Georgetown in midwinter

A few scenes from waking through Georgetown over the past week or so. First, on a snowy Friday morning on February 1st on M Street:

Later on along O Street, heading west toward Holy Trinity on Sunday morning, February 3rd:

And lastly along Dumbarton and Wisconsin, on warmer and springlike Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, February 5th and 6th:

Little scenes from daily life.

Arlington snowfall and history

Large, beautiful snow fell on Washington last week, and I captured a bit of that snowfall mid-afternoon and then in the evening near Court House Metro station:

Arlington is full of apparent neighborhoods, but has no clear center of gravity and no central downtown. It was once a part of the District of Columbia, and its more recent history is distinctive:

Arlington County is a jurisdiction of 25.8 square miles located across the Potomac River from Washington D.C.  The County was originally part of the ten-mile square surveyed in 1791 for the Nation’s Capital. From 1801 to 1847, what are now Arlington and a portion of the City of Alexandria were known as Alexandria County, District of Columbia.  In 1847, at the request of the local residents, Congress retroceded Alexandria County to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In 1870, Alexandria County and the City of Alexandria were formally separated and regular elections were held by a post-Civil War government. Subsequently, in 1920, Alexandria County was renamed Arlington County to eliminate the confusion between these two adjacent jurisdictions. The name “Arlington” was chosen because General Robert E. Lee’s home of that name is located in the County, on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

By law, there are no cities or towns located within the boundaries of the County. In 1922, the Virginia Supreme Court held that Arlington is a continuous, contiguous and homogeneous entity which cannot be subdivided nor can any portion be annexed by neighboring jurisdictions.

The Arlington County government exercises both city and county functions, one of the few urban unitary forms of government in the United States. Arlington’s form of government, the County Manager plan, was implemented in 1932. Arlington was the first county in the United States to choose this form of government. Arlington had an estimated population of 211,700 as of January 1, 2012.  The County is almost fully developed; there are no farms and little remaining vacant land.

Clever Georgetown mural

I’ve written about the value of murals as both public art and as “creative responses to failure.” That is, the physical space for so many murals is a result of a failure of architecture in terms of the existence of “dead” spaces between buildings, or disappeared adjacent buildings, or whatever. Great murals serve not only as forms of public art, but they also stitch some of the aesthetic fabric of our public spaces back together. A great example of this stitching-back-together can be found in Georgetown at N and Wisconsin:

There’s this low-slung little one story vanilla-yellow building, an unoccupied former restaurant where nothing’s been happening since at least September. And there’s this incredible exposed brick wall that towers above the little corner place. Its owners are approaching ownership in the classical sense, recognizing that their property doesn’t justify itself solely by fulfilling bureaucratic minima like filing taxes papers or occupancy certificates, but rather that one has a responsibly to enliven one’s place and, as much as possible, contribute to a sense of harmony in daily life.

Simply, but powerfully, it succeeds. It turns that large blank wall not into a place either for an advertisement or for a loud and bombastic mural that draws a purposeless attention to itself. Rather, with its simple painted windows it acknowledges that such spaces should rightly have such windows. And not just glass orifices in a utilitarian sense, but true windows as places for looking out, with sills where living plants might root themselves. And most importantly, an interested woman and her dog peer out at passersby, as the New Yorkers of Jane Jacobs’s day did in contributing to the life and character and safety of a neighborhood in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and in some way that painted woman reminds one of the sort of neighborhood life we can have again, if we choose to—a life where we know and care about the place we live enough to make it beautiful, and nurture it as a place worth living.

Capitol view and twinkling lights

I spent most of today at the Museum of the Bible at a conference in advance of Friday’s 46th March for Life. At one point I stepped out into the hallway to call in for an interview with Jim Havens of Love Will End Abortion, where we talked Americans United for Life, our publication Defending Life, Leana Wen of Planned Parenthood, and simple ways to respond with love and charity to friends with differing perspectives. This was my view from the hallway as we recorded that segment:

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As evening came on I joined a group heading to Pearl Street where we had what turned out to be an uninspiring dinner, but good conversation:

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I appreciate scenes like the one above, because they show how little it can take to enliven a public space. This would not be nearly as picturesque or welcoming a street without those little twinkling lights stretched overhead. We can do little things like this in our own homes and communities to improve atmospheres that architects and public planners spent too little time considering.

Georgetown snow

Arrived back in Washington late last night as snow began accumulating meaningfully throughout the area. There was that absolutely-silent calm that follows snowfall.

In weather like this, I wonder how much quieter daily life might be a century from now if and when electric vehicles have wholly supplanted the internal combustion engine. Another way to think of this is to wonder how much quieter daily life was something like 125 years ago.

Georgetown Waterfront Park

Visited Georgetown Waterfront Park shortly after Christmas. If you didn’t know better, these photos look practically like summer. Rode an electric Lime scooter for the first time, which was both a funner and sturdier experience that I had thought it would be.

That’s the Key Bridge linking Georgetown with Arlington, Virginia that I cross twice daily.

Unseasonably warm walks

I spent two days between Christmas and New Years walking amongst Washington’s monuments with my brothers, introducing them to most of them for the first time. Especially on New Years Day, I thought it made sense to share some of those photos as proxies for the principles and things that don’t change with the changing of years.

Like this unseasonably warm New Years Day, we were fortunate to have beautiful mild winter weather during both our initial evening walk and the next afternoon’s walk along the Mall and Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial.