Walk It Out!

Lessons learned from walking all 8 Wards

Part 1: Overconfidence

Starting this walk, I had anticipated the obvious, it would take me around 5 hours, I would see parts of the city I had never walked in before, and I would be exhausted at the end. However, after 18 miles, 25 sites, and 6:30 hours of walking, I learned that DC is one of the most fascinating historical cities in the country, and I am wildly out of shape.

This was the intro to the tour, we started in front of the most iconic DC landmark I could think of, the Washington Monument. I go on to rant about the history of the monument but honestly the wind is atrocious and the important takeaway here is how confident we are, this confidence would diminish quickly as the miles racked up.

An important note to make here is I will not be going in-depth on all of the stops; I want to make sure I highlight the more exciting or impactful stops on the journey and not get bogged down in the minutia of the Sidney R. Yates Federal Building (although we did get some jokes in). So moving forward, I will let you know what stop we are on so you can track the progress; with all that said, lets see what we looked at next.

An important lesson learned in this journey was that some sites only exist in the digital world. Take this generic federal building pictured above; it is one block behind the National Museum of Air and Space, hundreds of tourists walk past the building everyday, yet the history isn’t displayed anywhere but online. This building sits on the site of the Williams Slave Pen, one of the most prolific slave trade locations in the city. This is not history one can stumble upon in the district, in fact I walked past this building nearly every week and just now learned what the site represents. This theme of sites only existing in the digital realm would come up again and again throughout the walk but this site set the tone for some of the more stark vacancies seen upon the tour.

Not everything we saw held the same significance. While some sites were monuments to human achievements, some just happened to stand long enough to become historic. So if the NRHP decides my old apartment building is important who am I to argue? This was stop 5 and spirits were still high to see the titanic memorial oddly located in the city.

That’s right, tucked in the back corner of the Southwest DC Waterfront is a Titanic memorial. Although I know that it looks like the visage of a man with both arms out, just like Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie, this memorial was built far before. Constructed in 1931 where the Kennedy Center currently sits it was made to honor the men who gave their lives to let women and children board lifeboats first. It was moved to its current spot in 1968, whether or not James Cameron found inspiration is up for debate but it sure does look a lot like the king of the world.

Part 2: Halfway Home

Ten stops in, we discussed the titanic, a baseball stadium, sewage plant, and a lazy bridge guard that let John Wilkes Booth go. It was now time to enter into our next ward and cross the bridge into Anacostia. We only had one stop in Anacostia, the Fredrick Douglas House. While there were plenty historic places to see in Anacostia this tour highlights the discrepancy between the sites that exist and those that are easily accessible. The Clio App is sorely lacking in underprivileged communities a fact which I recently made known to the founder David Trowbridge.

Finishing the Anacostia portion of our walk pushed us past the halfway point. While our legs were tired out spirits were still high. While they wouldn’t let us explore the Congressional Cemetery both Denzel and I considered the implications of wandering around with senator ghosts haunting us.

This check-in came 14 stops in and revealed a tragedy, Denzel, the Louis to my Clark, was dropping out soon. I completely understood why, at this point we had already walked around 10 miles and still had 11 more stops to go. I would not recommend doing this walk alone, Denzel and I talked about history, politics, community, basketball, app ideas, and I think we even debated Lincoln Park versus Linkin Park. Having a friend with you to keep your spirits high is paramount to completing this marathon of a tour.

One of my favorite sites we stopped at was another one that primarily exists digitally. Behind me is an icon of the LGBQT movement in DC. The Furies House was the publishing center of a lesbian newspaper in the 1970s called The Furies which was instrumental in the lesbian community and defining women’s identities and relationships. While I understand why the current owner doesn’t want a plaque outside for tourists to visit it does feel a bit underwhelming that the history is hidden online.

Union Station was stop number 16 and it was also the end of Denzel and I’s journey together. I was now going to face the rest of the walk alone and I was debating on tapping out myself. However, with the power of a burger and a large soda I pressed on. I don’t record another video until the last 5 stops, I was much more concerned with finishing than recording so I saved my energy. What follows are some of my favorite pictures from the sites I visited between videos all of which are important in their own right.

Part 3: Pictures For Proof

I was wildly upset they were closed but what an entrance!

9:30 Club had an event and I didn’t want to ask a bunch of strangers to pose so this what I went with.

The most beautiful PNC bank building in the world, it was stop 22 and built in 1922 by the now defunct Riggs bank.

I recorded a video of my complaining at the second to last stop about the inventor of the wireless telegraph. The audio is terrible, so you’ll have to take my word that I sound miserable and did not appreciate the beautiful statue. This led us to the last stop, I would write a long paragraph of the journey, but I think I summed it up pretty well in the moment. If you read this far, thank you for joining Denzel and I, if you ever walk the tour yourself remember, it is way farther than it sounds.

2 Replies to “Walk It Out!”

  1. This is absolutely incredible, what a feat! I’m taking a feminist and gender theory course this semester where we discussed the Furies, so I absolutely love that you included that, I will definitely have to make a pilgrimage out there soon!

  2. I loved being along for this ride, both in this post and as you plotted out the tour. This is such an impressive project and I hope you can take this somewhere. I think even just posting your little vlogs has the potential for a cool video project and you could totally publish something about your experience. This was so awesome, Austin!

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