WalkingTown DC’s free tours will show you the sights of Washington


A car drives past Ford's Theater in Washington. (Molly Riley/REUTERS)
John Kelly
Columnist September 25, 2013

If you’ve always wanted to know more about Washington — its history, its culture, its neighborhoods — but you’ve been too lazy to read a book or too cheap to hire a tour guide, you are in luck. Next week is WalkingTown DC, seven days of concentrated D.C. knowledge compressed into handy chunks. What’s more, it’s free.

There are 43 walking tours in all, something in every ward of the city. They range from a stroll past Anacostia’s historic churches, schools and homes (including Frederick Douglass’s), led by writer and historian Dianne Dale, to a look at the cemeteries, mansions and estates of upper Georgetown, led by licensed tour guide Dwane Starlin.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

“We want to be sure we have tour guides who are really knowledgeable and passionate about the topics,” said Jane Freundel Levey, director of heritage and community programs at Cultural Tourism DC, the event’s organizer. “We’re looking for neighborhood history, although set often in the context of the larger story of Washington.”

The weekday tours are at lunchtime or right after work. “They’re geared for people who are working,” Jane said.

This is WalkingTown DC’s 13th year. Among the highlights is a tour called “History on Foot,” in which participants trek around the Ford’s Theatre neighborhood on the trail of Lincoln’s killers. It’s led by James McDevitt, a D.C. police detective from 1865. No, really.

“If you talk to him about your iPhone, he will look at you blankly,” Jane said.

Okay. McDevitt is actually played by local actor Matthew Anderson. “It was strange at first for me,” said Matthew of being perpetually in character. “I’ve done other tours — I was a Segway tour guide — where I was like ‘Hey, I’m Matt. Let’s get started.’ Here, the minute I come out the door, I’m a detective. It’s a little jolting at first, but I think they get into it quicker that way.”

All the tours are free, but most of them require reservations. Go to culturaltourismdc.org. Some tours are already full, including several that look at the Irish presence in the District. (The Irish sure are enthusiasts. Whatever the subject — history, poetry, religion, Guinness — they really go all out for it.)

WalkingTown DC runs from Sept. 30 to Oct 6. It’s part of a larger celebration called Art 4 All DC (art4alldc.org), which has plenty of other cool offerings, including Adams Morgan’s PorchFest on Oct. 5. Porches and stoops all over the neighborhood will feature live music.

New exit

My Lovely Wife’s office moved last week. Not very far, really. Her company went from a building a few blocks north of L Street NW to one a block south of L Street. But the relocation is causing some consternation in our family.

We are a Red Line couple. Always have been. What’s more, we are a Farragut North/L Street exit couple. When we ride the Metro together, we both get off at that station and leave together through the L Street exit, parting with a furtive kiss upon the escalator. (Ever been furtively kissed upon the escalator? I recommend it.)

But now it makes sense for Ruth to use the K Street exit.

I’ve seen those K Street people. They head in a different direction, turning left out of the train rather than right. They’re spit out into the hurly-burly of K Street rather than deposited gently into the somewhat calmer environs of L Street.

I’m worried about the effect this might have on Ruth.

Well, the Irish do love potatoes

My recent columns about Sharlene Loughins McGivery, the Belfast girl whose life was changed by a summer in Washington in 1986, reminded Kensington’s Elizabeth Benefiel of the child her family hosted.

“Our summer Irish guest daughter was Catherine O’Neill,” Elizabeth wrote. “I think she was about 9, or barely 10, which seemed awfully young to be away from home for so long.”

Elizabeth said her son and two daughters weren’t sure at first how to help Catherine feel like a member of the family.

“We dutifully took her to Mass every Sunday, exploring local churches in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to find one that she, and all of us, would like,” Elizabeth wrote. “The final unanimous vote was a weekly visit to ‘St. McDonald’s.’ Protestant, Catholic, whatever: Everybody loved french fries!”

Reuniting

These local schools are reuniting:

Bethesda-Chevy Chase High Class of 1971 — Oct. 12. E-mail Barbra Johnson at glengenny@
verizon.net,
or look for the class’s page on Facebook.

Bishop Ireton/St. Mary’s Academy Class of 1978 — Oct. 19. E-mail Kevin Mondloch at kevin.mondloch@gmail.com.

Langley High Class of 1993 — Oct. 11-13. Visit langley1993.com.

Richard Montgomery High Class of 1964 — Oct. 11, 2014. Visit classreport.org/usa/md/
rockville/rmhs/1964
.

Ursuline Academy Class of 1964 — April 26. E-mail Ann Viers Shetterly at annshet@live.
com
.

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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