Cathedral Woods, Intervale, N. H
The American is naturally proud of his country, its substantial growth and wonderful development, and of the rapid strides it is making among the foremost nations of the world. No matter how far elsewhere the American citizen may have travelled, he cannot know too much of the United States, its grand attractions and charming environment. Though this great and vigorous nation is young, yet it has a history that is full of interest, and a literature giving a most absorbing story of rapid growth and patriotic progress, replete with romance, poetry and a unique folklore.
The object of this work is to give the busy reader in acceptable form such a comprehensive knowledge as he would like to have, of the geography, history, picturesque attractions, peculiarities, productions and most salient features of our great country. The intention has been to make the book not only a work of reference, but a work of art and of interest as well, and it is burdened neither with too much statistics nor too intricate prolixity of description. It covers the Continent of North America, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian Dominion and Alaska. It has been prepared mainly from notes specially taken by the author during many years of extended travel all over the United States and Canada. A method of treatment of the comprehensive subject has been followed which is similar to the plan that has proved acceptable in “England, Picturesque and Descriptive.” The work has been arranged in twenty-one tours, each volume beginning at the older settlements upon the Atlantic seaboard; and each tour describing a route following very much the lines upon which a travelling sightseer generally advances in the respective directions taken. The book is presented to the public as a contribution to a general knowledge of our country, and with the hope that the reader, recognizing the difficulties of adequate treatment of so great a subject, may find in the interest it inspires, an indulgent excuse for any shortcomings.
Philadelphia, September, 1900.
The First Permanent Settlement in North America — Captain John Smith — Jamestown — Chesapeake Bay — The City of Washington — The Capitol — The White House — Elaborate Public Buildings — The Treasury — The State, War and Navy Departments — The Congressional Library — The Smithsonian Institution — Prof. Joseph Henry — The Soldiers’ Home — Agricultural Department — Washington Monument — City of Magnificent Distances — Potomac River — Allegheny Mountains — The Kittatinny Range — Harper’s Ferry — John Brown — The Great Falls — Alexandria — Mount Vernon — Washington’s Home and Tomb — Washington Relics — Key of the Bastille — Rappahannock River — Fredericksburg — Mary Ball, the Mother of Washington — York River — The Peninsula — Williamsburg — Yorktown — Cornwallis’ Surrender — James River — The Natural Bridge — Lynchburg — Appomattox Court-House — Lee’s Surrender — Powhatan — Dutch Gap — Varina — Pocahontas — Her Wedding to Rolfe — Her Descendants, the “First Families of Virginia” — Deep Bottom — Malvern Hill — General McClellan’s Seven Days’ Battles and Retreat — Bermuda Hundred — General Butler — Shirley — Appomattox River — Petersburg — General Grant’s Headquarters — City Point — Harrison’s Landing — Berkeley — Westover — William Byrd — Chickahominy River — Jamestown Island — Gold Hunting — The Northwest Passage — First Corn-Planting — Indian Habits — First House of Burgesses — Tobacco-Growing — Virginia Planters — Importing Negro Slaves — Newport News — Merrimac and Monitor Contest — Hampton Roads — Hampton — Old Point Comfort — Fortress Monroe — Fort Algernon — Fort Wool — Elizabeth River — Norfolk — Portsmouth — Great Dismal Swamp — The Eastern Shore — The Oyster Navy — William Claiborne — Kent Island — Lord Baltimore — The Maryland Palatinate — Leonard Calvert’s Expedition — St. Mary’s — Patuxent River — St. Inigoe’s — Severn River — Annapolis — United States Naval Academy — Patapsco River — Baltimore — Jones’s Falls — Washington Monument — Battle Monument — Johns Hopkins and his Benefactions — Baltimore and Ohio Railroad — Druid Hill — Greenmount Cemetery — Fort McHenry — The Star-Spangled Banner
When Captain Christopher Newport’s expedition of three little ships and one hundred and five men, sent out by the “Virginia Company” to colonize America, after four months’ buffeting by the rough winter storms of the North Atlantic, sought a harbor of refuge in May, 1607, they sailed into Chesapeake Bay. These three little ships were the “Susan Constant,” the “Good Speed” and the “Discovery;” and upon them came Captain John Smith, the renowned adventurer, who, with Newport, founded the first permanent settlement in North America, the colony of Jamestown. The king who chartered the “Virginia Company” was James I., and hence the name. As the fleet sailed into the “fair bay,” as Smith called it, the headlands on either side of the entrance were named Cape Charles and Cape Henry, for the king’s two sons. Their first anchorage was in a roadstead of such attractive character that they named the adjacent land Point Comfort, which it retains to this day; and farther inland, where Captain Newport afterwards came, in hopes of getting news from home, is now the busy port and town of Newport News. Sir Walter Raleigh, in the previous century, had sent out his ill-starred expedition to Roanoke, which had first entered this great bay; and at the Elizabeth River, which they had named in honor of Raleigh’s queen, they found the Indian village of Chesapik, meaning “the mother of waters;” and from this came the name of Chesapeake Bay. Raleigh had landed colonists here, as well as at Roanoke, and when the “Virginia Company” sent out Newport’s expedition it laid three commands upon those in charge: First, they were to seek Raleigh’s lost colonists; second, they were to find gold; and third, they were to search for the “northwest passage” through America to the Pacific Ocean. So strong was the belief in finding gold in the New World that the only consideration King James asked for his charter was the stipulation that the “Virginia Company” should pay him one-fifth of the gold and silver found in its possessions.
As none of Raleigh’s colonists could be found, the expedition sailed up the James River after considerable delay, and, selecting a better place for a settlement, landed at Jamestown May 13, 1607, where Smith became their acknowledged leader, and preserved the permanency of the colony. This famous navigator and colonist was a native of Willoughby, in Lincolnshire, England, born in January, 1579. When scarcely more than a boy he fought in the wars of Holland, and then he wandered through Europe and as far as Egypt, afterwards returning to engage in the conflict against the Turks in Hungary. Here he won great renown, fighting many desperate combats, and in one engagement cutting off three Turks’ heads; but he was finally wounded and captured. The sober, investigating historians of a later day have taken the liberty to doubt some of Smith’s wonderful tales of these remarkable adventures, but he must have done something heroic to season him for the hardy work of the pioneer who was the first to succeed in planting a colony in North America. After the Turks made him a prisoner, he was sold as a slave in Constantinople, being condemned to the hardest and most revolting kinds of labor, until he became desperate under the cruelties and escaped. Then he was for a long time a wanderer through the wilderness, traversing the forests of Russia, and pushing his way alone across Europe, until, almost worn out with fatigue and hardships, he arrived in England just at the time Newport’s expedition was being fitted out; and still having an irrepressible love for adventure, he joined it.
