Historic Sites, Monuments & Memorials in DC Metro Region

Travel back in time when you visit historic sites in DC as the past comes alive when you tour them and see their collections. All feature special programs throughout the year. Check below for information about tours and site events.


Browse All Historic Sites [58] ...

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The Disaffected: Britain’s Occupation of Philadelphia During the American Revolution

Anderson House – The American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati
Thu. Jul 25
Historian Aaron Sullivan discusses and signs copies of his book that chronicles the experiences of Quakers, pacifists and others who were pursued, pressured and at times persecuted during the British occupation of Philadelphia, not because they chose the wrong side of the Revolution, but because they tried not to choose a side at all.

The Lafayette Escadrille

Anderson House – The American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati
Wed. Aug 7
The Lafayette Escadrille, the only all-American squadron in the French Air Service, is the subject of a new documentary film co-directed by Paul Glenshaw.

First Studio: Story + Workshop

The Kreeger Museum
Sat. Jul 20
Children, ages 3-5, are invited to use their imaginations as they explore the paintings, sculpture, and architecture of The Kreeger Museum.

Twilight & Tipple Tours at Frank Lloyd Wright's Pope-Leighey House

Woodlawn and Frank Lloyd Wright's Pope-Leighey House
Jul. 30 – Oct. 22
A unique opportunity to experience Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House by twilight!

Written in Knots: Undeciphered Accounts of Andean Life

Dumbarton Oaks
Thru Aug. 18
This exhibition is the first to bring together examples of Wari, Inka, and Colonial khipu.

History on Foot: Investigation: Detective McDevitt

Ford's Theatre
Thru Aug. 3
Join Detective McDevitt as he revisits the sites and reexamines the clues from the investigation into the Lincoln Assassination Conspiracy. Part of “History on Foot.”

The Plane That Anyone Could Fly

College Park Aviation Museum
Discover the little known history of the Ercoupe, a low-wing monoplane aircraft manufactured just a stone’s throw from the museum.

Lunch Bite – The 1786 Published Edition of the Marquis de Chastellux’s Account of His Travels

Anderson House – The American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati
Fri. Jul 19
Join Executive Director Jack Warren for a discussion of a treasure from our library — the 1786 published edition of the marquis de Chastellux’s account of his travels in America, which offer remarkable insights into how European intellectuals imagined the natural world at the end of the eighteenth century and how they related those ideas to the American Revolution.

Lunch Bite – A Collection of Images Illustrating the Art of War in the 18th Century

Anderson House – The American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati
Fri. Aug 16
Library Fellow Bénédicte Miyamoto will present highlights from the Society’s manuscript map, fortification drawing and artillery diagram collections.

Constitution in Action Learning Lab

National Archives
Fri. Jul 26
Take on the role of researchers and archivists for a day!

One Destiny

Ford's Theatre
Thru Oct. 26
Learn about President Lincoln’s assassination from two men who were there.

Charles Hinman: Structures, 1965–2014

The Kreeger Museum
Thru Jul. 31
The first exhibition in Washington to explore the work of Charles Hinman, an abstract painter who pioneered three-dimensional, shaped canvases during the 1960s.

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More on This Topic · Historic Sites, Monuments & Memorials in DC Metro Region

Everything Old is New Again

Tom Mayes


Gala Hispanic Theatre

What makes DC such a cool place to live, work, and play? And why do people from all walks of life, from hipsters on scooters to silver-haired opera-goers, love to visit and stay? Yes, there is the United States government and those cool non-profit and tech jobs. And yes, there are policy think tanks and lobbyists offices. And yes, DC is full of way interesting people and great places to eat.

But one answer may surprise you. DC is cool because it’s old. Most of the hippest, fun, and cool places in DC are old. Whether going to theatre, or hearing music, eating out, or going to a cutting-edge exhibition, the old places of DC provide the texture, scene, grit, and real history that adds character and depth to every experience.

