Also, the location of the first Ken and Barbie dolls was reported incorrectly in the Feb. 25 edition. The dolls are at the Copyright Office in the Library of Congress. (Published 3/10/88)
The Capitol and the Smithsonian Institution aside, Washington is a treasure-trove of interesting haunts for tourists. The city is home to the oldest Otis elevator, a garden that used the first outdoor electric lights and the very first Barbie and Ken dolls.
To satisfy the cravings of those who already know the venerable monuments, D.C. historian and tour guide Jeanne M. Fogle has begun offering an off-the-beaten-path scrounge through the nooks and crannies of D.C. history.
"I like to find the funny spots, the great stories, and share them," Fogle said.
A fourth-generation Washingtonian (her great-grandfather painted some of the frescoes in the Capitol), Fogle started her company, named A Tour de Force, five years ago. She used to be vice president of a small business in Georgetown, but said, "I sat at my desk, wishing I were outside."
A longtime Washington history buff, she passed the D.C. licensing exam and quickly made a name for her firm, offering tours through the Smithsonian's Resident Associate Program and through a local adult learning program called First Class Inc.
After leading the usual rounds of Washington monuments, she began offering "Unusual Sights of Washington," covering such curiosities as the Titanic Memorial in Southwest.
The tour was such a success that she devised a spinoff, "The Nooks and Crannies of Washington," offered through First Class Inc. for $24. It will alternate with "Unusual Sights" about every two months.
The three-hour "Nooks and Crannies" tour, first given on a recent Saturday, wanders through the city in a small van, passing numerous overlooked monuments and sites with fascinating and largely unknown histories.
Flipping through a stack of file cards, Fogle calls out historical trivia concerning several well known -- and some obscure -- landmarks:The oldest known Otis elevator, made around 1852 -- Elisha Otis did not invent the elevator but did invent the safety feature that made it possible -- is used to haul dressers and chairs at Litwin Furniture, a tiny, crowded antique emporium in Northwest.
In 1880, Alexander Graham Bell made the first "wireless" telephone call from the Franklin School at 13th and K streets NW. The Old Pension Building, a monument to the veterans of the Civil War that boasts the largest Roman columns in the world and a vast interior, was the scene of President Cleveland's first inaugural ball.
In 1885, the building was not yet complete, so a huge tarpaulin was spread over it, like a circus big top. As a festive touch, canaries were released at the ball, but they flew to the top, froze to death and plummeted.
Wounded Civil War soldiers, lying among the model cases in the Old Patent Office's Great Hall, were tended by nearby residents Clara Barton and Walt Whitman. Lincoln held his second inaugural ball there, in what is now part of the National Portrait Gallery, a few weeks before he was assassinated. Built in 1680, the Sewall-Belmont House is the oldest house on Capitol Hill. An American soldier inside fired on British Gen. Robert Ross when he came to set fire to the Capitol in 1814. Ross stopped to torch the house as well, damaging the front. The only source of resistance, the house was one of the very few private properties burned in the raid. Today it is headquarters of the National Woman's Party and a museum of the women's rights movement. The Bartholdi Fountain in the tiny, lush outdoor plot that is part of the Botanic Garden was notable when it was erected in 1878 chiefly because it exhibited the first outdoor use of electric light.
Washington is the home of a number of statues honoring unlikely people. One of the best casts is assembled in the sedately beautiful Meridian Hill Park, and includes Joan of Arc, Dante and President Buchanan.
In Northwest, Brig. Gen. Albert Pike, who as a high-ranking Mason wielded considerable clout, is the only Confederate general to attain statuehood in this town. Off Scott Circle, a statue of Dr. Samuel Hahnemann stands in tribute to the father of homeopathic medicine.
Fogle points out that some monuments are distinguished by delightful trivia. "Old Fuss and Feathers" Gen. Winfield Scott is seated on his favorite horse, which was a mare; the bronze horse's anatomy was changed to that of a stallion to better befit the hero of three wars.
