the location on Location: Kansas City’s National WWI Memorial

At the end of June, after months of opposition by local D.C. officials, Texas Representative Ted Poe withdrew his push to turn D.C.’s local World War I Memorial into a national monument.  The 47 foot tall Doric temple, which commemorates District residents who served in the Great War, was the first memorial in West Potomac Park and remains the only District memorial on the Mall.  The memorial was funded by D.C. organizations and citizens, and was dedicated on Armistice Day in 1931.  The cornerstone contains a list of 26,000 Washingtonians who served in WWI, and the names of the 499 who died are inscribed in its base.  The National Park Service recently completed a restoration of the crumbling structure.  If you haven’t visited this tree-shaded spot, you are definitely missing out.

While I fully respect the intentions of Poe (and Frank Buckles, the recently deceased last living US veteran of WWI), it does seem a little strange to create a national WWI memorial.  Because there already is a national WWI memorial museum (which should be the national memorial).  In Kansas City, Missouri.

A visit to the beautiful and thoughtful National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial made me wonder what Poe’s fuss was all about.  Sorry it’s not in DC, but this place is a perfect memorial.  A little history:

Just two weeks after the Armistice, Kansas City leaders met to discuss the need for the creation of a lasting monument to the men and women who had served in the War, and most notably to those who had died…A community-based fundraising drive in 1919, organized and led by the Liberty Memorial Association, raised over $2.5 million in just ten days. This staggering accomplishment for the time reflected the passion of public sentiment for the Great War that had dramatically changed the world. Following the fundraising drive, the Kansas City Chapter of the American Institute of Architects held a national architectural competition to choose a design for the Memorial. The competition resulted in the selected design by architect H. Van Buren Magonigle.

Supreme Allied Commanders of WWI

The site for the Liberty Memorial was dedicated on November 1, 1921. On this day, the supreme Allied commanders spoke to a crowd of more than 100,000 people. It was the only time in history these leaders were together in one place. In attendance were Lieutenant General Baron Jacques of Belgium; General Armando Diaz of Italy; Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France; General John J. Pershing of the United States; and Admiral David Beatty of Great Britain. President Calvin Coolidge delivered the dedication speech to a crowd of 150,000 people…

Over time the physical structure of the Liberty Memorial deteriorated, and in 1994 it was closed due to safety concerns. The Liberty Memorial Association had been collecting objects and documents related to World War I since 1920, and the new museum was envisioned as an inspiring and engaging experience for visitors showcasing the collection, much of which had never been viewed. Prior to the expansion, the institution had only 7,000 square feet to present exhibits. The new museum was built as an 80,000-square-foot, state-of-the art facility. In total, the Liberty Memorial Association raised $102 million dollars for the restoration and expansion. Supporters included the City of Kansas City, the State of Missouri, the United Sates Federal Government, and generous individual donors.

In 2004 the Museum was designated by Congress as the United States’ official World War I Museum, opening to the public on December 2, 2006, as the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial.

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Radio Time: The Peacock Room

Listen to this!

the location is featured every month on Metro Connection, a local news magazine show on Washington, D.C.’s NPR station, WAMU 88.5.  In each segment (also called the location), I talk about a different D.C. location that has some kind of interesting or offbeat history.

Tune in tomorrow Friday, June 29 at 1pm or Saturday, June 30 at 7am.

Before it was packed up and shipped to the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery on the National Mall, the Peacock Room was originally the London dining room of Fredrick R. Leyland, a wealthy shipowner from Liverpool. Leyland had hired interior architect Thomas Jeckyll to design the room as a place to display his valuable collection of Chinese porcelain. As he neared the completion of the room, Jeckyll consulted with painter James McNeil Whistler (who was also working on the house at the time) about some of the final details. Whistler offered to assist in some “minor” paint retouches and finishes. Leyland left London believing the work was basically done. Big mistake for Leyland ($200,000 later, Whistler’s work was complete), but ridiculously gorgeous work of art for the rest of us.

You can listen to the show live or recorded HERE.