There can be no better place for beginning a survey of our country than upon this great bay, which Smith and his companions entered in 1607. Chesapeake Bay is the largest inland sea on the Atlantic Coast of the United States. It stretches for two hundred miles up into the land, between the low and fertile shores of Virginia and Maryland, both of which States it divides, and thus gives them valuable navigation facilities. In its many arms and estuaries are the resting-places for the luscious oysters which its people send all over the world. It is one of the greatest of food-producers, having a larger variety of tempting luxuries for the palate than probably any other region. Along its shores and upon its islands are numberless popular resorts for fishing and shooting, for its tender and amply-supplied water-foods attract the ducks and other wild fowl in countless thousands, and bring in shoals of the sea-fishes, which are the sportsmen’s coveted game. Its terrapin are famous, while its shores and borderlands, particularly on the eastern side, are a series of orchards and market-gardens, providing limitless supplies of fruits, berries and vegetables for the Northern markets. It receives in its generally placid bosom some of the greatest rivers flowing down from the Allegheny Mountains. The broad Susquehanna, coming through New York and Pennsylvania, makes its headwaters, and it receives the Potomac, dividing Maryland from Virginia, and the James, in Virginia, both of them wide estuaries with an enormous outflow; and also numerous smaller streams, such as the Rappahannock, York, Patuxent, Patapsco, Choptank and Elizabeth Rivers. Extensive lines of profitable commerce, all large carriers of food-supplies, have transport over this great bay and its many arms and affluents. Canals connect it with other interior waters, and leading railways with all parts of the country, while there are several noted cities upon its shores and tributaries.
The most famous of all these cities of the Chesapeake region is Washington, upon the Potomac, and we will therefore begin this story at the American National Capital. The striking thing about Washington is that, unlike other capitals of great nations, it was created for the sole purpose of a seat of government, apart from any question of commercial rank or population. It has neither manufactures nor commerce to speak of. After the adoption of the Federal Constitution there was a protracted conflict in Congress over the claims of rival localities for the seat of government, and this developed so much jealousy that it almost disrupted the Union at its inception. General Washington, then the President, used his strong influence and wise judgment to compromise the dispute, and it was finally decided that Philadelphia should remain the capital for ten years, while after the year 1800 it should be located on the Potomac River, on a site selected by Washington, within a district of one hundred square miles, ceded by Maryland and Virginia, and which, to avoid any question of sovereignty or control, should be under the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress. The location was at the time nearly in the geographical centre of the then thirteen original States. As the city was designed entirely on the Maryland side of the Potomac, the Virginia portion of the “Federal District of Columbia,” as it was called, was retroceded in 1826, so that the District now contains about sixty-five square miles. The capital was originally called the “Federal City,” but this was changed by law in 1791 to the “City of Washington.” The ground plan of the place was ambitious, and laid out upon an extensive undulating plateau bordered by rolling hills to the northward and westward, and sloping gently towards the Potomac River, between the main stream and the eastern branch, or Anacostia River. This plan has been well described as “a wheel laid upon a gridiron,” the rectangular arrangement of the ordinary streets having superimposed upon it a system of broad radiating avenues, with the Capitol on its hill, ninety feet high, for the centre. The Indians called the place Conococheague, or the “roaring water,” from a rapid brook running through it, which washed the base of the Capitol Hill, and was afterwards very properly named the Tiber, but has since degenerated into a sewer. A distinguished French engineer of the time, Major L’Enfant, prepared the topographical plan of the city, under the direction of Washington and Jefferson, who was Secretary of State; and Andrew Ellicott, a prominent local surveyor, laid it out upon the ground. The basis of the design was the topography of Versailles, but with large modifications; and thus was laid out the Capital of the United States, which a writer in the London Times, some years ago, called “the city of Philadelphia griddled across the city of Versailles.”
The original designers planned a city five miles long and three miles broad, and confidently expected that a vast metropolis would soon be created, though in practice only a comparatively limited portion was built upon, and this is not where they intended the chief part of the new city to be. Of late years, however, the newer portions have been rapidly extending. No man’s name was used for any of the streets or avenues, as this might cause jealousy, so the streets were numbered or lettered and the avenues named after the States. The corner-stone of the Capitol was laid in 1793, its front facing east upon the elevated plateau of the hill, and the town was to have been mainly built upon this plateau in front of it. Behind the Capitol, on its western side, the brow of the hill descended rather sharply, and here they laid out a wide and open Mall, westward over the lower ground to the bank of the Potomac River, more than a mile away. Off towards the northwest, at the end of one of the diagonal avenues, they placed the Executive Mansion, with its extensive park and gardens stretching southward to the river, and almost joining the Mall there at a right angle. The design was to have the city in an elevated and salubrious location, with the President secluded in a comfortable retreat amid ample grounds, but nearly a mile and a half distant in the rural region. But few plans eventuate as expected; and such is the perversity of human nature that the people, when they came to the new settlement, would not build the town on Capitol Hill as had been intended, but persisted in settling upon the lower ground along and adjacent to the broad avenue leading from the Capitol to the Executive Mansion; and there, and for a long distance beyond the latter to the northward and westward, is the city of Washington of to-day. Pennsylvania Avenue, one hundred and sixty feet wide, joining these two widely-separated Government establishments and extending far to the northwest, thus became the chief street of the modern city. To Washington the Federal Government was removed, as directed by law, in 1800, the actual removal being conducted by Tobias Lear, who had been President Washington’s private secretary, and was then serving in similar capacity for President John Adams. He packed the whole archives and belongings of the then United States Government at Philadelphia in twenty-eight wooden boxes, loaded them on a sloop, sailed down the Delaware, around to the Chesapeake, and up the Potomac to the new capital, and took possession. The original Capitol and Executive Mansion were burnt by the British during their invasion in 1814, when Washington had about ten thousand population; it now contains over three hundred thousand, of whom fifty thousand are army and navy officers and civil servants and their families, and about eighty thousand are colored people.
