L is for Library of Congress

Without the Library of Congress I don’t think I could have made it through  A to Z for either 2013 or 2014.

Besides being a very interesting and very beautiful place to visit, a lot of great material is available on their website (loc.gov). I can easily spend hours searching and browsing the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. It includes over one millions digital images (http://www.loc.gov/pictures/).

This post would run far too long if I linked to every past post where I used photos of or images from the Library of Congress. For the examples below, if you want to see more click on the title to see the original post. For 2014 the original post may include more photos, links to virtual tours, highlights, etc. For 2013 it may include more photos from the Library of Congress or another digital collection..

2014 – Washington DC, A to Z: Jefferson Building

2014 – Washington DC, A to Z: Quotations

2014 – Washington DC, A to Z: Neptune Fountain (Court of)

2013 – Y is for Young Dogs

2013 – V is for Vaudeville Dogs

2013 – A is for Advertising Dogs


Botanic Gardens

As pretty much all of you know, my A-Z challenge theme last year was “Things to do when visiting Washington DC” (and showing off my vacation pictures).   There was so much to see at the United States Botanic Garden I was able to use my pictures for 3 letters.  (Click here for a virtual tour of the US Botanic Garden)

For the letter B – Botanic Garden

For the letter O – Orchids at the Botanic Garden

And for the letter Y – Yucca and Other Ethno-Botanical Plants


Jimmy and I went to Arizona in the spring of 2013. While there, I  wrote a couple of short posts about  the Musical Instrument Museum and Desert Wildlife.  A few months later I wrote about our visit to Goldfield Ghost Town.

But of course, numerous photos  from our vacation were just copied over to my computer and I never got around to posting about many of the places we saw. (Even with a whole month of posts about our trip to Washington DC, I didn’t mention every place we went.)
For the last couple of months, one of my new tasks at work is to develop “finds” for the children’s area of the library. A find consists of 10  numbered pictures in a theme which are hung in obvious or somewhat hidden spots, a sheet to mark off when you spot a picture, and a reward stickers for finding all the items (the pictures printed on labels). It’s easiest to do this starting out with my vacation photos.
For the latest find, I started with pictures from Goldfield Ghost Town. Since I didn’t have 10 unique pictures that I thought a child would like, I also included some pictures from a couple of places in Scottsdale.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Scottsdale AZ
March 2013

Although the preserve has more than 100 miles of trails, we didn’t have much time and stayed on one of the shorter trails. Unfortunately I can’t remember which one. It’s very pretty and you don’t have to walk far to see some gorgeous views.

Since preschoolers also like horses and cowboys, I also included a couple of pictures I took the day I looked at art in Scottsdale and Jimmy went to the US vs. Canada World Series of Baseball game with his cousins. These pictures are from Scottsdale’s  public art walking tour. I also went to the Scottsdale Arts Festival (which just happened to be going on that weekend) and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Bronze Horse Fountain
by Bob Parks
Passing the Legacy
by Herb Mignery

Decompression Zone at the Wynn Resort

A custom-designed hot air balloon and carousel  at Wynn Las Vegas

Over 110,000 flowers adorn the hot air balloon and carousel that were installed in the Wynn atrium last December. I’m not sure where I  read about theses sculptures, but seeing them ended up on my list of things to do when we went to Las Vegas this spring. I had never heard the term “decompression zone” until I read this press release.

The effect is probably very different if you approach it from the main entrance as intended.  We entered the casino from the Self Parking garage. Since I couldn’t find the exact location of the atrium on any map, I wandered around until I found them. Luckily they are almost on the casino floor.

Estimated location of hot air balloon and carousel shown in purple.
Image cropped from lower right of photo in top left of collage above.
Detail from hot air balloon.

I’m linking this post to Mosaic Monday at Little Red House.

Washington DC, A to Z: Zamboni on the National Mall

On our second day of our Washington DC vacation, Jimmy and I  visited many museums on the National Mall. We started out at the Smithsonian Castle and then split up.  I went  to see some of the  “thousands of the most significant works of art from the Renaissance to the present day” in the collection of the  National Gallery of Art.