And Lafayette Square is not so called because of the marquis' statue at one corner. Andrew Jackson's statue stood solitary in the square for half a century after it was dedicated in 1853, but according to Fogle, the square was always called Lafayette, after the crowds that overflowed it to catch a glimpse of the gallant Frenchman when he visited in 1824.
Lady Bird Johnson Park has exactly 1 million daffodils -- the gardeners counted them.
At least one monument is noteworthy chiefly for its unpretentiousness. President Franklin D. Roosevelt reportedly told Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis that he wouldn't want a monument larger than his desk. Accordingly, a small white marble block rests almost unnoticed in front of the National Archives.
A number of other Fogle revelations concern objects in the category of things you have passed a hundred times and always wondered about.
The tiny neoclassical sandstone buildings that stand as disconsolate anachronisms next to the rushing traffic of Constitution Avenue near the Washington Monument are the Bulfinch Gatehouses, named for Charles Bulfinch, the third architect of the Capitol. They originally graced the Capitol grounds, and were moved when the area was relandscaped in 1874.
The stork-topped "Temperance Fountain" erected in 1880 on Pennsylvania Avenue -- formerly in front of a liquor store -- once supplied ice water as a healthy alternative.
Other historical nuggets gleaned from the tour:
The first Barbie and Ken dolls may be seen as part of a display in what used to be the Copyright Office, in the Madison Annex of the Library of Congress.
And the outside walls of the Library's Main Building display heads representing the "33 major races of the world," as chosen by a Smithsonian curator. These include "Blonde European," as distinguished from "Brunette European."
Some of the lesser known monuments are beautiful and haunting. The National Museum of American Art includes a replica of historian Henry Adams' monument to his wife, who committed suicide. Eleanor Roosevelt visited the eerily serene original in Rock Creek Cemetery often, and kept a photograph of the hooded figure on her dresser, Fogle said.
For more information on the tour, contact First Class Inc. at 797-5102 or A Tour de Force at 525-2948. Other sources on Washingtoniana include James M. Goode's "The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D.C." and E.J. Applewhite's "Washington Itself."
A DIFFERENT LOOK AT HISTORY
Some Places to Visit Off the Beaten Path
Oldest Otis safety elevator, in Litwin Furniture, 637 Indiana Ave. NW.
Site of Bell's first wireless phone call (1880), the Franklin School, 13th and K streets NW.
Largest Roman columns in the world and site of Grover Cleveland's first inaugural ball (1885), Old Pension Building, F Street between Fourth and Fifth streets NW.
Oldest house on Capitol Hill (1680) and source of only opposition to British raid in 1814, Sewall-Belmont House, 114 Constitution Ave. NE.
Only District statue to a Confederate general, Third and D streets NW, a sculpture of Brig. Gen. Albert Pike.
Lady Bird Johnson Park and LBJ Memorial Grove, along the George Washington Memorial Parkway between Memorial and 14th Street bridges -- 1 million daffodils in Lady Bird Park.
Temperance Fountain (around 1880), one of a series of ice-water fountains erected by a dentist opposed to liquor built around 1880 (no longer works), Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventh Street NW.
Bartholdi Fountain (1876), first outdoor use of electric lights, Independence Avenue and First Street SW.
Meridian Hill Park, with statues to Joan of Arc (only equestrienne statue in Washington, gift from the women of France to the women of America), Dante and President Buchanan, 16th Street between Florida Avenue and Euclid Street NW.
Hahnemann Memorial, to the father of homeopathic medicine, Scott Circle NW (Massachusetts Avenue and 16th Street).
Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott, whose bronze horse underwent a sex change to please those who thought he should be riding a stallion, not a mare, Scott Circle.
Lafayette Square, always called Lafayette even though Jackson's statue stood alone in the square for half a century, in front of the White House on Pennsylvania.
FDR Memorial, a block of marble "no bigger than his desk," as Roosevelt wished, outside the National Archives at Ninth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
Largest Chinese arch in the world (1986), the Friendship Archway at 7th and H streets in Chinatown.
Boy Scout Memorial (1964), a little scout with two huge classical figures, American Manhood and American Womanhood, behind him, at the Ellipse, 15th Street, Constitution and E streets NW.