good-news category, CQ Press announced this week that Washington has moved down on the FBI’s list of high-crime cities, from 16th place in 2009 to 22nd in 2010. Improving public safety is hard and unglamorous, but the nation’s capital needs to look and feel good for residents and visitors alike. There was positive news for residents of the Baltimore-Towson area in the same survey: The region fell three places in the rankings of high-crime metropolitan areas.
For more than 30 years, the Washingtonian of the Year awards have been the highest honor our community bestows on the people who make this a better place. The Washingtonian is looking for the 2010 Washingtonians of the Year. If you know of someone who is helping to build a better city and region, help us recognize his or her contribution. Please send us any information you think might be helpful, and include your name and phone number or e-mail address. Winners will be featured in the January 2011 issue of The Washingtonian and honored at a luncheon at the Willard InterContinental hotel.
Send or e-mail letters of nomination by September 30 to:
Washingtonians of the Year, The Washingtonian, 1828 L Street NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20046
Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
A full list of past winners appears after the jump.
All murders are tragedies for families and friends who lose people they love and for communities made uneasy by violence. And some murders, even if we didn’t know the victim personally, make unexpected holes in overlooked folds of the fabric of the city. The shooting of Don Diego Jones in Fort Dupont Park last week is one of those deaths.
When Michaele and Tareq Salahi came just a little too close to last week's state dinner for Mexican President Felipe Calderone, their swing by the White House mostly read as hubris—or an addiction to risk-taking. Turns out, it may have just been a case of great publicity instincts. Washingtonian's been tipped that a significant announcement involving Catherine Ashley Ommanney, a photojournalist's wife, interior designer, and soon-to-be memoirist widely rumored to be part of the Real Housewives of DC cast is imminent. We couldn't get absolute confirmation that said announcement will be the air dates and cast for the latest installment in Bravo's popular franchise. But for those of you eagerly awaiting the show's arrival, there's now good reason to hope.
"Why do DC policemen attach sidecars to their motorcycles around this time?"
You’ve seen them around—the motorcycles with the little car attached to the side. While recreational bikers might use them as an attention getter, it serves a real purpose when utilized by the DC police force.
It helps provide extra stability during the winter months, according to Traci Hughes, the executive director of the public information office for the Metropolitan Police Department. She says that sidecars are typically attached from mid-October (after Columbus Day) until March 17.
How, why, and when did Meridian Hill Park become Malcom X Park? —Liz
While some might know it as Malcom X Park, the official name for the 12 acres of land between 15th and 16th streets and W and Euclid streets, Northwest, is Meridian Hill Park. It is so named because it’s located on the exact longitude of the original District of Columbia milestone marker. It became a park in 1936—22 years after construction began—according to the National Park Service.
So where did the Malcolm X nickname come from? A leader of the Black United Front began referring to the park in honor of the civil-rights leader on the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., says Simone Moffett, cultural-resource specialist for Rock Creek Park, the organization that deals with administrative issues for Meridian Hill. DC residents later voted for the name to be officially changed to Malcolm X. A bill to change the name was introduced to Congress in January 1970, says Moffett, but didn’t pass. Moffett says that because a presidential memorial is located in the park—in honor of 15th President James Buchanan—the name cannot be changed to represent another person.
Photo by Flickr user Bethany L. King
Stephanie Caccomo asks: “What is the story behind the fish market barges on the Southwest waterfront? I think I’ve heard that they have been around for a while, but I’d love more info on their history.”
To get the facts on the fish market, we hunkered down with a stack of books and called in favors to two local historians. Read on to find out what we uncovered.
“I’ve been told that the traffic circles, most with statues, in Washington were purposefully placed two cannon ranges apart so the city would be defensible from any point. Is this true, in whole or part?”—Kay Larson
As far as we can tell from our research, Kay, that wasn’t quite the case—though the traffic circles did have something to do with defending the city. While the circles throughout the District may now seem like a nuisance, they were originally meant to do more than frustrate drivers. Read on for the explanation.
“What the heck are those grass-covered rounded structures at the southeast corner of North Capitol street and Michigan Avenue? They look like something out of an old war movie.” —Sarah
Although they may look like a backdrop for Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan, the structures are actually abandoned sand washers that are part of the McMillan Reservoir’s sand-filtration system.
Editor’s note: Washingtoniana was a monthly feature that first appeared in The Washingtonian magazine in the 1980s. It was penned by then-senior editor Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney. Subsequently written by other editors, the feature appeared on-and-off in the magazine through the mid-1990s.
In our search for Adams Morgan’s history, we tracked down Josh Gibson, the guy who literally wrote a book on the subject; the Adams Morgan resident and local historian coauthored Then & Now: Adams Morgan.
In the early 1900s, he says, the lively nightlife neighborhood we now know as Adams Morgan was known more by its geography than anything else; people simply referred to it as its cross-streets, 18th and Columbia. As a whole, it comprised parts of four other neighborhoods, including Lanier Heights to the northeast and Kalorama to the west.