Image courtesy of Washington.org
By Katie Van Lew
Every Friday of the month, Washington Walks leads a monthly tour for people interested in learning more about the historic neighborhood of Dupont Circle.
The tour departed from the Dupont Circle Metro station on Fridays at 6:00 p.m. The first historic memorabilia of the city we visited was “The Toy Theater” mural on Sunderland Place. Peter Wadell, notorious for his contemporary take on historic events, created a mural to convey the origin story of Dupont Circle. The mural captures the first mansions situated in Dupont: for Nevada Senator William M. Stewart and for the British Legation. Adorning the mural, Wadell painted his own stage curtains to connect a vision of the past to his own childhood, where the theater was a prominent aspect of his life.
Walking down Sunderland Place, the tour approached The Heurich House Museum located on 1307 New Hampshire Ave NW. Originally, the mansion served as Christian Heurich’s headquarters for his own brewing company. With its attributes of heavy stone, gargoyles, and Romanesque arches, the house is evocative of the nineteenth century. Despite its Richardsonian-Romanesque exterior, the interior of the brewing company is admonished for its modern interior, as it is had been furnished with the new technologies of the era. Previously home to the most notorious brewer of Washington, D.C., it has been dedicated to the Columbia Historical Society.
Next, the tour explored the famous Dupont Circle Fountain, located at the center of Dupont Circle. The fountain commemorates the service that Samuel Francis Dupont had bestowed upon the American people. As Dupont was a navy man, the fountain incorporates ornate symbolism of people interacting with the elements commonly attributed to the sea, such as water, and wind.
As the tour encompassed the circle, our guide pointed out that there were multiple hidden entrances. In the early 20th century, streetcars were taken underground in an attempt to reduce traffic. This method of transportation proved to be safer and reduced congestion on the roadway. Although the entrances are are a bit obscure, there are about eight of them in Dupont. Until recent years, the underground stations had been abandoned; however, some of these stations are being used by artists to hold their own art exhibitions.
Along the circle, the tour passed the historic Patterson Mansion. Decadent with it’s grandiose, Neoclassical aura, the Patterson Mansion was once the home to the most prominent journalists of the twentieth century in D.C. Robert and Elinor Patterson owned and edited for the Chicago Tribune. Resembling her parents passion for writing, their daughter, Cissy Patterson, eventually dominated the newspaper industry with the emergence of her acclaimed Times-Herald Newspaper. The renowned Patterson Mansion has been known for hosting famous guests such as the thirtieth president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, and Charles Lindebergh, the first man to fly a solo flight across the Atlantic.
To conclude the tour, the group ended at the entrance to the metro. A hidden gem, the metro wall is inscribed with a famous quote from Walt Whitman:
“Thus in silence in dreams’ projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals;
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night— some are so young;
Some suffer so much—I recall the experience sweet and sad..”
This quote on the wall of the metro entrance can easily be glossed over; yet the meaning is pertinent to Dupont. As Dupont Circle is known for its constant advocacy for the LGBT community, the city wanted to convey a way in which they could show their support for the community. In an effort to honor health care professionals who have helped combat the AIDS epidemic as well as people currently experiencing AIDS, the DC council presented the Dupont Circle community with Whitman’s quote. His quote serves as a reminder for all people visiting Dupont, that we must not let others suffer in silence; we need to care and to help all.
Washington Walks elicits a nostalgic experience of history intertwined with attentiveness to details. When walking through Dupont, it is easy to get distracted by the everyday pandemonium of the city. The First Friday Dupont tour conducted by the Washington Walks organization allows for an immersive experience of history and art, intertwined. People looking for a tour may visit the Washington Walks website to sign up for a tour of Dupont Circle on the first Friday of every month.