Aaron, a businessman, philanthropist and author who was born within the District, cherished this road. Once I realized, years after his loss of life in 2000, that he’d dreamed of strolling the whole size, I adopted his never-completed mission as my very own. This summer season, I biked the avenue from the Anacostia River to Goldsboro Street and again, 22 miles. I buried my nostril in historical past books and realized a few time when livestock roamed freely north of Massachusetts and when the highway was simply Four miles lengthy. British writer Anthony Trollope wrote of the avenue in 1862, “Go there, and you will find yourself not only out of town, away among the fields, but you will find yourself beyond the fields, in an uncultivated, undrained wilderness.”
A part of Pierre L’Enfant’s authentic plan, Massachusetts is among the many widest and longest roads within the District. It passes via three of town’s quadrants, round greater than a half-dozen visitors circles — one, Randle Circle, is in a disconnected 1.5-mile phase of roadway east of the Anacostia — and previous a number of the most notable addresses within the metropolis. Deborah Shapley, founding father of Restore Mass Ave, a corporation created to enhance the panorama alongside Embassy Row (dwelling of a number of embassies alongside Mass), informed me that the avenue as soon as boasted a double row of majestic American linden timber on both sides of the road. Planted within the late 1800s, the timber sheltered promenades, buffering pedestrians from the dusty roadway. Since 2006, RMA has planted a whole lot of latest timber and saved others from elimination.
By late September, I used to be prepared for my stroll. Beginning at 7 a.m., I strolled unhurriedly. I accomplished the stroll in seven hours, stopping for lunch and detours; I’ve listed a lot of my discoveries under. Sidewalks line either side of the avenue, aside from the far finish in Maryland, the place you’ll discover footpaths on only one aspect of the highway. Whether or not you stroll or bike, be adventurous: Discover alleys and peruse pocket parks.
Midway via my stroll, I met up with Paula, a young-spirited octogenarian carrying a pink sweater set. I might hardly wait to inform her what I’d discovered close to the Observatory.
“A hubcap,” she mentioned, laughing on the happenstance, “See? Aaron wasn’t making this up!”
Go to a few of these prompt stops — or improvise — to create your individual reminiscences alongside one of many metropolis’s grandest avenues.
Our tour of Massachusetts Avenue begins a few block south of the Stadium-Armory Metro. However earlier than we get began, detour to close by Congressional Cemetery, a superbly restored Nationwide Historic Landmark and the ultimate dwelling for a lot of notable figures, together with journalist Cokie Roberts, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, composer John Philip Sousa and Push-Ma-Ta-Ha, the Choctaw Indian chief who served with Andrew Jackson throughout the Struggle of 1812. Congressional is understood not just for its spectacular assortment of historic funeral sculpture however for its beloved K9 Corps — a non-public dog-walking program composed of a whole lot of dues-paying members and joyous off-leash canines. Throughout this part of the pandemic, the cemetery is open most days to K9 Corps members in addition to guests who buy a K9 day cross ($10). The cemetery additionally gives guided weekend excursions via October. Persevering with alongside a residential part of Massachusetts, you’ll cross Lincoln Park, a well-liked neighborhood inexperienced area with two notable memorials: one commemorating Black educator Mary McLeod Bethune, and the controversial Emancipation Memorial, depicting Abraham Lincoln and a kneeling Black man.
Subsequent up is likely one of the metropolis’s most elegant Beaux-Arts buildings: a superbly renovated transportation hub for practice, bus and subway vacationers that opened in 1907, consolidating the tangle of ugly and harmful railroad tracks that when crisscrossed town. As you strategy the primary entrance and search for, you’ll see “The Progress of Railroading,” six large granite statues created by Louis Saint-Gaudens (brother of the extra well-known sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens). Pause simply earlier than you enter and absorb a view of one other architectural gem: the Capitol constructing, mirrored within the station’s glass doorways. (Sure, the station’s public loos are open.) Simply the opposite aspect of North Capitol Avenue, you’ll discover two lesser-known memorials in a metropolis full of them: the Holodomor Memorial to the victims of the Ukrainian famine-genocide carried out by Joseph Stalin; and the Victims of Communism Memorial. When you’re within the temper for a aspect tour, the Metropolitan Department Path, a paved bike path that follows the road of the outdated B&O Railroad, runs 4.5 miles from Union Station to Franklin Avenue NE.
Simply previous Chinatown, we arrive at Mt. Vernon Sq. and the Carnegie Library, a present to the general public from industrialist Andrew Carnegie, and the District’s first public library. (It opened in 1903 as a desegregated constructing — the primary such public venue within the District.) Adorned with ornate marble carvings, and just lately renovated via a partnership between Occasions DC and Apple, the Beaux-Arts constructing is now a mixed-use cultural middle, housing the DC Historical past Middle and a flagship Apple retailer. Don’t miss “The Light of Knowledge,” a sculpture over the doorway, created by Philip Martiny (as soon as an assistant to Augustus Saint-Gaudens). Outdoors on the grass, Bhakti Yoga gives yoga courses. (On-line registration is required.)
Earlier than you permit the neighborhood, dominated by the close by Walter E. Washington Conference Middle, go searching for different small surprises alongside Mass: a memorial to the pioneering labor chief Samuel Gompers between 10th and 11th streets, and, throughout 11th, a bronze statue of English orator and statesman Edmund Burke. Try the yellow home at 1107 Mass: It was in-built 1840 — a uncommon pre-Civil Struggle construction on the avenue.