To read the original blog post that inspired this week’s show, click HERE.

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Radio Time: T.F. Schneider’s Lucky Legacy

Listen up!

the location is featured every month on Metro Connection, a local news magazine show on Washington, D.C.’s NPR station, WAMU 88.5.  In each segment (also called the location), I talk about a different D.C. location that has some kind of interesting or offbeat history.

Tune in today Friday, May 25 at 1pm or Saturday, May 26 at 7am.

Since 1894, D.C. developers have been frustrated by the “Height Act”, which restricts them from building higher than the adjacent street is wide.  The law was passed in response to T.F. Schneider’s 194 foot “skyscraper” on Q Street NW, The Cairo, which remains the tallest building in the city.  Schneider is still most famous for this building, but he probably should be more well-known for his crazy brother who killed his own wife and brother-in-law in front of a row of apartments that T.F. also famously built on Q Street. Howard Schneider’s murder trial was the most infamous D.C. had ever experienced at the time, and it is the subject of our story this week.

You can listen to the show live or recorded HERE (the segment is already up for your listening enjoyment).

To read the original blog post that inspired this week’s show, click HERE.

1733 Q Street NW. The site of Howard J. Schneider’s murders.

Hell’s Bottom Beer

I get many rewards from the location: raising awareness about long-buried D.C. history, the opportunity to creatively express myself, fun radio interviews. But I just got the best reward I could ever imagine. Beer.

This month, DC Brau unveiled a limited release oatmeal stout called “Hell’s Bottom”. This is the awesome logo:

Photo by DC Brau

The description:

Named after one of DC’s most notorious neighborhoods, Hell’s Bottom. Where in the late 1800’s there was little money, whiskey was cheap and virtually no police force. Enter Hell’s Bottom Oatmeal Stout. Brewed with a healthy amount of flaked oats, roasted barley and both chocolate and black malts. Hell’s Bottom starts with a heavy roast character that will definitely wake up the pallet. Followed by a small kick of bitterness contributed by Northern Brewer hops. Lastly, the flaked oats contribute a smooth, cream-like mouthfeel that must be tasted to be understood. With a medium to light body this oatmeal stout is one that drinks easy in the upcoming spring/ summer season.

Now, the beginning of that passage sounds wonderfully similar to my March 18 post about old forgotten D.C. neighborhood names. Can it be that DC Brau got its naming inspiration from the location?!?!? Nothing would make me prouder!!

(The coolness factor of this for me is increased by the fact that I work as Director of Operations for the Heurich House Museum. Heurich was the owner of DC’s most successful brewery. When the Christian Heurich Brewing Company closed in 1956, no other packaging brewery existed in Washington until the opening of DC Brau last April!)

Now I have to go out and try it.

Update: Brandon Skall, owner of DC Brau, has confirmed that, yes, the name of Hell’s Bottom beer came from the location’s post. Best. Day. Ever. Also, I tried it and it’s delicious!

T.F. Schneider’s Lucky Legacy

No discussion (or debate) about D.C.’s Height Act is complete without mention of T.F. Schneider’s Cairo Apartment Building on Q Street NW. The 1894 construction of the gorgeous building was the catalyst for the building height restrictions we know and love today.

It is fortuitous for Schneider that the building caused such an impression. He’s lucky that we remember him for this lovely building and for the fantastic tree-lined block of Q Street row-houses between 17th and 18th Streets that he built as a speculative venture for well-to-do families when the area began to thrive. Because we could remember T.F. for the chilly murders committed by his crazy brother Howard in 1892 on that same Q Street block or for Howard’s subsequent sensational trial and execution:

It was at 8 o’clock on the evening of Sunday, January 31, 1892, that [Howard J.] Schneider shot his wife, Amanda Hamlink Schneider, and his brother-in-law, Frank Hamlink, almost in front of their father’s door, on [1733] Q Street between Seventeenth and Eighteenth. Schneider was a young electrician when he met Amanda Hamlink, in the summer of 1891. He was of good family, not a bad-looking young fellow, who dressed well and drove fast horses. He made love to the young lady, became engaged to her, and one day in June when they were out driving he produced a marriage license and threatened to shoot himself unless she married him at once. Miss Hamlink yielded, and a minister in Hyattsville performed the ceremony.