The crowning glory of Washington is the Capitol, its towering dome, surmounted by the colossal statue of America, being the prominent landmark, seen from afar, on every approach to the city. The total height to the top of the statue is three hundred and seventy-five feet above the Potomac River level. The grand position, vast architectural mass and impressive effect of the Capitol from almost every point of view have secured for it the praise of the best artistic judges of all countries as the most imposing modern edifice in the world. From the high elevation of the Capitol dome there is a splendid view to the westward over the city spread upon the lower ground beyond the base of Capitol Hill. Diagonally to the southwest and northwest extend two grand avenues as far as eye can see — Maryland Avenue to the left leading down to the Potomac, and carrying the line of the Pennsylvania Railroad to the river, where it crosses over the Long Bridge into Virginia; and Pennsylvania Avenue to the right, stretching to the distant colonnade of the Treasury Building and the tree-covered park south of the Executive Mansion. Between these diverging avenues and extending to the Potomac, more than a mile away, is the Mall, a broad enclosure of lawns and gardens. Upon it in the foreground is the Government Botanical Garden, and behind this the spacious grounds surrounding the Smithsonian Institution; while beyond, near the river bank, rises the tall white shaft of the Washington Monument, with its pointed apex.
On either side spreads out the city, the houses bordering the foliage-lined streets, and having at frequent intervals the tall spires of churches, and the massive marble, granite and brick edifices that are used for Government buildings. In front, to the west, is the wide channel of the Potomac, and to the south and southeast the Anacostia, their streams uniting at Greenleaf’s Point, where the Government Arsenal is located. On the heights beyond the point, and across the Anacostia, is the spacious Government Insane Asylum. Far away on the Virginia shore, across the Potomac, rises a long range of wooded hills, amid which is Arlington Heights and its pillared edifice, which was the home of George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of Mrs. Washington and General Washington’s adopted son, and was subsequently the residence of General Robert E. Lee, who married Miss Custis. Spreading broadly over the forest-clad hills is the Arlington National Cemetery, where fifteen thousand soldiers of the Civil War are buried. At the distant horizon to the left rises the spire of Fairfax Seminary, and beyond, down the Potomac, is seen the city of Alexandria, the river between being dotted with vessels. To the northwest, behind the Executive Mansion, is the spacious building of the State, War and Navy Departments, having for a background the picturesque Georgetown Heights, just over the District boundary, their tops rising four hundred feet above the river. Farther to the northward is Seventh Street Hill, crowned with the buildings of Howard University, and beyond it the distant tower of the Soldiers’ Home. All around the view is magnificent; and years ago, before the city expected to attain anything like its present grandeur, Baron von Humboldt, as he stood upon the western verge of Capitol Hill and surveyed this gorgeous picture, exclaimed: “I have not seen a more charming panorama in all my travels.”
After the British burnt the original Capitol, it was rebuilt and finished in 1827; but the unexampled growth of the country and of Congress soon demanded an extension, which was begun in 1851. It is this extension which supplied the wings and dome, designed and constructed by the late Thomas U. Walter, that has made the building so attractive. This grand Republican palace of government, stretching over seven hundred and fifty feet along the top of the hill, has cost about $16,000,000. The old central building is constructed of Virginia freestone, painted white, the massive wings are of white marble from Massachusetts, and the lofty dome is of iron. The dazzling white marble gleams in the sunlight, and fitly closes the view along the great avenues radiating from it as a common centre. The architecture is classic, with Corinthian details, and, to add dignity to the western front, which overlooks the city, a magnificent marble terrace, eight hundred and eighty-four feet long, has been constructed at its base on the crest of the hill, which is approached by two broad flights of steps.
The Capitol is surrounded by a park of about fifty acres, including the western declivity of the hill and part of the plateau on top. Upon this plateau, on the eastern front, the populace assemble every fourth year to witness the inauguration of the President when he is sworn into office by the Chief Justice, and delivers his inaugural address from a broad platform at the head of the elaborate staircase leading up to the entrance to the great central rotunda. In full view of the President, as he stands under the grand Corinthian portico, is a colossal statue of Washington, seated in his chair of state, and facing the new President, as if in solemn warning. The rotunda is the most striking feature of the Capitol interior; it is nearly one hundred feet in diameter, and rises one hundred and eighty feet to the ceiling of the dome, which is ornamented with fine frescoes by Brumidi. Large panelled paintings on the walls just above the floor, and alti rilievi over them, represent events in the early history of the country, while at a height of one hundred feet a band nine feet wide runs around the interior of the dome, upon which a series of frescoes tell the story of American history from the landing of Columbus. But, most appropriately, the elaborate decorations, while reproducing so much in Indian legend and Revolutionary story, are not used in any way to recall the Civil War. Away up in the top of the dome there is a Whispering Gallery, to which a stairway laboriously leads.
The old halls of the Senate and House in the original wings of the Capitol are now devoted, the former to the Supreme Court and the latter to a gallery of statuary, to which each State contributes two subjects, mostly Revolutionary or Colonial heroes. Beyond, on either hand, are the extensive new wings — the Senate Chamber to the north and the Representatives’ Hall to the south. Each is surrounded by corridors, beyond which are committee rooms, and there are spacious galleries for the public. Each member has his chair and desk, the seats being arranged in semicircles around the rostrum. In practice, while the House is in session, the members are usually reading or writing, excepting the few who may watch what is going on, because they are specially interested in the matter under consideration; and the member who may have the floor and is speaking is actually heard by very few, his speech being generally made for the galleries and the official stenographers and newspaper reporters. Debate rarely reaches a point of interest absorbing the actual attention of the whole House, most of the speech-making seeming to be delivered for effect in the member’s home district, this method being usually described as “talking for Buncombe.” The other members read their newspapers, write their letters, clap their hands sharply to summon the nimble pages who run about the hall upon their errands, gossip in groups, and otherwise pass their time, move in and out the cloak- and committee-rooms, and in various ways manage not to listen to much that goes on. Nevertheless, business progresses under an iron-clad code of procedure, the Speaker being a despot who largely controls legislation. The surroundings of the Senate Chamber are grander than those of the House, there being a gorgeous “Marble Hall,” in which Senators give audience to their visitors, and magnificently ornamented apartments for the President and Vice-President. The President’s Room is only occupied during a few hours in the closing scenes of a session, this small but splendid apartment, which has had $50,000 expended upon its decoration, being a show place for the remainder of the year.
