Podcast Episodes

A White House Burns

One of the very symbols of our nation is a residence for our highest elected official, designed by Irish-born architect James Hoban in the neoclassical style, using sandstone painted white. When Thomas Jefferson moved into the house in 1801, he and architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe added low colonnades on each wing that concealed stables and storage. Not long after, the house for our Nation’s president would almost be obliterated.

Today on America’s National Parks, The White House, part of the National Park Service’s Presidents Park, in Washington DC.

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Learn More

Links to some of the resources we used and the website links we mentioned in this episode.

President’s Park – National Park Service Website


Transcript

One of the very symbols of our nation is a residence for our highest elected official, designed by Irish-born architect James Hoban in the neoclassical style. Hoban modeled the building on Leinster House in Dublin, a building which today houses the Oireachtas, the Irish legislature. Construction took place between 1792 and 1800 using sandstone painted white. When Thomas Jefferson moved into the house in 1801, he and architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe added low colonnades on each wing that concealed stables and storage. Not long after, the house for our Nation’s president would almost be obliterated.

Today on America’s National Parks, The White House, part of the National Park Service’s Presidents Park, in Washington DC.

With more on the early years of the enduring symbol of the leader of the free world, here’s Rosie Teverow from the National Park Service.



Burn marks are still visible on the White House today. Reconstruction began almost immediately, and President James Monroe moved into the partially reconstructed Executive Residence – it’s original name – in October 1817. Exterior construction continued with the addition of the semi-circular South portico in 1824 and the North portico in 1829.

As the presidency modernized, the White House was nearly always too small for its function. Overcrowding led President Theodore Roosevelt to have all work offices relocated to the newly constructed West Wing in 1901. Eight years later in 1909, President William Howard Taft expanded the West Wing and created the first Oval Office, which was eventually moved as the section was expanded. In the main mansion, the third-floor attic was converted to living quarters in 1927 by augmenting the existing hip roof with long shed dormers. A newly constructed East Wing was used as a reception area for social events; Jefferson’s colonnades connected the new wings. East Wing alterations were completed in 1946, creating additional office space.

By 1948, the residence’s load-bearing exterior walls and internal wood beams were found to be close to failure. Under Harry S. Truman, the interior rooms were completely dismantled and a new internal load-bearing steel frame constructed inside the walls. Once this work was completed, the interior rooms were rebuilt.

The modern-day White House complex includes the Executive Residence, the West Wing, the East Wing, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which houses offices for the President’s staff and the Vice President, and Blair House, a guest residence. The Executive Residence is made up of six stories—the Ground Floor, State Floor, Second Floor, and Third Floor, as well as a two-story basement. The property is a National Heritage Site owned by the National Park Service as part of the President’s Park.

If you want to visit the White House, there are some things you need to know. First off, you can’t get very close on the outside. The South Lawn can be viewed from a walkway along the fence, a good football field’s length from the actual building. Pennsylvania Avenue on the north side of the building is generally shut down to vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

The National Park Service does not schedule White House tours or provide tickets to enter the White House. Public tour requests must be submitted through your Member of Congress. These self-guided tours are generally available Tuesday through Saturday (excluding federal holidays or unless otherwise noted). Tours are scheduled on a first come, first served basis. Requests can be submitted up to three months in advance and no less than 21 days in advance. You are encouraged to submit your request as early as possible as a limited number of spaces are available. The White House tour is free of charge, but also subject to last minute cancellation.

The new White House Visitor Center is a couple blocks away to the southeast. Here you’ll find an accessible building with approximately 100 historical artifacts, interpretive panels, looping videos of photos and archival footage, and interactive elements for visitors of all ages.

Even though this building is not on the White House campus, a security screening is required to enter, just like at the Airport.

This episode of America’s National Parks was hosted by me, Jason Epperson, and narrated by Abigail Trabue. If you enjoyed the show, we’d love a 5-star review wherever you listen to podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Just search “National Park Podcast.” You can also join our new America’s National Parks Facebook group. We’ll link to all of our social media, as well as National Park Service resources, music credits, and more in the show notes at National Park Podcast dot com.

