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Old Posted Nov 17, 2010, 4:02 PM
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DC Autumn Streets: Pennsylvania Avenue

This fall I've been presenting a series of photo threads regarding some of the important streets in Washington, DC. Rather than doing a traditional neighborhood tour, I've simply picked a major street and walked down it for a couple of miles, without any deviation onto side streets.

Earlier this fall I presented:
Sixteenth Street
Fourteenth Street
H Street

Today is installment 4: Pennsylvania Avenue.

As I'm sure most of you are aware, Pennsylvania Avenue connects the White House to the Capitol building. It is this most famous section of the street that the tour today follows.

In the 19th Century Pennsylvania Avenue was Washington's main street, but in the 20th the major economic hubs moved elsewhere in downtown, a few blocks north and west. In the 1980s Pennsylvania Avenue was redeveloped in what at the time was considered a major urban success story. Today it is clear that the redevelopments of the 80s yielded mixed results.

Pennsylvania Avenue is indeed monumental and safe, but it's also one of the most sterile places in the city. The redevelopments of the 80s ensured Pennsylvania would be a visually pretty place, but sucked out too much of the spontaneity that's necessary for truly great urban places.

Here is a map of the route the tour be following. The red line is the walking route. We'll start at the White House, at upper left, and walk down to the Capitol at lower right.

The route isn't quite a straight line because the White House interrupts the normal flow of Pennsylvania Avenue. Here is a map showing the different segments of street that are called "Pennsylvania Avenue".

Let's get going.

We'll start at exactly the same spot where we ended the 16th Street tour: The White House.



It was an overcast day and it looks like I may have gone a little overboard with my color correcting in Photoshop. Oh well.

Anyway, after the Oklahoma City terrorist bombings in 1995 the segment of Pennsylvania directly in front of the White House was closed to car traffic.



Rooftop security at the White House. They have sniper rifles, so don't try anything.



Walking to the end of the block, this is the intersection of Pennsylvania and New York Avenues, along with 15th Street. The bollards block off the section of Pennsylvania closed to cars. In this view you're looking down New York Ave.



The red building on the corner with the cupola is one of my favorite in DC.



At the same corner, diagonal from the red building, is the Treasury building. Built in 1836 it was the first federal office building in Washington.

It is also one of the most hated buildings in the city, for reasons that I will explain a little later.



Pivot right and we'll have to walk a couple of blocks down 15th Street in order to find Pennsylvania again.



We reach Pershing Park and Freedom Plaza, which we explored in more detail at the end of the 14th Street thread.

Pershing Park:



Freedom Plaza. This is the one that's a map of the city.



Taxation without representation.



And now: The main event.



This is the Old Post Office. Built in 1892 and 315 feet tall, it is the third tallest building in Washington (after the Washington Monument and the basilica at Catholic University.



This is typical of Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalks. They're very wide (there is often a triple row of trees), but not much activity behind.



Base of the post office.



The city recently installed a median bikeway along Pennsylvania Ave, to great fanfare.





Zooming in on that last image provides the explanation for why the otherwise lovely Treasury building is so hated. Can you guess?



It blocks the view of the White House! The idea behind Pennsylvania Avenue was that it would be a ceremonial link between the White House and Capitol. President Andrew Jackson didn't care much for the idea, so he had the Treasury building inserted to block the view. City planners have never forgiven him.

Let's keep going.

Here's another look at a sidewalk.



This is probably the most iconic viewpoint in DC. Every movie ever set here has used essentially this image.



The gargantuan FBI building competes with the Treasury building for most hated status, by virtue of its bulky brutalist design.





Another sidewalk image, with an interesting twist. Notice all the plant boxes? They're more than meets the eye. They're fortified to protect against a car bomb. You cannot drive on this sidewalk.

Such devices are extremely common here.



These buildings and the plaza in front of them constitute the US Navy Memorial.







Directly across Pennsylvania from the Navy Memorial is the National Archives, where the original Declaration of Independence and Constitution are kept.