The marriage was kept a secret until fall, when the young woman’s father discovered it. Then there was a scene, the father suspecting at first that the marriage had been a fraud, and requiring Schneider to produce the certificate. After that Schneider went to the Hamlink house to live. His cruelties made the life of his wife an unhappy one. More than once he threatened to shoot her. Finally he began staying out late at night, and after due warning was locked out from the Hamlink house.

About this time, a few weeks before the tragedy, he became enamored of a young girl from Virginia who was visiting [her sister who also lived on that same Q Street block]. He determined to secure a divorce from his wife, and made preparations to go to Chicago. On the Sunday evening of the tragedy he had sent a colored man to the house with a note asking if his wife intended to live with him. While he was waiting for an answer across the street from the house, his wife, with her brother and sister, walked down Q Street from Eighteenth. Schneider crossed over to them, leaving his chum, Marion Appleby on the south side of the street. Grasping at his wife roughly by the wrist, he told her he wanted to speak to her. The brother interfered. Schneider drew a revolver and fired five shots. Three of them entered the body of his wife, whom he still held by the hand, one pierced Frank Hamlink’s breast, and the fifth crashed through the window of the Hamlink house.

Frank Hamlink fell into the street, dying almost instantly. Mrs. Schneider was able to walk into the house. She languised until the 6th of February, and left a dying declaration detailing the circumstances of the crime.

Howard Schneider threw down his revolver by the body of Frank Hamlink and fled. Within a half hour he walked into the nearest police station and gave himself up, saying he did the deed in self-defense.

1733 Q Street. The Hamlink House.

Although most of us have never heard a thing about it, Howard Schneider’s trial was one of the most infamous the city has ever experienced. The Washington Post’s April 10, 1892 edition (the day after the verdict) was the largest edition it had ever published up to that time. 10,000 additional copies and an extra came off the presses.

Many witnesses were called, and in a dramatic twist, most of them lived on T.F.’s block of Q Street row houses. This meant that they knew both the Hamlink and Schneider families and some were still indebted to T.F. for their property. When T.F. took the stand, he was accused of intimidating some of his neighbors. In one instance, he had sold a Q Street row house to a Mr. Bean and still held 2 notes for $2000 against him. Before Mrs. Bean testified at trial, T.F. had told the Beans that he could renew the note. After she testified, T.F. wrote Mr. Bean that he would no longer do so because he was unsatisfied with his wife’s testimony.

Howard and his friends did their best to plant evidence that he acted in self-defense, but the prosecution was able to debunk most of these details. They proved that Howard stole Hamlink’s gun, shot him with it, and then threw it by his body. They showed that Howard planted a second gun and that he created fake bullet holes in his own clothing.

Perhaps the most telling and dramatically sad testimony of the trial came from Mrs. Schneider, Howard and T.F.’s mother, who was forced to describe the mental instability of her son. Of Howard, she said:

He was always talking to himself in his room…and would swear at me or some imaginary person. When I went upstairs to remonstrate with him he would slam the door and swear. He would leave the house after breakfast in pleasant spirits, and would return to lunch out of temper. Often he would break out at the table violently. He had trouble with everyone with whom he had dealings, and always complained that they were against him. He was constantly making appointments and failing to keep them.

Photo by Washington Post archives.

Howard’s important family bought him good lawyers, but that was all they could do to help him. For the year after he was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death, his attorneys appealed to overturn the conviction on insanity grounds. They brought the case as high as the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to step in. On March 17, 1893, after President Cleveland denied clemency, Howard J. Schneider was hanged in the D.C. District jail.

Here are some pictures of T.F. Schneider’s buildings to help you forget about his brother:

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the location on Location: The Philip Johnson Glass House

For the next few weeks, I will be checking out a variety of house museums as part of my work at the Heurich House Museum in Dupont Circle.  Today, I had a magical experience at The Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan, CT.  Johnson was a brilliant architect, art collector, and intellectual.  He “was also a singular tastemaker, influencing architecture, art, and design during the second-half of the twentieth century. He referred to the Glass House site as his ‘fifty-year diary.'”  He was the founding director of the Department of Architecture at MOMA and introduced America to modern architecture with his  landmark 1932 exhibition, The International Style.

I am just starting to appreciate modernism, but The Glass House is one of the most amazing buildings I’ve ever been in, and I had to share it.  Although small, minimalist, and practical, this is a fairy tale home.  Johnson curated the vast expanse of land below the building so that it rolls out as a painting.  And there is the barest division between what is inside and what is out. A life inside the Glass House is a life in nature.

Donald Judd’s concrete work, “Untitled”, 1971 on the approach to the Glass House and the Brick House. Construction of the sculpture required two loads of concrete. The load from the first truck was poured, but the second truck got lost en route. By the time it arrived the next day, the first pour had begun to cure and the two never fully bonded together. In 2010, work was done to restore the resulting cracks and clean the entire piece.

The buildings sit on 47 acres of land. Much of the property had once been a dairy farm, and many of the original old New England stone walls remain. Johnson carefully edited and built up the wall leading to the Glass House and Brick House, and specifically widened the area surrounding an original tree whose roots wrap around one of the old stones.
The Glass House sits on a natural promontory and overlooks a magical swath of vast land. The transparent walls blend with the surrounding landscape. Johnson’s bed is the only piece of furniture in the wide space behind a storage unit. Here, he would be alone with the outside world.
Johnson dammed the river below the Glass House, and created a small pond. The Pavilion was the site of many of his parties. He liked to climb the 30 foot high Lincoln Kirstein sculpture, calling it “a staircase to nowhere.”
The man-made lighting inside the Glass House is dim. Lights around the edge of the roof brighten the trees surrounding the building at night, turning the inside out.
In Johnson’s original sketches of the Glass House and the Brick House, they were attached. Although the final buildings do not physically touch, he still considered them, and the grass paths between, part of the same structure.
Johnson and his companion, David Whitney, were avid art collectors. He created his Art Gallery in a bunker under a mound of land. This Sculpture Gallery was designed to mimic the stairway-lined villages of the Greek islands. “Raft of the Medusa, Part I” by Frank Stella contains the metallized innards of Stella’s torn-apart studio.
The chain link Ghost House is a playful folly that lays beyond Johnson’s Study. The Study remains exactly as it did when Johnson died in 2005.
Da Monsta is the last building Johnson designed for the property, and was originally intended to be the Visitor Center for the museum he knew it would become. As a good friend of Frank Gehry, Johnson was on-site in Bilbao during his Guggenheim project. The form of Da Monsta seems to reflect the influence of this relationship.
Visitors to Da Monsta cannot be sure whether they are looking at sculpture or are standing inside one.

Conjuring Architectural Ghosts

First Jacobsen Architecture LLC created the fascinating Vanished Washington (a.k.a. The Ruined Capitol), a blog that posts daily before-and-after photos showing beautiful historic D.C. buildings and the concrete monstrosities that have replaced them.

Now, Architectural Historian Stephen Hansen is summoning ruined D.C. buildings from the ether of the past.  In his newly launched site, Virtual Architectural Archaeology: Recreating Washington, DC’s Lost Built Environment, he brings you computer models of long-destroyed buildings.  If, like me, you have ever walked past a disintegrating historic structure and wondered what it looked like in its glory, this is a site for you.

According to his release:

Virtual architectural archaeology combines the analysis of documentation, photographs, drawings, and artifacts with the latest in computer technologies to virtually model lost (or heavily modified) buildings.

The first two virtual recreations posted to the site are the former Kalorama mansion, once located at the intersection of 23 and S Streets, and the endangered Holt House located on the grounds of the National Zoo.

…Comments on the recreations and suggestions for others, as well as links to the site are welcome.


Hansen’s virtual recreation of the vanished Kalorama mansion at 23rd and S Streets, NW.