The most famous building in Washington, though one of the least pretentious, is the Executive Mansion, popularly known as the “White House,” being constructed, like the older part of the Capitol, of freestone, and painted white. It stands within a park at some distance back from the street, a semicircular driveway leading up to the Ionic colonnade supporting the front central portico. It is a plain building, without pretensions in anything but its august occupancy, and the ornamental grounds stretch down to the Potomac River, which flows about two hundred yards below its southern front. It is two stories high, about one hundred and seventy feet long, and eighty-six feet deep. This building, like the Capitol, was burnt in the British invasion of 1814 and afterwards restored. Unlike the nation, or the enormous public buildings that surround and dwarf it, the White House has in no sense grown, but remains as it was designed in the lifetime of Washington. It is nevertheless a comfortable mansion, though rigid in simplicity. The parlor of the house, the “East Room,” is the finest apartment, occupying the whole of that side, and is kept open for visitors during most of the day. The public wander through it in droves, walk upon the carpets and recline in the soft chairs, awaiting the President’s coming to his almost daily reception and handshaking; for they greatly prize this joint occupancy, as it were, and close communion with their highest ruler. This is an impressive room, and in earlier times was the scene of various inauguration feasts, when Presidents kept open house for their political friends and admirers.
The “East Room” was a famous entertainment hall in President Jackson’s time. On the evening of his inauguration day it was open to all comers, who were served with orange punch and lemonade. The crowds were large, and the punch was mixed in barrels, being brought in by the bucketful, the thirsty throngs rushing after the waiters, and in the turmoil upsetting the punch and ruining dresses and carpets. The punch receptacles were finally taken out into the gardens, and in this way the boisterous crowds were drawn off, and it became possible to serve cake and wine to the ladies. Various traditions are still told of this experience, and also of the monster cheese, as big as a hogshead, that was served to the multitude at Jackson’s farewell reception. It was cut up with long saw-blades, and each guest was given about a pound of cheese, this feast being the talk of the time. Jackson’s successor was Martin Van Buren, who came from New York, the land of big cheeses. Being bound to emulate his predecessor, an even larger cheese was sent him, and cut up in the “East Room.” The crowds trampled the greasy crumbs into the carpets and hangings, and all the furniture and fittings were ruined. Now no guest comes unbidden to dine at the White House; but the change in the fashion aided in defeating Van Buren, who was a candidate for a second election in 1840. He stopped keeping open house in order to save the furniture and get some peace, and during several months preceding the election many persons arrived at the White House for breakfast or dinner and threatened to vote against Van Buren unless they were entertained. This, with the fact noised abroad that he had become such an aristocrat that his table service included gold spoons, then an unheard of extravagance, proved too much for him. Van Buren was beaten for re-election by “Old Tippecanoe” — General William Henry Harrison.
A corridor leads westward from the “East Room,” through the centre of the White House, to the conservatories, which are prolonged nearly two hundred feet farther westward. A series of fine apartments, called the Green, Blue and Red Rooms, from the predominant colors in their decorations, are south of this corridor, with their windows opening upon the gardens. These apartments open into each other, and finally into the State Dining Hall on the western side of the building, which is adjoined by a conservatory. North of the corridor the first floor contains the family rooms, and on the second floor are the sleeping-rooms and also the public offices. The Cabinet Room, about in the centre of the building, is a comparatively small apartment, where the Cabinet meetings assemble around a long table. On one side of it, at the head of a broad staircase, are the offices of the secretaries, over the East Room; and on the other side, the President’s private apartment, which is called the Library. Here the President sits, with the southern sun streaming through the windows, to give audience to his visitors, who are passed in by the secretaries. One of the desks, which is usually the President’s personal work-table, has a history. The British ship “Resolute,” years ago, after many hardships in the fruitless search for Sir John Franklin, had to be abandoned in the Arctic seas. Portions of her oaken timbers were taken back to England, and from these, by the Queen’s command, the desk was made and presented to President Grant, and it has since been part of the furniture in the Library. An adjacent chamber, wherein the Prince of Wales slept on his only visit to America, and the chamber adjoining, are the two sleeping-rooms which have been usually occupied by the greatest Presidents. The accommodations are so restricted, however, that a movement is afoot for constructing another presidential residence, on higher land in the suburbs, so that the White House may be exclusively used for the executive offices.
The great public buildings used for Government purposes are among the chief adornments of Washington. To the eastward of the White House is the Treasury Building, extending over five hundred feet along Fifteenth Street, enriched by a magnificent Ionic colonnade, three hundred and fifty feet long, modelled from that of the Athenian Temple of Minerva. Each end has an elaborate Ionic portico, while the western front, facing the White House, has a grand central entrance. This was the first great building constructed for a Government department, and is the headquarters of the Secretary of the Treasury. Upon the western side of the White House is the most splendid of all the department buildings, accommodating three of them, the State, War and Navy Departments. It is Roman Doric, built of granite, four stories high, with Mansard and pavilion roofs and porticoes, covering a surface of five hundred and sixty-seven by three hundred and forty-two feet. The Salon of the Ambassadors, or the Diplomatic Reception Room, is its finest apartment, and is the audience chamber of the Secretary of State, who occupies the adjoining Secretary’s Hall, also a splendid room. This great building is constructed around two large interior courts, the Army occupying the northern and western wings, and the Navy the eastern side, where among the great attractions are the models of the famous warships of the American Navy. To the northward of the White House park and furnishing a fine front view is Lafayette Square, containing a bronze equestrian statue of General Jackson by Clark Mills; beyond, on the western side, is the attractive Renaissance building of the Corcoran Art Gallery, amply endowed by the late banker, William W. Corcoran, and containing his valuable art collections, which were given to the public. The foundation of his fortune was laid over a half-century ago, when he had the pluck to take a Government loan which seemed slow of sale. His modest banking house still exists as the Riggs Bank, facing the Treasury.
The most admired of the newer public buildings in Washington is the Congressional Library, on the plateau southeast of the Capitol, an enormous structure in Italian Renaissance, a quadrangle four hundred and seventy feet long and three hundred and forty feet wide, enclosing four courts and a central rotunda. It was finished in 1897, and cost about $6,200,000. Its elevated gilded dome and lantern are conspicuous objects in the view. This great Library, the largest in the country, is appropriately ornamented, and its book-stacks have accommodations for about five millions of volumes, the present number approximating one million, with nearly three hundred thousand pamphlets. The Pension Building is another huge structure, northwest of Capitol Hill, built around a covered quadrangle, which is used quadrennially for the “Inauguration Ball,” a prominent Washington official-social function, which was adopted to relieve the White House from the formerfeasting on the inauguration night. This house, accommodating the army of pension clerks, has running around the walls, over the lower windows, a broad band, exhibiting in relief a marching column of troops, with representations of every branch of the service. Seventh Street, which crosses Pennsylvania Avenue about midway between the Capitol and the Treasury, has to the northward the imposing Corinthian Post-office Building, formerly the headquarters of the postal service. Behind this is the Department of the Interior, popularly known as the Patent Office, as a large part of it is occupied by patent models. This is a grand Doric structure, occupying two blocks and embracing about three acres of buildings, the main entrance being a magnificent portico, seen from Pennsylvania Avenue. The new General Post-office Department Building is on Pennsylvania Avenue, covering a surface of three hundred by two hundred feet, and having a tower rising three hundred feet. It has just been completed. The Government Printing Office, where the public printing is done, and the Treasury Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where all the Government money issues and revenue stamps are made, are large and important buildings, though not specifically attractive in architecture.
Upon the Mall stands the Smithsonian Institution, of world-wide renown, one of the most interesting public structures in Washington, its turrets and towers rising above the trees. The origin of this famous scientific establishment was the bequest of an Englishman, James Smithson, a natural son of Hugh Smithson, Duke of Northumberland, born in 1765. He was known as Louis Macie at Oxford, graduating under that name; early developed scientific tastes; was a Fellow of the Royal Society, the friend and associate of many of the most learned men of his time, and lived usually in Paris, where in the latter part of the last century he took the family name of his father. He died in Italy in 1829. In Washington’s Farewell Address, issued in 1796, there occurs the phrase, “An institution for the increase and diffusion of knowledge,” and it was well known that the Father of his Country cherished a project for a national institution of learning in the new Federal City. This was evidently communicated to Smithson by one of his intimates in Paris, Joel Barlow, a noted American, who was familiar with Washington’s plan, and in this way originated the residuary bequest, which was contained in the following clause of Smithson’s will: “I bequeath the whole of my property to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” Upon the death of Smithson’s nephew, without heirs, in 1835, this bequest became operative, and the United States Legation in London was notified that the estate, then amounting in value to about £100,000, was held in possession of the Accountant-General of the Court of Chancery. This was something novel in America, and when the facts became public opposition arose in Congress to accepting the gift, eminent men, headed by John C. Calhoun, arguing that it was beneath the dignity of the United States to receive presents. Others, however, led by John Quincy Adams, ardently advocated acceptance. The latter carried the day; Richard Rush was sent to London, as agent, to prosecute the claim in the Court of Chancery, in the name of the President of the United States; and the legacy was obtained and delivered at the Mint in Philadelphia, September 1, 1838, in the sum of 104,960 British sovereigns, and was immediately recoined into United States money, producing $508,318.46, the first installment of the legacy. There were subsequent additional installments, and the total sum in 1867 reached $650,000. This original sum was deposited in the Federal Treasury in perpetuity, at six per cent, interest, and the income has been devoted to the erection of the buildings, and, with other subsequently added sums, to the support of the vast establishment which has grown from the original gift.
In the Congressional Library, Washington, D. C
The Smithsonian Institution was formally created by Act of Congress, August 10, 1846, the corporation being composed of the President, Vice-President, members of the Cabinet and Chief Justice, who are constituted the “establishment,” made responsible for the duty of “the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” The Institution is administered by a Board of Regents, including in addition three Senators, three members of the House, and six citizens appointed by Congress; the presiding officer, called the “Chancellor,” being usually the Chief Justice, and the secretary of the board is the Executive Officer. The late eminent Professor Joseph Henry was elected secretary in 1846, and he designed the plan and scope of the Institution, continuing as its executive head until his death in 1878. His statue stands in the grounds near the entrance. Two other secretaries followed him, Spencer F. Baird (who was twenty-seven years assistant secretary), and upon his death Samuel P. Langley, in 1888. The ornate building of red Seneca brownstone, a fine castellated structure in the Renaissance style, was designed in 1847 and finished in 1855. Its grand front stretches about four hundred and fifty feet, and its nine towers and turrets, rising from seventy-five to one hundred and fifty feet, stand up prettily behind the groves of trees. This original building contains a museum of natural history and anthropology. In connection with it there is another elaborate structure over three hundred feet square — the National Museum — containing numerous courts, surrounding a central rotunda, beneath which a fountain plashes. This is under the same management, and directly supported by the Government, the design being to perfect a collection much like the British Museum, but paying more attention to American antiquities and products. This adjunct museum began with the gifts by foreign Governments to the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, most of them being still preserved there. The Smithsonian Trust Fund now approximates $1,000,000, and there are various other gifts and bequests held in the Treasury for various scientific purposes similarly administered.
Briefly stated, the plan of Professor Henry was to “increase knowledge” by original investigations and study, either in science or literature, and to “diffuse knowledge” not only through the United States, but everywhere, and especially by promoting an interchange of thought among the learned in all nations, with no restriction in favor of any one branch of knowledge. A leading feature of his plan was “to assist men of science in making original researches, to publish them in a series of volumes, and to give a copy of them to every first-class library on the face of the earth.” There is said to be probably not a scientific observer of any standing in the United States to whom the Institution has not at some time extended a helping hand, and this aid also goes liberally across the Atlantic. As income grew, the scope has been enlarged. In the various museums there is a particularly good collection of American ethnology, and a most elaborate display of American fossils, minerals, animals, birds and antiquities. There are also shown by the Fish Commission specimens of the fishing implements and fishery methods of all nations, an exhibition which is unexcelled in these special departments. Many specifically interesting things are in the National Museum. The personal effects of Washington, Jackson and General Grant are there. Benjamin Franklin’s old printing-press is preserved in a somewhat dilapidated condition, and there is also the first railway engine sent from England to the United States, the original “John Bull,” built by Stephenson & Son at Newcastle-on-Tyne in June, 1831, and sent out as “Engine No. 1” for the Camden and Amboy Railroad crossing New Jersey, now a part of the Pennsylvania Railroad. It weighs ten tons, and has four driving-wheels of fifty-four inches diameter. This relic, after being used on the railroad for forty years, until improved machinery superseded it, has been given the Government as a national heirloom. Among the anthropological collections is a chronologically arranged series illustrating American history from the period of the discovery to the present day. This includes George Catlin’s famous collection of six hundred paintings, illustrating the manners and customs of the North American Indians. One of the most important features of the work of this most interesting establishment is its active participation in all the great International Expositions by the loan to them of valuable exhibits under Government direction and control.
