A photo was attached.
It showed a gleaming stainless-steel pedestal with a mini-Parthenon of the same steel sitting on top of it. It was an inch from a manhole that sat above a sewer set in a street corner in Capitol Hill.
“My question: Who the heck approves putting this kind of thing right in the middle of the sidewalk?” Morris said, predicting, “It’s gonna be a good story.”
John Lisle, a District transportation guy, knows the city’s street corners like peanut butter knows jelly. He pondered the photo for a minute.
“I have no clue,” he said.
Surely, someone did?
A visit to the street corner, Second Street and East Capitol, was in order.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Carol LeNeveu. But perhaps, she said, that was because she was just visiting, from “the other capital, Ottawa, Canada.”
“We have boxes like those,” she said, pointing to a row of newspaper and leaflet boxes about 20 feet away, “but nothing like this.”
But her good Canadian instincts provided the first clue: “It’s definitely related to the Supreme Court.” She pointed once more, this time across Second Street to the back side of the Supreme Court building.
The next clue came from Nealy Harnsberger, who was on her way to work in the building that sits on the opposite corner, the Library of Congress.
“It says ‘free,’ so there must have been something inside it, a flier, maybe?” she said, observing that a plastic enclosure about the size of a country mailbox sat between two rows of eight pillars.
There was a hinged door on one end and the word “Free” emblazoned just below it. The box was empty.
A businessman in pinstripes who said he was from Fairfax but declined to reveal his name made the next helpful observation.
“It’s probably something supported by the city because if it was a company they’d have their logos all over it,” he said.
Donald Gilman added to a growing body of knowledge. He was on his way to the building on the third corner of the intersection, the Folger Shakespeare Library, where he’s been doing research on French literature while on sabbatical from the University of Indiana.
“It’s been here for about a month and there were some sort of fliers in it at first, but when it says ‘free’ I generally don’t take it,” he said, pausing to note: “They keep it up nicely. It’s very well polished.”
Matt Holton lives “oh, pretty close” to the corner and confirmed what LeNeveu suspected about the court connection and what Gilman observed about the timing of its arrival. He had reached in to take one of the fliers a few weeks earlier.
“It was a map that had something to do with the Supreme Court,” he said. “If I can find it, I’ll let you know.”
Perhaps, someone suggested, you should ask in Florida House. That would be the building behind the lovely garden that sits on the same corner as the steel Parthenon.