Now & Then: 1938 / 2012 -Washington D.C., Arlington, Mount Vernon, VA

I am dedicating this blog post to my Great Uncle Harry.  My family managed to find some old photos of his from a trip he took up to Washington D.C. in 1938.  I made it a goal to take photos in the same locations and write about the changes, if any.   Ok, so it was my mom’s idea, but I went a tad bit further and combined our similar pictures together for a side-by-side comparison.  There were only two photos of his that I was unable to match.  One of those was a view from the Washington Monument.  Unfortunately, the Washington Monument is currently under construction because of 2011 earthquake damage, so I was unable to go inside.  The second photo I was unable to match was the viewfrom inside the chamber of the House of Representatives.  I plan on getting these shots next time I visit. 

Here are the final products:ImageLincoln Memorial

No significant changes.


View from Lincoln Memorial

The vehicles from the 1938 photo clearly have changed from those we drive today.  Also, this is no longer a working road.  I’m not sure what the statue is on the right side of the 1938 photo, but it isn’t there anymore.

If you look closely you can see that there are pillars and fountains in the 2012 photograph in front of the WashingtonMonument.  This is the National World War II Memorial that was opened in 2004.  The Memorial consists of 56 pillars that each bare a name of one of the 48 U.S. states of 1945, as well as the District of Columbia, AlaskaTerritory, Territory of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Philippines, U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.  On each side of the monument you see a large arch, one saying Atlantic, and one Pacific.  In front of each arch you will find a fountain that lies in a large pool of water in the center of the monument.  Be sure to check out my next blog post for photos of this Memorial.


U.S. Capitol Building

You can tell the trees on the left have been cut down, same for the bushes in the front of the building.  The U.S. Capitol Building is currently under construction and blocked off at the street so I was unable to see what renovations they were actually doing.


Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

(Also known as Tomb of the Unknowns)

You can see that security today is a little stricter than it was in 1938.  The steps up to the Tomb are not accessible to the public anymore and the top area surrounding the tomb is blocked off by metal railings as well.  One thing that has remained the same since its start on midnight of July 2, 1937, is the 24-hour guard.  Since that time, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been guarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


In this second photo of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, you can see that pedestrians were able to walk right up to the Tomb in 1938.  Today, this area is blocked off.  The mat where the guard walks his 21 steps to signify the twenty-one gun salute has also been moved.  The three slabs you see to the west of the Tomb are the crypts of unknowns from (left to right) World   War II, Vietnam and Korea.


U.S.S. Maine Memorial

The U.S.S. Maine was a battleship that sunk in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898 after an explosion from either a mechanical malfunction or a Spanish torpedo.  (Cause still unknown.)  Americans were outraged because of this event and it became a main factor that initiated the Spanish-American War.  On the 1938 photo, you can see that there is an inner door with the Maine’s bell welded into the door.  Its inscription says “USS MAINE, Navy Yard, New York, 1894.”  On my photo you can see an outer door has been added.  This grille-type door has an anchor displayed on top, and another three anchors on the bottom portion.  I didn’t notice any other differences besides the door.


The Memorial Amphitheater at ArlingtonNationalCemetery

The Memorial Amphitheater is where ceremonies are held to honor service members.  Each President who served after its construction in 1920 has attended at least one gathering here.  The amphitheater was under construction when I visited so I was unable to get the same shot that Harry did.  I didn’t notice many differences by viewing it from the outside.


George Washington’s Estate (Front View)

Mount  Vernon, VA

I didn’t notice many changes besides general up keeping of the grounds, painting, shingles, etc.  An interesting fact: It may look as if the house is built out of bricks, but that is actually wood coated in sand and paint.  I stumbled across the website that has posted words from a letter George Washington addressed to William Thornton on this “rustication” process.  It is dated October 1, 1799:

“Sanding is designed to answer two purposes, durability and presentation of Stone; for the latter purpose, and in my opinion a desirable one; it is the last operation, by dashing, as long as any will stick, the Sand upon a coat of thick paint. This is the mode I pursued with the painting at this place (Mount Vernon), and wish to have pursued at my houses in the City. To this, I must add, that as it is rare to meet with Sand perfectly white, and clean; all my Houses have been Sanded with the softest free stone, pounded and sifted; the fine dust must be separated from the Sand by a gentle breeze, and the sifter must be of the finess (sic) the sand is required and it is my wish to have those in the City done in the same way. If the stone cannot be thus prepared in the City, be so good as to inform me, and it shall be done here and sent up. It must be dashed hard on, and as long as any place appears bare.”


George Washington’s Estate (Backside View)


Tomb of George Washington

I just noticed a few small changes at Washington’s Tomb.  The ivy is no longer growing on the walls and there is now a new Tomb door.

I had a fun time re-creating Great Uncle Harry’s photos.  If anyone has any questions on any of the monuments/memorials, please don’t hesitate to ask.  I will be publishing another blog post within the next view days that will have a lot more of my up-to-date photos, including my journey onto the Vice President’s grounds and inside his garage!  Thanks Dave & Carole!