The city of Washington, with progressing years, is becoming more and more the popular residential city of the country. It is one of the most beautiful and attractive, the admirable plan, with the wide asphalted streets, lined with trees, opening up vista views of grand public buildings, statues, monuments or leafy parks, making it specially popular. The northern and northwestern sections, on the higher grounds, have consequently spread far beyond the Executive Mansion, being filled with rows of elaborate and costly residences, the homes of leading public men. The streets are kept scrupulously clean, while at the intersections are “circles,” triangles and little squares, which are availed of for pretty parks, and usually contain statues of distinguished Americans. Among the noted residence streets are Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut Avenues and K Street and Sixteenth Street, all in the northwestern district. Among the many statues adorning the small parks and “circles” are those of Washington, Farragut, Scott, Thomas, McPherson, Dupont, Logan, Franklin, Hancock, Grant, Rawlins and Martin Luther, the latter a replica of the figure in the Reformation Monument at Worms.
To the northward the suburbs rise to Columbia Heights, with an elevated plateau beyond, where there is a Government park covering nearly a square mile of rolling surface, and surrounding one of the noted rural retreats on the borders of the Capital, the “Soldiers’ Home.” This is an asylum and hospital for disabled and superannuated soldiers of the American regular army, containing usually about six hundred of them, and founded by General Winfield Scott, whose statue adorns the grounds. Its cottages have been favorite retiring-places of the Presidents in the warm weather. Amid lovely surroundings the veterans are comfortably housed, and in the adjacent cemetery thousands of them have been buried. Scott’s statue stands upon the southern brow of the plateau, where a ridge is thrust out in a commanding situation; and from here the old commander of the army forty and fifty years ago gazes intently over the lower ground to the city three miles away, with the lofty Capitol dome and Washington Monument rising to his level, while beyond them the broad and placid Potomac winds between its wooded shores. This is the most elevated spot near Washington, overlooking a wide landscape. In the cemetery at the Soldiers’ Home sleeps General Logan, among the thousands of other veterans. To the westward the beautiful gorge of Rock Creek is cut down, and beyond is Georgetown, with its noted University, founded by the Jesuits in 1789, and having about seven hundred students. In the Oak Hill Cemetery, at Georgetown, is the grave of John Howard Payne, the author of “Home, Sweet Home,” who died in 1852. Far away over the Potomac, in the Arlington National Cemetery, are the graves of Generals Sherman and Sheridan.
Down near the Potomac, on the Mall, to the westward of the Smithsonian turrets, is the extensive brick and brownstone building representing the dominant industry of the United States, which gives the politicians so much anxiety in catering for votes — the Agricultural Department. Here are spacious gardens and greenhouses, an arboretum and herbarium, the adjacent buildings also containing an agricultural museum. As over three-fifths of the men in the United States are farmers and farm-workers, and many others are in the adjunct industries, it has become a popular saying in Washington that if you wish to scare Congress you need only shake a cow’s tail at it. This department has grown into an enormous distributing office for seeds and cuttings, crop reports and farming information. Among its curiosities is the “Sequoia Tree Tower,” formed of a section of a Sequoia or Big Tree of California, which was three hundred feet high and twenty-six feet in diameter at the base.
Behind the Agricultural Department, and rising almost at the river bank, and in front of the Executive Mansion, is the noted Washington Monument, its pointed apex elevated five hundred and fifty-five feet. This is a square and gradually tapering shaft, constructed of white Maryland marble, the walls fifteen feet thick at the base and eighteen inches at the top, the pyramidal apex being fifty-five feet high and capped with a piece of aluminum. Its construction was begun in 1848, abandoned in 1855, resumed in 1877 and finished in 1884, at a total cost of $1,300,000. The lower walls contain stones contributed by public corporations and organizations, many being sent by States and foreign nations, and bearing suitable inscriptions in memory of Washington. A fatiguing stairway of nine hundred steps leads to the top, and there is also a slow-moving elevator. From the little square windows, just below the apex, there is a grand view over the surrounding country. Afar off to the northwest is seen the long hazy wall of the Blue Ridge or Kittatinny Mountain range, its prominent peak, the Sugar Loaf, being fifty miles distant. To the eastward is the Capitol and its surmounting dome, over a mile away, while the city spreads all around the view below, like a toy town, its streets crossing as on a chess-board, and cut into gores and triangles by the broad, diagonal avenues lined with trees, the houses being interspersed with many foliage-covered spaces. Coming from the northwest the Potomac passes nearly at the foot of the monument, with Arlington Heights over on the distant Virginia shore, and the broad river channel flowing away to the southwest until lost among the winding forest-clad shores below Alexandria. From this elevated perch can be got an excellent idea of the peculiarities of the town, its vast plan and long intervals of space, so that there is quite plainly shown why the practical Yankee race calls it the “City of Magnificent Distances.” Possibly one of the best descriptions of Washington and its characteristics is that of the poet in the Washington Post:
A city well named of magnificent distances;
Of boulevards, palaces, fountains and trees;
Of sunshine and moonlight whose subtle insistence is —
“Bask in our radiance! Be lulled by our breeze!”
A city like Athens set down in Arcadia;
White temples and porticoes gleaming ‘mid groves;
Where nymphs glide and smile as though quite unafraid o’ you,
The home of the Muses, the Graces, the Loves;
The centre of Politics, Letters and Sciences;
Elysium of Arts, yet the Lobbyist’s Dream;
Where gather the clans whose only reliance is
Gold and the dross that sweeps down with its stream;
An isle of the lotus, where every-day business
Sails on its course all unvexed by simoons;
No bustle or roar, no mad-whirling dizziness
O’er velvety streets like Venetian lagoons;
A town where from nothing whatever they bar women,
From riding a bicycle — tending a bar;
Ex-cooks queen society — ladies are charwomen —
For such the plain facts as too often they are.