Let’s take a quick tour of some of the coolest places to hear music. In historic U Street corridor alone, there’s the Lincoln Theatre and the Howard Theatre, both thrumming with the legacy of famous past performers and the most up-to-the-minute sounds of musicians today. On H Street, the historic Atlas brings new performing arts – and new life -- to a historic corridor. DAR Constitution Hall, famous for who did NOT sing there, remains an amazing historic place to hear music. Even the Kennedy Center, nearly 50 years old, conjures the memory of Camelot for every person who walks those red carpets to the Washington National Opera, or fosters new memories with a lineup of current comedians, hip hop artists, dance companies and more. And while some people may not think of the Cathedral Choral Society as cool or hip, I like nothing better than hearing soaring and deeply moving music in that glorious forest of stone columns at the Washington National Cathedral.

Then there are the theatres. Studio Theatre, long an anchor on 14th Street, adapted old buildings for cutting edge plays. People can still attend a play at Ford’s Theatre, where President Lincoln was assassinated. GALA Hispanic Theatre, housed in the historic Tivoli theatre, very nearly lost, which now presents classical and contemporary plays in Spanish and English. Few theatre experiences are as intimate as the Folger Shakespeare Theatre on Capitol Hill, which keeps Shakespeare alive for a new generation. And then there’s the experience of emerging from a new play at the Keegan Theatre onto the quiet shadows of historic Church Street. That’s life in DC – today’s events against a backdrop of history.

Art. DC is rich in art – contemporary and ancient – in all media --presented in old and historic places. From the juxtapositions of art being presented in that quirkiest of spaces – the Dupont Underground, to the mid-century Philip Johnson designed Kreeger Museum, to the magnificent National Gallery of Art by John Russell Pope. And a wealth of DC area house museums insist on relevance – and just plain fun, such as Twilight Tippling at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House or contemporary music inspired by astronomy at Dumbarton Oaks or Vintage Games Night at Woodrow Wilson House. Tudor Place preserves precious green space in the heart of Georgetown while interpreting generations of George Washington’s family. All old places.

Best gyms – old buildings. Best restaurants – old buildings. Best small stores – old buildings. Best bars (and there are a lot of them!) – old buildings. Many of us live in old Wardman apartment buildings, or in the blocks of distinctive Victorian bay-fronted row houses. Even the many new residences going up all over town often take advantage of the old and historic context, like the historic district on 14th Street, which has been transformed with new places like West Elm and gallery neptune & brown, while retaining the old buildings.

It stuns me to walk out of a bar after listening to music and see the skylighted building that was the site of the Civil War era daguerreotypist Matthew Brady’s studio near Pennsylvania Avenue; to admire the brilliant new portraits of Michelle and Barak at the National Portrait Gallery building, where Walt Whitman nursed Civil War soldiers; to attend a wedding at Woodlawn Plantation, home of George Washington’s adopted daughter; or to meet friends for drinks across the street where Clara Barton searched for lost Civil War soldiers.

These old places matter. They are not only the background of our lives, they are part and parcel of our lives. They tell us that we’re in the nation’s capital; they trigger our memories and give us new memories; they give us a sense of identity (how many DC logo tattoos have I seen?); they place us in time, giving us a sense of continuity with the past and the future. Sometimes gritty and graffitied, sometimes awe-inspiring, sometimes moving, sometimes challenging, sometimes simply fun, these old places are where we eat, drink, learn, work, live, and play.

For more about why old places matter to people (and some places in DC), see my new book:Why Old Places Matter



About the Author

Tom Mayes is Vice President and Senior Counsel at National Trust for Historic Preservation. His book Why Old Places Matter reveals the fundamentally important yet under-recognized role old places play in our lives. While many people feel a deep-seated connection to old places -- from those who love old houses, to the millions of tourists who are drawn to historic cities, to the pilgrims who flock to ancient sites throughout the world -- few can articulate why. The book explores these deep attachments people have with old places –the feelings of belonging, continuity, stability, identity and memory, as well as the more traditional reasons that old places have been deemed by society to be important, such as history, national identity, and architecture.


 


 


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