If you are interested in RV travel, give us a listen over at the RV Miles Podcast. You can also follow Abigail and I as we travel the country in our converted school bus with our three boys at Our Wandering Family dot com.

Today’s show was sponsored by L.L.Bean, follow the hashtag #beanoutsider, and visit LLBean.com to find great gear for exploring the National Parks.


Music

Provided through the generosity of the artists under a creative commons license.

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Podcast Episodes

A Gift from Tokyo

Each spring, an abundance of winter-weary locals and tourists flock to our nation’s capital, hoping to see the blossoming beauty of the famed Japanese cherry trees. You may know that the original trees were a gift from Japan in 1912 symbolizing international friendship, but you may not know that they are also a testament to one woman’s persistence and the value of never giving up on a dream.

On this episode of America’s National Parks, the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C.

Listen

Listen in the player below, or on any podcast app. 


Connect & Subscribe

You can find America’s National Parks Podcast on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, and make sure to subscribe on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts, so you’ll never miss an episode.

Join the America’s National Parks Facebook Group here.


Learn More

Links to some of the resources we used and the website links we mentioned in this episode.

National Cherry Blossom Festival – Non-profit festival organization

Cherry Blossoms – NPS Website


Transcript

Each spring, an abundance of winter-weary locals and tourists flock to our nation’s capital, hoping to see the blossoming beauty of the famed Japanese cherry trees. You may know that the original trees were a gift from Japan in 1912 symbolizing international friendship, but you may not know that they are also a testament to one woman’s persistence and the value of never giving up on a dream.

On this episode of America’s National Parks, the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C.

Here’s Abigail Trabue.


In 1885, 29-year old Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore returned to the United States following her first visit to Japan, where her brother George worked for the US Consular Service. While there, she developed a great appreciation for the Japanese people, culture, and the beauty of the Japanese flowering cherry trees. She brought back with her a desire to introduce the beauty of Japanese cherry blossoms to the American people.

Upon returning to Washington, DC and resuming her life as an author, travel writer, newspaper correspondent, and photographer, Scidmore began promoting her idea of planting flowering cherry trees in Potomac Park on land recently reclaimed from the Potomac River. As she explained in a 1928 newspaper article in the Washington Sunday Star, “…since they had to plant something in that great stretch of raw, reclaimed ground by the river bank, since they had to hide those old dump heaps with something, they might as well plant the most beautiful thing in the world—the Japanese cherry tree.”

Over the next 24 years, she presented her idea to every Superintendent of Public Buildings and Grounds, but her pleas were met with little interest.

One superintendent turned down her request, expressing concern that policemen would have to be in the park day and night when the cherries were ripe to keep boys from climbing the trees and breaking the branches. When she explained that the types of trees she was proposing produced only blossoms, not cherries, she recalled receiving the following response: “What! No cherries! No cherries! Huff! What good is that sort of cherry tree?” (The trees do produce a small inedible dark cherry sometimes eaten by birds.)

Scidmore recalled that her requests “were of no avail, no matter how fervent, long or often repeated to successive indifferent and obdurate Superintendents of Public Buildings and Grounds.”

During the later years of her efforts, Department of Agriculture Plant Explorer David Fairchild began experimenting with and advocating for the introduction of Japanese flowering cherry trees in the United States. Following the successful planting of several varieties on his personal property in Chevy Chase, MD and in the neighboring area, he began promoting the idea of planting Japanese flowering cherry trees along avenues in the nation’s capital. His efforts included supplying cherry trees to children to plant in Washington, DC schoolyards on Arbor Day in 1908.

On the day preceding the event, Scidmore talked with Fairchild about her dream of planting Japanese cherry trees on the newly reclaimed land of Potomac Park. Fairchild expressed enthusiasm for her idea, and invited Scidmore to attend the lecture he would be presenting at the conclusion of the Arbor Day event. At this event, he publicly promoted the idea of planting cherry trees along the Speedway (a popular roadway in Potomac Park, in the area of present day Independence Avenue.)

Both Scidmore and Fairchild began working on plans to acquire trees for the park. At the White House, First Lady Helen Taft was working on plans to beautify this area.
Fairchild offered to import Japanese cherry trees for the project.

