News & Politics

QUIZ: Can You Match the Fence to the DC Institution?

People tend to look through these barriers, not at them.

People strolling by the White House tend to look straight through the fence, which makes sense: The White House is quite a view, and the fence is designed for security, not sightliness. But because we sometimes enjoy seeing DC from a different perspective, we decided to look at the fence for a change—and a few others around town.


White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

The National Park Service and the Secret Service began construction on this barrier in 2019. It’s about 13 feet high, replacing one that was just six and a half feet. The new fence is a necessary upgrade: Attempted breaches are a regular occurrence.

National Institutes of Health

10 Center Drive, Bethesda

Security was a concern here even before the pandemic shone a bright light on its operations. The fencing was a reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Some neighbors were miffed about being shut out of areas they had used for recreation and Metro access.

Russian Embassy

2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW

This compound is, no surprise, one of the District’s most secure embassies. It beefed up its barricades even further in 2015, adding razor wire on the rear side and acquiring, as the Washington Post put it, “all the aesthetic appeal of a New Jersey junk car lot.”

Vice President’s Residence

One Observatory Circle, NW

Located on the grounds of the US Naval Observatory, the Veep’s digs are relatively close to the street, so the fence is no joke. Wandering by on your morning jog? You will be on camera: The barricade is outfitted with some serious-looking observation devices.

Alexandria Detention Center

2001 Mill Road, Alexandria

Security has expanded significantly over the years, due in part to some high-profile inmates, including 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, “DC sniper” John Allen Muhammad, and former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort.

Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.