Monumental Tour Guide

WASHINGTON MONUMENTS History and beauty of the Capital's major landmarks. (Atlas Video, Inc., 30 min., $19.95)

Newcomer to Washington or cave-dweller, it makes no difference. There's a lot to learn -- and to like -- in this new video tour of the Capital's major monuments. The production of this handy tool for touring is more than equal to heavily-budgeted national efforts with its top-of-the-line photography, writing, editing, narration and original music -- all done by Washingtonians. The video captures the city's beauty and is chock-full of enough historical trivia to stock "Jeopardy" with questions and answers for months.

With the tourist season upon us, this tape serves as a briefing for visiting relatives and friends to help them figure out what they'd like to see while here. Then tell them where you purchased yours because they'll want a cassette of their own to play for the folks back home. "Washington Monuments" is available at many gift shops and Waldenbooks stores. You can also order direct from the Atlas Video Inc. office (772-4486).

Peter D. Edwards, 34, president of less-than-a-year-old Atlas Video Inc., is the executive producer and writer. A former unit manager for NBC Nightly News, Edwards produced two tour-aid videos last year, "Virginia Plantations" and "Cavaliers & Craftsmen: Colonial Williamsburg & Jamestown." The narrator for "Monuments" is Washington-based actor Robert Prosky, more widely known for his role as Sgt. Stan Jablonski on "Hill Street Blues" than his films and his 20 years with Arena Stage.

Gary DeMoss, a former All-Met hurdler and football player at Sherwood High School who later played for Kent State, is the director of photography. He is the owner of Paradise Productions, Inc. The original music is by Washington native and two-time Grammy winner Jon Carroll, who has written songs recorded by stars such as Linda Ronstadt and Kenny Rogers.

Here are a few examples of the tape's tidbits that can make you an impressive tourmaster after one viewing:

The City: Pierre Charles L'Enfant was fired one year after designing the Federal City, which is what it was called until 1799, following the death of George Washington. Early diplomats considered the city a tropical outpost and received hardship pay when posted here.

Washington Monument: When it was built, it was the world's tallest edifice. The pope donated a stone to be included in the structure, causing a church-versus-state furor. Before the political hassle could be resolved someone had stolen the stone.

Lincoln Memorial: It has 36 columns, one for each state in the union at the time it was built. Next to the names of the states are the years the states entered the union. Ohio's date is wrong by a year.

Vietnam Memorial: It is the newest and now the most popular monument. Unlike all the others that rise upward, this one, with its 58,000 names, is designed downward from ground level.

Jefferson Memorial: This one is surprisingly new -- it was dedicated in 1943 -- and the critics were very tough on this design by John Russell Pope.

Arlington Cemetry: Among the soldiers buried there are some celebrated names, including Pierre Charles L'Enfant.

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: How big is the center? The Washington Monument could be laid in its Grand Foyer with 75 feet to spare.

Smithsonian Institution: James Smithson, an Englishman who had never been in this country, bequeathed the original donation for its foundation. He is buried in the headquarters building on the mall, known as the Castle.

White House: When President John Adams moved in in 1800, not a single room was completed. It was called the President's Palace and Executive Mansion until 1900 when Teddy Roosevelt urged that it be called the White House.

Supreme Court: Originally a small building, the court had so little prestige that its first Chief Justice, John Jay, resigned to become governor of New York.

Capitol: L'Enfant called the knoll on which it sits "a hill waiting for a monument." George Washington laid the cornerstone. The original dome was made of copper and declared unsafe before it was put in place. Its replacement, made of cast iron, weighs 9 million pounds.

Library of Congress: The main portion is named the Thomas Jefferson Building. It all began in 1800 with a congressional appropriation of $5,000. It is now the world's largest library in many ways, including the world's largest collection of comic books.

There are many more facts crafted into 30 enjoyable minutes that will impress your guests -- and you. Mostly, you'll simply enjoy it.