Washington, D. C. is a city made for tours and tourists. You can spend days visiting the major monuments and government buildings. In addition, time can be well spent at other mega museums like The National Gallery of Art, the National Archives and the Smithsonian Institute Museum of Science and Industry. With all these supersized buildings vying for your attention, it’s all too possible to totally miss out on what some of the smaller , less commanding museums in Washington, D. C. have to share. Checking in at the Woodrow Wilson House, the National Geographic Museum and Ford’s Theater may prove that less is not always a bad thing.
Woodrow Wilson House. It may be hard to believe but there really is only one presidential museum in Washington, D. C. There are a variety of monuments and memorials, but only one building that serves as a museum for one of the men who have led our nation as president. That museum is known as The Woodrow Wilson House and it is located on 2340 S. St. in Washington D. C.
The House today is the property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a non-profit group which dedicates its efforts to saving and preserving structures which have an historic meaning for our nation. The Woodrow Wilson House has been preserved as the last home ever occupied by Woodrow Wilson and his wife Edith. Wilson and his wife moved into this home when Wilson ended his two term stint as president in 1921. He continued to live there for three years until his death. The home has been maintained with great attention given to keeping it in the style of that era.
The collections you can view at the Woodrow Wilson House give a singular view of Wilson the man, the president and the world statesman. The House contains objects that trigger reflection on Wilson’s White House Years, his family life and his relationships with statesmen around the world. Among the many gifts given to Wilson and his wife to be seen there is coincidentally a mosaic of St. Peter that was given to Wilson by the last Pope Benedict ( XV ). Tourists can view the dining room, drawing room kitchen, select bedrooms, and simple garden area. Most tours are preceded by a brief video presentation that is helpful, especially for those who are not history buffs, in setting the historical perspective for Wilson and his times .
The Woodrow Wilson House is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. and is closed on Mondays and major holidays. Admission for adults is $7.50, seniors $6.50, students $3 and under 7 free. You can insure a unique private tour, geared to the interests of your party, by making reservations in advance. but non-reserved tours are also provided to walk-ins as space provides. The Woodrow Wilson House received a $1million face lift in 2005 so, if you have never had a chance to visit this historic site , perhaps now is the time.
National Geographic Fans of adventure and exploration may be familiar with the National Geographic Society and its nationally offered magazine, but many are not familiar with the National Geographic Museum which is located at 17th and N Street in Washington D. C. This great example of Washington’s mini museums is located near the National Geographic headquarters and offers visitors a chance to view displays of expeditions and discoveries sponsored and publicized through National Geographic Magazine.
The National Geographic Museum is made up of an eclectic grouping of permanent and temporary exhibits, some are interactive . During the summer of 2007 for example there will be a temporary exhibit covering the crisis in the number of elephants in the wild. You can go to the website at www.nationalgeographic.com to discover, in advance of your visit, what other temporary exhibits might be waiting for your exploration.
The National Geographic Museum is opened Monday-Saturday and holidays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. The price of admission meets everyone’s standards, its free. Should you visit this museum, don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit the museum gift shop. You will find some very unique items that will make great gifts and souvenirs that you are not apt to find in any other museum in D. C.
Ford’s Theater You don’t have to be a history buff or even an American citizen to find Ford’s Theater an exceptional museum to experience. Ford’s Theater is a National Historic Site which includes both the theater proper and also the Lincoln Museum. This tourist spot , despite its small scale, is truthfully one of the most compelling spots in all of Washington, D. C. Visitors who enter the relatively small theater and look up at the presidential box are immediately transported in time back to that fateful night when President Lincoln chose to attend a production of “Our American Cousin” and ended up the victim of an assassin’s bullet.
It is incredibly easy to transport yourself back to that time. It is not difficult to picture the comedy being played out on the stage and the national tragedy being perpetrated in the State Box, draped decoratively for the President’s visit. Abraham Lincoln is one of our greatest presidents and is known world wide for his role in bringing slavery and the Confederacy to an end. Beginning in our earliest school days, we have learned to revere Abraham Lincoln. To suddenly find yourself in the actual room and only a few feet away from where he was shot down by John Wilkes Booth is just a moving and enduring experience.
Seeing the interior of the theater really would have been sufficient to meet my needs to connect historically with Abraham Lincoln, but at Ford’s Theater visitors are also encouraged to visit the small Lincoln Museum in the basement of the theater. There you can view artifacts directly connected with Lincoln’s fatal visit to Ford’s Theater. Articles of clothing worn by Lincoln, items from those involved in the conspiracy to kill Lincoln, a hunting knife and Derringer carried by John Wilkes Booth, pictures and other memorabilia are available for viewing.
When you finish seeing what is presented in the theater, don’t miss the opportunity to follow the path taken by those attempting to save Lincoln’s life after the shooting. Walk across the street to Petersen’s Boarding House where you can continue your trip into the past by viewing the room where Mary Todd Lincoln began her intense grieving and the actual room and bed in which Abe Lincoln breathed his last.
Ford’s Theater was nearly destroyed after the assassination and guards had to be posted. Within a year the government bought the theater and used it for many years as a warehouse and office building. In the 50’s the government took steps to refurbish Ford’s Theater and in 1968 it opened once again as a working theater offering live, dramatic entertainment to Washington audiences. At the same time, Ford’s Theater was opened to the public as a lasting monument to both the life and the death of Abraham Lincoln.
Ford’s Theater is opened 9 a.m. -5 p.m. except on Christmas Day. Occasionally, due to rehearsal schedules, visitors are barred from entering the theater itself but are welcomed to view the museum and Petersen’s Boarding House.
Washington is clearly filled with too many tourist attractions for anyone to take in during a week’s vacation. Visitors need to be discriminating in how they elect to spend their time. There are certainly some large attractions that no one should miss, but you may also be delighted with what you can experience by visiting some of Washington’s mini museums.