My twin cousins Chase & Carley are participating a class project called “Flat Stanley”. Originally a 1964 children's book written by Jeff Brown, Stanley Lambchop’s adventures were the inspiration for the Flat Stanley Project, launched in 1994 by Dale Hubert of Ontario, Canada. It’s similar to the old Pen Pal Program but with a fun new twist.
As described on the site: “The basic principle of The Flat Stanley Project is to connect your child, student or classroom with other children or classrooms participating in the Project by sending out "flat" visitors, created by the children, through the mail. Kids then talk about, track, and write about their flat character's journey and adventures.”
This is also a great way for kids to understand, through their connections with friends and family, the world around them - or at least their own motherland - and interesting spots in a loved-one's hometown (not everyone lives in a capital city and obscure might be far more intriguing!).
So Miss Carley chose me to be the recipient of her Flat Stanley so that I could show him around DC and send back photos of all the adventures that Stanley and I had while he was here. I immediately got on the horn and called up my FoodNewsie and he met me downtown after work with camera in hand to make sure Stanley and I didn't get into too much trouble as we gallivanted around our Nation’s Capital - the 3 of us would roam as far our little feet could carry us in a few hours before dark.
It should be noted that Stanley was a quiet and considerate guest and I enjoyed spending time free-ranging all over DC taking fun pictures and having a treat from the ice cream truck on a warm spring evening. Here’s our story along with a brief history of DC:
Stanley arrived to the farm one cool spring evening in the middle of the week. He had a bit of a crick in his back due to the long trip from California to Maryland but he was all smiles none-the-less.
As you may or may not know, dear reader, this Farmrgirl works a "regular job" in downtown Washington, DC at the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters (where I'm a civilian employee and, after many years of Active Duty, I'm also a Reservist). And that’s where I planned to kick off my field trip with Stanley. So the next morning he rode the DC Metro train with me into the city.
We had some work to do as soon as we arrived in the office and Stanley was quite the helper!
First, a brief initial history of Washington DC:
The history of Washington, DC officially began when our first President, George Washington signed an Act of Congress in 1790 declaring that the federal government would reside in a district "not exceeding ten miles square on the river Potomac."
Then we were on to my favorite memorial site so far - Franklin D. Roosevelt Monument:
The Pentagon is a building, an institution, and a symbol. It's a marvel of modern engineering constructed in just 16 months. Built to house 30,000 defense workers on the cusp of World War II; with more than 17 miles of corridors, it remains one of the largest office buildings in the world. And it turned out to be a much better building than anyone could have ever expected. It is doubtful that any building of comparable size and utility has been constructed before or since so expeditiously.
There was a great deal of descent within the ranks of Washington insiders not to place such a massive structure in so close to the nation’s most hallowed ground - Arlington Cemetery. And after much back and forth between the Army, Congress, Senate, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, it was finally decided to build just south of the original site at the location of the regions first airport - but there was no time to redesign the shape of the building. Many people disliked the proposed shape and President Roosevelt put the matter to rest when he said, "You know, gentlemen, I like that pentagon-shaped building, I like it because nothing like it has ever been done that way before."
On September 11, 2001, the Pentagon was nearing the end of its first full-scale renovations when American Airlines Flight 77 smashed into the building’s east side, which was unoccupied due to the construction. Nearly 200 people lost their lives in the attack.
The final visit on our lunch-time trip was the Jefferson Memorial. Jefferson was the 3rd President of the United States and the author of the Declaration of Independence. Before he was President, Jefferson was our 2nd Vice President serving under President John Adams.
Thomas Jefferson promoted religious freedom, helping to establish the country's separation between church and state, and he advocated free public education. Among many other very important accomplishments, during his Presidency he brilliantly negotiated the Louisiana Purchase from France.
Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826 - exactly fifty years to the day from the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
We visited the Washington Monument:
The Washington Monument is 555 foot memorial to George Washington, our nation's first president. Built in the shape of an Egyptian obelisk, evoking the timelessness of ancient civilizations, the Washington Monument embodies the awe, respect, and gratitude the nation felt for its most essential Founding Father. The monument is the most prominent landmark in Washington, DC and stands as the centerpiece of the National Mall.
Slow to get started but with a desire to show the gratitude of the people to the father of their country, progress toward a monument began in 1832, the year marking the 100th anniversary of Washington's birth. But several complications affected the project. There were difficulties raising funds so construction didn't begin until 1848. Work progressed steadily until 1854 when lack of funding and a nation turning its attention to the Civil War brought work to a halt. For more than 25 years, the monument stood at 150 feet - only partly finished. Then, in 1876 the Corps of Engineers of the War Department was placed in charge of the work and it was finally complete in 1884.
On August 23, 2011 a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Washington DC region and caused major damage of cracked and chipped stone blocks on the Washington Monument; it's been closed to the public since the earthquake. The Monument is now surrounded by scaffolding, which took 3 months to construct. Repairs are expected to be complete in 2014.
I'm reminded of an excerpt from the 1885 dedication of the monument, "The storms of winter must blow and beat upon it ... the lightning’s of Heaven may scar and blacken it. An earthquake may shake its foundations ... but the character which it commemorates and illustrates is secure."
Onward in our trek over the National Mall we spy the Capitol Dome. This is one of the first things I see on my way into the office each day and I have to admit that it never gets old.
The U.S. Capitol Building is located at the eastern end of the National Mall on a rise 88 feet above the level of the Potomac River. The cornerstone of the building was laid by President Washington on September 18, 1793.
The United States Capitol is among the most symbolically important and architecturally impressive buildings in the nation. It has housed the meeting chambers of the House of Representatives and the Senate for two-hundred years.
Then we were off to the White House!
Although President Washington oversaw the construction of the house, he never lived in it. It was not until 1800, when the White House was nearly completed, that it’s first residents, President John Adams and his wife, Abigail, moved in.
Since 1995, Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and Lafayette Square has been closed to vehicle traffic for better security.
Then we headed back to the National Mall to catch our train home at Smithsonian Station.
Whew! That was my whirlwind tour of DC with Flat Stanley. We were unable to get to everything in one day... I really wanted to take him to the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery but they were out of reach by foot in the few hours we had available.
I had a great time with Stanley and I hope you've enjoyed reading about our excursion in the Nation's Capital. If this inspires you to come visit (Carley and Crew!!) then I sure hope you do!
Now I'm gonna go soak my feet!