Walking through the Sculpture Garden, it’s hard not to notice the skating rink. When I took this picture I was standing just a little bit north of Thinker on a Rock.

Skating Rink
National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
Washington DC

When I saw the skating rink, I hoped I’d find my picture for the letter Z very close by.  It wasn’t hard to find at all. In addition to owning thousands of pieces of art, the National Gallery of Art owns a Zamboni.

Zamboni Ice Resurfacer
The National Gallery of Art  – Washington DC


The National Gallery of Art Ice Rink is open mid-November through mid-March, weather permitting.

All the museums located on the National Mall are part of the Smithsonian Institution except the the National Gallery of Art  which was  originally conceived and funded by Andrew W. Mellon.

Some Highlights from the Collection
National Gallery of Art
via Wikipedia

Admission to and tours of (even audio tours) the National Gallery of Art is free.  In addition to the art they own, there are also special exhibitions which are also free. Special exhibitions that I saw when I visited in March included:

And like most every other place we visited in Washington DC, I didn’t see even half of what I wanted to see.

Washington DC, A to Z: Yucca and Other Ethno-Botanical Plants

While in the Garden Court of the United States Botanical Garden Conservatory, I was so entranced by the Orchid Symphony that I barely looked at the other plants in the room.  As of yesterday,  the 2014 Orchid Symphony only exists in photographs and videos.

The other plants in the Garden Court are ethno-botanical plants, plants used in products such as fibers, food, beverages, cosmetics, wood, spices and others. One example (with very limited use) is the yucca rostrata.

Yucca rostrata (Beaked Yucca)

Yucca rostrata is almost always grown  as an ornamental plant. Yucca fruit can be cooked and eaten, but rarely is.    The root of the yucca rostrata is inedible.  Yucca is often confused with yuca, the root portion of the  manihot esculenta (Cassava).

The only other ethno-botanical plant I took a picture of far is more useful. If you’ve been reading this since  Washington DC, A to Z: Botanic Garden you will recognize this photo of theobroma cacao (cacao tree).  The fruit, called a cacao pod, contains 20 to 60 seeds, usually called “beans”, embedded in a white pulp. These seeds are the main ingredient of chocolate.

Theobroma cacao  (Cacao Tree) 

Washington DC, A to Z: X-Ray Display at the Zoo

At the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, animal x-rays are hung throughout the Small Mammal House. According to the Smithsonian, the display is designed to “explain the relationship between body structure and behavior of animals.”

Without it’s long, flexible tail  a squirrel wouldn’t be able to scurry through the trees.

You can see more animal x-rays at The Inside Story. In order to see the explanations you need to go to the Zoo.

Washington DC, A to Z: Washington Monument Alternative Viewpoint

There are very few places in Washington DC to get a view of the city from up high.

In 1910, the 61st United States Congress enacted a new height restriction law limiting building heights to 130 feet, or the width of the right-of-way of the street or avenue on which a building fronts, whichever is shorter.

The Washington Monument (technically not a building) is 555 feet tall. When it was built in 1884 it was the tallest structure in the world. That lasted about 5 years. It is still the tallest structure in Washington DC.

One of the things we wanted  to do during our vacation in DC, but couldn’t, was to go up the elevator in the  Washington Monument for an aerial view of the city. Unfortunately, while we were there it was  closed for the final stages of restoration from the earthquake of 2011*.  Click here to see videos of the damage and, at the bottom of the page, 3 videos shot by security cameras during the earthquake.

The  Cross family from Michigan was at the top of the Washington Monument when the quake struck. They said that they felt the 555 foot monument sway nearly a foot, and said they felt pieces of the monument falling on them. ABC News

*This is the same earthquake that damaged the Cathedral (see Gargoyle post for more information). They were the only buildings in DC damaged.

Washington Monument, March 2014
Getting Its Cracks Fixed

The Pilgrim Observation Gallery at the National Cathedral is only 150 feet high but the Cathedral is built on  high hill. Tour groups aren’t allowed on the elevator. Large windows provide unobstructed 360-degree views.  I only saw 5 other people when I was up there!

