DC is truly a capital city like no other. As such, it has no shortage of historic landmarks — symbols of where the country has been and of the ideals and future for which it constantly strives. From majestic monuments to local haunts that absolutely everybody knows, here are some of the District’s best-known and most celebrated historic landmarks.
Ben’s Chili Bowl
1213 U Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20009
Ben’s Chili Bowl is a U Street and DC institution. This famous landmark is a spot frequented by locals, as well as out-of-towners, looking to grab a hot and tasty meal. The structure that houses the restaurant was built in 1910 as a silent movie house called the Minnehaha Theater and was subsequently turned into a pool hall by one of DC’s first black police detectives, Harry Beckley. Its current and most famous incarnation is a beloved restaurant that is visited by all manner of celebrity, including President Barack Obama who famously dined there in 2009, just 10 days before his first inauguration.
The Big Chair
2120 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE (at V St SE)
Washington, DC 20020
Of course all of the locals know about it, but this popular DC landmark on Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue in the southeast neighborhood of Anacostia might be lost on most visitors. The Big Chair has been a part of the District’s pop culture since it was first erected in 1959 by Bassett Furniture Company for Curtis Brothers Furniture as a promotional strategy to attract customers to the Curtis showroom. The original 19-foot-tall structure made of 4,600 pounds of rich Honduras mahogany quickly garnered the interest and affection of countless natives. In 2005, the weathered monument was dismantled after years of decay, since the wood was exposed to the elements. In April 2006, a new-and-improved aluminum version of the chair returned to its pedestal and the landmark is expected to endure for many generations to come.
Washington National Monument
Madison Drive N.W. and 15th St N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
One of the District’s most recognizable and well-known monuments, the Washington National Monument is easily the city’s tallest building and the tallest stone structure in the world at nearly 556 feet. A combination of 36,000 pieces of granite, blue stone gneiss and marble comprise this Egyptian-style obelisk, which was completed in 1884. The National Monument was once the world’s tallest structure, regardless of composition, but was surpassed in height with the completion of France’s Eiffel Tower five years later in 1889. Nearly 900 steps lead to the monument’s observation level, but not to worry — it’s equipped with an elevator.
St. John’s Church
1525 H St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20005
Known as “The Church of the Presidents,” DC’s St. John’s Church is registered as a national historic landmark and has an historic connection to America’s commanders-in-chief. In an Inauguration Day tradition, newly elected Presidents can be seen attending services here with their families prior to all of the inaugural proceedings and festivities. Since the church first opened its doors in 1816, every sitting President has attended a service here. When the President makes a visit, he or she never has to worry about finding a seat. Pew 54, known as the President’s Pew, is reserved just for them.
Kevin Don Porter is the author of OVER THE EDGE and MISSING—two mysteries available on Amazon.com. Visit his website at www.kevindonporter.com..