A city where applicants, moody, disconsolate,
Swoop eager for office and senseless to shame;
The “heeler” quite certain of getting his consulate,
Although, to be sure, he can’t sign his name;
A town where all types of humanity congregate;
The millionaire lolling on cushions of ease;
The tramp loping by at a wolfish and hungry gait;
And mankind in general a’ go as you please.
A city in short of most strange inconsistencies;
Condensing the history of man since the fall;
A city, however, whose piece de resistance is
This — ‘tis the best and the fairest of all.
The Potomac is one of the chief among the many rivers draining the Allegheny Mountains. It originates in two branches, rising in West Virginia and uniting northwest of Cumberland; is nearly four hundred miles long; has remarkably picturesque scenery in the magnificent gorges and reaches of its upper waters; breaks through range after range of the Alleghenies, and after reaching the lowlands becomes a tidal estuary for a hundred miles of its final course, broadening to six and eight and ultimately sixteen miles wide at its mouth in the Chesapeake. Washington is near the head of tidewater, one hundred and twenty-five miles from the bay; and for almost its entire course the Potomac is an interstate boundary, between Maryland and West Virginia and Virginia. Its name is Indian, referring to its use in their primitive navigation, the original word “Petomok” meaning “they are coming by water” — “they draw near in canoes.” The Alleghenies, where this noted river originates, are a remarkable geological formation. The Atlantic Coast of the United States has a general trend from the northeast to the southwest, with bordering sand beaches, and back of them a broad band of pines. Then, towards the northwest, the land gradually rises, being formed in successive ridges, with intervening valleys, until it reaches the Alleghenies. The great ranges of this mountain chain, which is geologically known as the Appalachian System, run almost parallel to the coast for over a thousand miles, from the White Mountains of New Hampshire down to Alabama. They are noted mountains, not very high, but of remarkable construction, and are said to be much older in geological formation than the Alps or the Andes. They are composed of series of parallel ridges, one beyond the other, and all following the same general course, like the successive waves of the ocean. For long distances these ridges run in perfectly straight lines, and then, as one may curve around into a new direction, all the others curve with it. The intervening valleys are as remarkable in their parallelism as the ridges enclosing them. From the seaboard to the mountains the ranges of hills are of the same general character, but with less elevation, gentler slopes, and in most cases narrower and much more fertile valleys.
The South Mountain, an irregular and in some parts broken-down ridge, is the outpost of the Alleghenies, while the great Blue Ridge is their eastern buttress. The latter is about twenty miles northwest of the South Mountain, and is the famous Kittatinny range, named by the Indians, and in their figurative language meaning “the endless chain of hills.” It stretches from the Catskills in New York southwest to Alabama, a distance of eight hundred miles, a veritable backbone for the Atlantic seaboard, its rounded ridgy peaks rising sometimes twenty-five hundred feet north of the Carolinas, and much higher in those States. It stands up like a great blue wall against the northwestern horizon, deeply notched where the rivers flow out, and is the eastern border for the mountain chain of numerous parallel ridges of varying heights and characteristics that stretch in rows behind it, covering a width of a hundred miles or more. Within this chain is the vast store of minerals that has done so much to create American wealth — the coal and iron, the ores and metals, that are in exhaustless supply, and upon the surface grew the forests of timber that were used in building the seaboard cities, but are now nearly all cut off. The great Atlantic Coast rivers rise among these mountain ridges, break through the Kittatinny and flow down to the ocean, while the streams on their western slopes drain into the Mississippi Valley. The Hudson breaks through the Kittatinny outcrop at the West Point Highlands, the Delaware forces a passage at the Water Gap, the Lehigh at the Lehigh Gap, below Mauch Chunk; the Schuylkill at Port Clinton, the Susquehanna at Dauphin, above Harrisburg, and the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry. All these rivers either rise among or force their winding passages through the various ranges behind the great Blue Ridge, and also through the South Mountain and the successive parallel ranges of lower hills that are met on their way to the coast, so that all in their courses display most picturesque valleys.
The Potomac, having flowed more than two hundred miles through beautiful gorges and the finest scenery of these mountains, finally breaks out at Harper’s Ferry, receiving here its chief tributary, the Shenandoah, coming up from Virginia, the Potomac River passage of the Blue Ridge being described by Thomas Jefferson as “one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.” The Shenandoah — its name meaning “the stream passing among the spruce-pines” — flows through the fertile and famous “Valley of Virginia,” noted for its many battles and active movements of troops during the Civil War, when the rival forces, as fortunes changed, chased each other up and down the Valley; and Harper’s Ferry, at the confluence of the rivers, and the towering Maryland Heights on the northern side and the Loudon Heights on the Virginia side, the great buttresses of the river passage, being generally held as a northern border fortress. These huge mountain walls rise fifteen hundred feet above the town, which has a population of about two thousand.
Harper’s Ferry was also the scene of “John Brown’s raid,” which was practically the opening act of the Civil War, although actual hostilities did not begin until more than a year afterwards. “Old John Brown of Osawatomie” was a tanner, an unsettled and adventurous spirit and foe of slavery, born in Connecticut in 1800, but who, at the same time, was one of the most upright and zealous men that ever lived. In his wanderings he migrated to Kansas in 1855, where he lived at Osawatomie, and fought against the pro-slavery party. His house was burnt and his son killed in the Kansas border wars, and he made bloody reprisals. Smarting under his wrongs, he became the master-spirit of a convention which met at Chatham, Canada, in May, 1859, and organized an invasion of Virginia to liberate the slaves. Having formed his plans, he rented a farmhouse in July about six miles from Harper’s Ferry, and gathered his forces together. On the night of October 16th, with twenty-two associates, six being negroes, he crossed the bridge into Harper’s Ferry, and captured the arsenal and armory of the Virginia militia, intending to liberate the slaves and occupy the heights of the Blue Ridge as a base of operations against their owners. A detachment of United States marines were next day sent to the aid of the militia, and, after two days’ desultory hostilities, some of his party were killed, and Brown and the survivors were captured and given up to the Virginia authorities for trial. His final stand was made in a small engine-house, known as “John Brown’s Fort,” which was exhibited at the Chicago Exposition in 1893. Brown and six of his associates were hanged at the county-seat, Charlestown, seven miles southwest of Harper’s Ferry, on December 2nd, Brown facing death with the greatest serenity. His raid failed, but it was potential in disclosing the bitter feeling between the North and the South, and it furnished the theme for the most popular and inspiring song of the Civil War:
“John Brown’s body lies mouldering in the grave,
But his soul goes marching on.”