Scidmore developed a plan to solicit annual subscriptions of one dollar from travelers who had personally experienced the beauty of the trees. She hoped to then be able to donate 100 trees each year, so that after ten years, “there would be a great showing in Potomac Park–a rosy tunnel of interlaced branches, a veritable Mukojima along the river’s bank.” She then sent a note to First Lady Taft, requesting her approval for the plan and assistance in acquiring the trees.

At long last, Scidmore experienced success. Two days after sending her note, she received a positive response from the First Lady. Not only did Taft like the idea, she immediately made arrangements to acquire some cherry trees for Potomac Park. The First Lady had also spent time in Japan where she had experienced firsthand the beauty of the cherry blossoms.

The day after Taft’s letter was written, noted Japanese chemist Dr. Takamine Jokichi learned of the plan to acquire cherry trees for America’s capital city. He was in Washington, DC at the time with New York’s Japanese consul general Kokichi Mizuno. Takamine asked Mizuno to inquire whether Mrs. Taft would accept a gift of 2,000 trees for the city. The consul general liked the idea and suggested donating the trees in the name of Tokyo. Takamine generously agreed, and Mrs. Taft accepted the offer.

The cherry trees were shipped across the ocean to Seattle and arrived in Washington, D.C. in 1910. A major setback occurred when U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors discovered that the trees were diseased and infested with insects. Following thorough inspections, USDA officials advised that the trees be burned to prevent harm to native plants.

Such an awkward situation was handled most graciously by Japanese officials. Not deterred, Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki and other officials quickly made arrangements for a new gift of 3,020 trees. Twelve varieties of trees were prepared and carefully monitored to ensure that they were free of diseases and insects, before being shipped to the United States. After arriving in Washington, DC in March of 1912, the trees were successfully planted along the Tidal Basin and in other areas of Potomac Park and the city.

Fewer than 100 of the original trees survive today among the nearly 4,000 cherry trees growing in West and East Potomac Parks, on the Washington Monument grounds, and in several other park locations.

Today, these trees stand not only as a powerful symbol of friendship between nations, but as an inspiring reminder of the difference one person can make by faithfully pursuing a dream.

The blooming of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. has come to symbolize the natural beauty of our nation’s capital city. Each year, spring is announced by the explosion of life and color that surrounds the Tidal Basin in a sea of pale pink and white blossoms. Annually, this event is known as the Cherry Blossom Festival, and it has a rich tradition, particularly with our Nation’s first ladies.

So when does it happen? Forecasting peak bloom is almost impossible more than 10 days in advance. The cherry trees’ blossom development is dependent on weather conditions, which are inherently variable. National Park Service horticulturists monitor bud development and report the status of the blossoms. But the event is getting earlier and earlier each year. Here’s Patrick Gonzalez, a National Park Service Climate Change Scientist, to explain why.

The National Park Service and their partner, the National Cherry Blossom Festival, offer a wide variety of events and activities during the bloom including the Blossom Kite Festival, Japanese Street Festival, Southwest Waterfront Fireworks and more. There’s even a Junior Ranger program. The event takes place around late March and early April of each year. You can even view the blossoms on a dedicated Park Service webcam.

The National Park Service operates a slew of sites in DC, including the National Mall, the Presidents Park, war memorials, presidential effigies and more. If you go, make sure to plan on taking public transportation. There are few places more difficult to park than Washington DC. Luckily, the public transportation is affordable and efficient. Many people plan short weekend trips to the city, but there’s enough to do to last a month.

This episode of America’s National Parks was hosted by me, Jason Epperson, and narrated by Abigail Trabue. If you enjoyed the show, we’d love a 5-star review wherever you listen to podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Just search “National Park Podcast.” You can also join our new America’s National Parks Facebook group. We’ll link to all of our social media, as well as National Park Service resources, music credits, and more in the show notes at National Park Podcast dot com.

If you are interested in RV travel, give us a listen over at the RV Miles Podcast. You can also follow Abigail and I as we travel the country in our converted school bus with our three boys at Our Wandering Family dot com.

Today’s show was sponsored by L.L.Bean, follow the hashtag #beanoutsider, and visit LLBean.com to find great gear for exploring the National Parks.


Music

Provided through the generosity of the artists under a creative commons license.

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