Adjacent to Navy Memorial, Indiana Avenue forks off from Pennsylvania, creating a small triangular space called Indiana Plaza.



There are several memorials along Pennsylvania to Union soldiers of the Civil War.



This one is General Winfield Hancock.



Back to the main drag.



The south side of Pennsylvania Ave for pretty much the entire length between the White House and Capitol is lined with federal office buildings constructed during the New Deal of the Great Depression. They're beautiful buildings but are not good urbanism.



Federal Trade Commission is here. EPA is here. IRS, DOJ, Commerce... a lot of federal agencies are headquartered here.



Here's a map of that area, which is called Federal Triangle.

As we cross Constitution Avenue, the character shifts and the street becomes lined with museums. This is the National Gallery of Art East Wing, one of IM Pei's famous buildings.



The recently opened Newseum chronicles news and journalism. It's not part of the Smithsonian.



One cool thing about the Newseum is they decorate the sidewalk with a display of that day's newspaper front pages from around the country. They change it every day.



Canada has the only embassy along this part of Pennsylvania. It's practically next door to the Capitol.



Quick visit to Canadian territory before we carry on. Nothing like visiting another country without leaving your home town.



This next picture is from a few years ago, but with the overcast weather I couldn't duplicate it. I get a kick out of photographing the US Capitol while standing on ground that is technically part of Canada.



Moving on. Another statue to a Civil War general! This time Meade.



The back of that same statue.



A little overboard with the color correcting.



Turning around to look back, you can see why the Treasury building is in the way. The curved roof building is the World Bank, which is on Pennsylvania a few blocks west of the White House.



Grand Pennsylvania Avenue unfortunately ends as an unassuming parking lot.



Here it meets the Capitol grounds.



Walking up towards the Capitol.



Oh good. It's fenced off for new security measures. GO USA! Democracy #1!



The base is not often photographed.



Looking back at Pennsylvania Ave. That parking lot is it.



Looking out over the National Mall.

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Old Posted Nov 17, 2010, 4:03 PM
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Finally, a couple of panoramas.

Freedom Plaza ------------>


And the Capitol reflecting pool --------------->
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Old Posted Nov 17, 2010, 4:52 PM
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Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup.
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Old Posted Nov 17, 2010, 5:17 PM
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You make the most put together threads. Thanks!
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Old Posted Nov 17, 2010, 5:32 PM
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Great photos. You need to continue this thread with photos from the other side of the Capitol, with PA Ave, SE, with photos of the Hill and Eastern Market.
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Old Posted Nov 17, 2010, 5:34 PM
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bravo. thorough and awesome. democracy #1!
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Old Posted Nov 18, 2010, 10:13 PM
geoff189d geoff189d is offline
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What a handsome thorofare!
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Old Posted Nov 19, 2010, 12:25 AM
LAsam LAsam is offline
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Another beautiful thread! Thanks!
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Old Posted Nov 19, 2010, 3:35 AM
pablosan pablosan is offline
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What a great looking city.
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Old Posted Nov 19, 2010, 5:26 AM
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This was such an amazing tour I feel like I should have paid for it. You are truly a professional, I love the amount of detail you go in. I imagine you spent quite a lot of time putting this and your other threads together and you should know that it is appreciated. I will be moving to DC soon and I've never been there before, so I look forward to walking those same streets and your tours have certainly enhanced that anticipation and better prepared me for the all the wonderful architecture and grandeur our nation's capital has to offer. Thanks again and keep up the good work!
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Old Posted Nov 19, 2010, 5:29 PM
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Slightly more beautiful than Fallout 3
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Old Posted Nov 19, 2010, 5:37 PM
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nineveh.

it's quite something, really.
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Old Posted Dec 3, 2010, 9:41 AM
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What? No love for the Reagan building?
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Old Posted Dec 3, 2010, 6:57 PM
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STUNNING!!!
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