Washington DC Skyline
Capitol to Washington Monument
Photo taken from Pilgrim Observation Gallery, Washington National Cathedral
View of Washington DC from Pilgrim Observation Gallery

In the picture above:

The Washington Monument is scheduled to reopen on May 12, 2014. Reservations can be made online at Recreation.gov . When I tested the site last night select times were available for May 20 – May 22, May 30, June 2-3, June 5-6. (You can reserve further out than that, but I stopped clicking on “next available date”).

Washington DC, A to Z: Vaulted Ceilings Keep the Cathedral from Falling Down

Actually its the pointed arches, vaulted ceilings and flying buttresses that keep a Gothic cathedral from falling down but that’s far too long for a blog title.

Washington National Cathedral (last mentioned in the post Gargoyles on the Cathedral Walls) was built in the Gothic style. It also was engineered and constructed  using traditional Gothic techniques.

The stability of the architecture is maintained by the force of gravity: the weight of the building, and the various elements of the building—buttresses, pinnacles, arches, vaulting—push against each other to keep the building intact and upright. Cathedral Age

Many different vault styles were used in the Washington National Cathedral. I’m not sure which styles are represented below.  And I’m not exactly sure where some of these photos were taken.  I tried to follow the self guided tour in this pamphlet but frequently had to take detours or wait;   many groups of adults on guided highlight and specialty tours  and  many groups of teenagers on school trips are in the Cathedral at any given time.

Washington National Cathedral
Somewhere in the Crypt
Washington National Cathedral
Pilgrim Observation Gallery
Washington National Cathedral
Somewhere in the Main Level

Gothic architecture brought two major advantages to buildings:

  • Buildings could be much taller (and not fall down).
  • Since exterior walls were no longer used for support, the building could have thinner walls and many windows.

The Washington National Cathedral contains over 200 separate stained glass windows. One of the stained glass windows even includes a piece of the moon.

Washington National Cathedral
Scientists and Technicians Window

There are many virtual tours on the Cathedrals website. See Gargoyles on the Cathedral Walls for more information and links.

If you are thinking about visiting the Cathedral while on a visit to DC, directions are on the Cathedral’s web site.  It’s a 20 minute express bus ride from  Dupont Circle (where we were staying) or a 30 minute express bus ride from the White House (bottom right corner of the map) to the Cathedral.

The Cathedral is also a stop on some of the hop-on / hop-off bus tours.

Washington DC, A to Z: Ulysses S Grant Memorial

With all the monuments and memorials in Washington DC, the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial frequently gets overlooked. It’s not included in  the National Park Services’ list of  Iconic Memorials and Monuments. It’s not included on the Official Washington DC Visitors Guide list of Washington DC Monuments & Memorials. I don’t recall reading about it in any of the numerous travel guides I consulted when planning this vacation. It’s not even shown on most tourist maps of Capitol Hill.

We just happened to pass it on our way  to the Metro after our very busy first day in DC and walked over to see who was honored with the very large equestrian monument in front of the Capitol.   I took this picture  to post for the letter U and because the lion looks like I always pictured Aslan.

Ulysses S. Grant Memorial (1920) Washington DC
Bronze and Marble
Sculptor: Henry Merwin Shrady

A few days later, while driving slowly around the Capitol, our Monuments by Moonlight tour guide told us some fascinating stories about this monument, most are included in this article.   We never made it back to that part of DC, so  I don’t have pictures of the other sections of the monument.  DC Memorials has some great pictures of the Artillery and Calvary groups at either end.

U.S. Capitol and Grant Memorial
by Martin Falbisoner
Wikimedia Photo

This statue is far more interesting than it seemed to be when we first saw it. If you’re interested in finding out more about it, these articles are a good starting place:

History Behind Lion Statues in House of Cards Opening Credits by Tom at Ghosts of DC

Includes some great pictures from the Library of Congress Archives

Men on Horseback Dominate Memorials  by The Washington Times

An overview of the 28  equestrian monuments in Washington DC

Equestrian Statues & the Theory of the Raised Hooves by DC Memorials

Links to a page with detailed photos of 38 equestrian monuments in the United States

A Great Bronze Tarnished by Neglect by Michael F. Bishop at The Wall Street Journal

Exploration of the artistic value of the sculptures included in the memorial.