The Potomac continues its picturesque course below Harper’s Ferry, and passes the Point of Rocks, a promontory of the Catoctin Mountain, a prolongation of the Blue Ridge. There were battles fought all about, the most noted being at South Mountain and Antietam, to the northward, in September, 1862; while it was at Frederick, fifteen miles away, during this campaign, that Barbara Frietchie was said to have waved the flag as Stonewall Jackson marched through the town, immortalized in Whittier’s poem. Here is buried Francis Scott Key, author of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” who died in 1843, and a handsome monument was erected to his memory in 1898. The Potomac reaches its Great Falls about fifteen miles above Washington, where it descends eighty feet in about two miles, including a fine cataract thirty-five feet high. Below this is the “Cabin John Bridge,” with one of the largest stone arches in the world, of two hundred and twenty feet span, built for the Washington Aqueduct, carrying the city water supply from the Great Falls. On Wesley Heights, to the northward, the new American University of the Methodist Church is being constructed.
Below Washington, the river passes the ancient city of Alexandria, a quaint old Virginian town, which was formerly of considerable commercial importance, but is now quiet and restful, and cherishing chiefly the memory of George Washington, who lived at Mount Vernon, a few miles below, and was its almost daily visitor to transact his business and go to church and entertainments. The tradition is that Madison, who was chairman of the Committee of Congress, selected Alexandria for the “Federal City,” intending to erect the Capitol on Shooters’ Hill, a mile out of town, as grand an elevation as the hill in Washington; but he was overruled by the President because the latter hesitated to thus favor his native State. Had Madison had his way, the town probably would not now be so sleepy. The modest little steeple of Christ Church, where Washington was a vestryman, rises back of the town, and his pew, No. 5, is still shown, for which, when the church was built and consecrated in 1773, the records show that he paid thirty-six pounds, ten shillings. To construct this church and another at the Falls, the vestry of Fairfax parish, in 1766, levied an assessment of 31,185 pounds of tobacco, and the rector’s salary was also paid in tobacco. After the Revolution, to help support the church, Washington and seven others signed an agreement in the vestry-book to each pay five pounds annual rental for the pews they owned. Robert E. Lee was baptized and confirmed and attended Sunday-school in this old church, and tablets in memory of Washington and Lee were inserted in the church wall in 1870. At the Carey House, near the river, Washington, in 1755, received from General Braddock, who had come up there from Hampton Roads, his first commission as an aide to that commander, with the rank of Major, just before starting on the ill-starred expedition into Western Pennsylvania. Alexandria has probably fifteen thousand people, and on the outskirts is another mournful relic of the Civil War, a Soldiers’ Cemetery, with four thousand graves. Below Alexandria, the Hunting Creek flows into the Potomac, this stream having given Washington’s home its original name of the “Hunting Creek Estate.”
Mount Vernon, the home and burial-place of George Washington, is seventeen miles below the city of Washington, the mansion-house, being in full view, standing among the trees on the top of a bluff, rising about two hundred feet above the river. As the steamboat approaches, its bell is tolled, this being the universal custom on nearing or passing Washington’s tomb. It originated in the reverence of a British officer, Commodore Gordon, who, during the invasion of the Capital in August, 1814, sailed past Mount Vernon, and as a mark of respect for the dead had the bell of his ship, the “Sea Horse,” tolled. The “Hunting Creek Estate” was originally a domain of about eight thousand acres; and Augustine Washington, dying in 1743, bequeathed it to Lawrence Washington, who, having served in the Spanish wars under Admiral Vernon, named it Mount Vernon in his honor. George Washington was born in 1732, in Westmoreland County, farther down the Potomac, and when a boy lived near Fredericksburg, on the Rappahannock River. In 1752 he inherited Mount Vernon from Lawrence, and after his death the estate passed to his nephew, Bushrod Washington, subsequently descending to other members of the family. Congress repeatedly endeavored to have Washington’s remains removed to the crypt under the rotunda of the Capitol originally constructed for their reception, but the family always refused, knowing it was his desire to rest at Mount Vernon. The grounds and buildings being in danger of falling into dilapidation, and the estate passing under control of strangers, a patriotic movement began throughout the country for the purchase of the portion containing the tomb and mansion. The Virginia Legislature, in 1856, passed an act authorizing the sale, and under the auspices of a number of energetic ladies who formed the “Mount Vernon Association,” assisted by the oratory of Edward Everett, who traversed the country making a special plea for help, a tract of two hundred acres was bought for $200,000, being enlarged by subsequent gifts to two hundred and thirty-five acres. These ladies and their successors have since taken charge, restoring and beautifying the estate, which is faithfully preserved as a patriotic heritage and place of pilgrimage for visitors from all parts of the world.
The steamboat lands at Washington’s wharf at the foot of the bluff, where he formerly loaded his barges with flour ground at his own mill, shipping most of it from Alexandria to the West Indies. The road from the wharf leads up a ravine cut diagonally in the face of the bluff, directly to Washington’s tomb, and alongside the ravine are several weeping willows that were brought from Napoleon’s grave at St. Helena. Washington’s will directed that his tomb “shall be built of brick,” and it is a plain square brick structure, with a wide arched gateway in front and double iron gates. Above is the inscription on a marble slab, “Within this enclosure rests the remains of General George Washington.” The vault is about twelve feet square, the interior being plainly seen through the gates. It has upon the floor two large stone coffins, that on the right hand containing Washington, and that on the left his widow Martha, who survived him over a year. In a closed vault at the rear are the remains of numerous relatives, and in front of the tomb monuments are erected to several of them. No monument marks the hero, but carved upon the coffin is the American coat-of-arms, with the single word “Washington.”