Best Taxidermy Display
Owney the mail dog
National Postal Museum, 2 Massachusetts Ave. NE
There’s no shortage of stuffed animals at the Smithsonian museums: In addition to hundreds of anonymous critters on display at the National Museum of Natural History, you can find three stuffed war heroes — a pigeon, a dog and a horse — in the National Museum of American History. But even among this crowded field, one bit of taxidermy stands out: Owney the mail dog. This scruffy mutt is currently on display on the downstairs atrium level of the National Postal Museum. His journey to fame began in 1888 in Albany, N.Y., when he was abandoned by his owner and began riding on mail trains. He eventually became the unofficial mascot of the railway mail service, and fans began putting tags on his collar to commemorate his journeys — so many that Owney was eventually fitted with a custom vest to carry the overflow. Sadly, stardom went to Owney’s head — or perhaps he just got crotchety in his old age — and he attacked a mail clerk in 1897 and was subsequently shot dead. Despite his ignoble end, Owney was memorialized on a stamp and occasionally communicates from beyond the grave via his Twitter account, @OWNEYtheDOG.
Best Water Feature
The Fountain of Light and Water
Bartholdi Park, 245 First St. SW
A towering stowaway from the gilded age, the Fountain of Light and Water presides over a corner of the U.S. Botanic Garden that’s hemmed in by major thoroughfares and fortresses of federal bureaucracy. Ignore the traffic noise and gaze upon the trio of graceful Grecian maidens who support the upper tiers of the fountain. At the very top, a burbling crown sends water cascading to the basin below the maidens’ feet. Fish and turtles expel additional sprays of water that are illuminated at night by lanterns that predate electricity — once run on gas, they have since been fitted with energy-efficient bulbs. Bought for half its estimated value by the federal government in 1877, the fountain was designed by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi (the namesake of the pocket park in which it sits), who’s best known for designing a lil’ lady named the Statue of Liberty.
More Best of D.C. Picks