Surrounded by a number of notable church buildings, this neighbor of the livelier Logan Circle is a dividing level between workplace buildings to the south and a largely residential neighborhood to the north. Conceived as a memorial to peace and reconciliation following the Civil Struggle, the close by Luther Place Memorial Church was based in 1873; its first pastor was an abolitionist. Stroll across the grounds and gardens, and search for pleasant door work depicting St. Francis of Assisi (with a Dalmatian), St. Martin (Luther King, Jr., that’s) and St. Dorothy (Day, the social activist). Symbolic headstones on one aspect of the constructing honor younger individuals who have been killed by D.C. police. One other distinguished Thomas Circle church is the Nationwide Metropolis Christian Church, designed by John Russell Pope and often attended by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Stained-glass home windows memorialize LBJ with a NASA rocket and Medicare image.
Neighboring the homes of worship we discover some sudden aptitude. From the highest of the circle, you’ll simply catch a glimpse of the Washington Plaza Lodge, designed by the modernist maestro Morris Lapidus, greatest recognized for a number of Miami Seaside inns (Lapidus additionally designed the enjoyable Capitol Skyline Lodge in Southwest).
Scott Circle and Dupont Circle
Suppose you recognize this quick stretch of roadway? Suppose once more. Curiosities are hiding in plain sight right here, together with memorials to Samuel Hahnemann, the German doctor who developed homeopathy, on the east finish of Scott Circle, and orator/politician Daniel Webster to the west (try the intricate bronze panels under Webster’s statue). Pop into the courtyard of Johns Hopkins College’s College of Superior Worldwide Research, the place you’ll discover a phase of the Berlin Wall. It’s additionally a pleasant place to picnic. So is Dupont Circle, named after Union Naval officer Samuel Francis du Pont — whose statue has lengthy since been changed with the circle’s now iconic fountain and three marble figures representing sea, wind and stars. Squint your eyes on the PNC Financial institution department on the northwest aspect of the circle, occupying two limestone buildings in-built 1923 — one with large home windows — and you may see into the previous, when the constructing was an car showroom. It’s a vestige of the times when Connecticut Avenue was lined with automotive dealerships, and a reminder of our ever-changing metropolis. Open year-round on Sundays, the Dupont Circle farmers market is wildly in style, as is DC Bike Social gathering, a month-to-month night experience round Washington that units out from the fountain. It’s actually probably the most enchanting public occasions within the metropolis. (Discover updates on Fb.)
There’s, maybe, no higher embodiment of the District’s cosmopolitan character than the stretch of Mass between Dupont and Observatory circles, the place the flags of quite a few embassies is likely to be recognized — a minimum of by eagle-eyed viewers — from afar. The Indonesian Embassy is among the many extra spectacular of the grand mansions alongside this strip — as soon as thought-about distant and rural — when it was in-built 1903 as a 60-room dwelling for philanthropist Thomas Francis Walsh. Within the subsequent block you’ll discover the lavish Anderson Home, in-built 1902 and now headquarters of the patriotic group Society of the Cincinnati. Detour down the alley behind the home to see a number of the authentic stables — now dwelling to Gold Leaf Studios, a framing, art-conservation and gilding enterprise — and you may think about visitors arriving by carriage for an extravagant soiree. Cross the road and spend just a few moments in a beautiful park devoted to Mahatma Gandhi, memorialized in bronze at 21st and Q streets. Behind 2201 Mass, alongside 22nd, you’ll discover a curious construction with a inexperienced pitched roof — nearly resembling a tiny chateau — that, in 1900, was the District’s first permitted storage. When you’re on foot, look out for the superbly painted historic police and fireplace callboxes alongside the sidewalk. One of the crucial distinctive examples of structure on this neighborhood is the Islamic Middle, evoking the buildings of 15th-century Egypt, and among the many first such establishments within the Western Hemisphere.
Lover’s Lane and Normanstone Path
Massachusetts Avenue is likely to be the final place you’d head to for a stroll within the woods, however there are sufficient trails that intersect with it to supply an sudden mountain climbing sampler. North of Glover Bridge, which crosses over Rock Creek, search for the filth path to Lover’s Lane on the south aspect of the road. Observe the shady path downhill a few third of a mile to achieve Dumbarton Oaks Park, Montrose Park and the paved portion of the path, which continues uphill to R Avenue. Barely farther up Mass, simply previous the British Embassy, Normanstone Path is a half-mile hike right down to Rock Creek. Within the stretch between the 2 trails, cease at 3000 Massachusetts to have a look at the McCormick Home, designed by John Russell Pope within the method of an Italian palazzo, and now dwelling to the Brazilian ambassador. Additionally between the 2 trails, the South African Embassy’s statue of Nelson Mandela appears to look throughout the road towards the British Embassy’s Winston Churchill memorial. The latter — along with his fingers raised in a V for victory — stands with one foot on British soil and one on American.
Kahlil Gibran Memorial Backyard
3100 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Having recognized the identify Kahlil Gibran from my childhood — my mother saved a replica of the Lebanese American poet’s “The Prophet,” on her nightstand — stumbling on the hidden Kahlil Gibran Memorial Backyard was like operating into an outdated buddy. Situated on the finish of a small bridge simply north of 30th Avenue, and largely unnoticed by motorists, the backyard incorporates a putting bronze bust of the author, a star-shaped fountain, benches and such quotes, carved in stone, as: “We live to discover beauty. All else is a form of waiting.” If you should plug again into the true world after this serene pit cease, sync your watch in opposition to the U.S. Naval Observatory’s Grasp Clock, simply up the highway. Whereas the Naval Observatory, which has been dwelling to each vp since Walter Mondale, just isn’t presently open to the general public, it gives an enchanting public tour that ought to resume after the pandemic. Persevering with on Mass, you’ll cross the nunciature — the Vatican’s embassy — the place the Pope stays when he visits D.C. Don’t miss the mum-and-pumpkin market at Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, at 36th Avenue.
Washington Nationwide Cathedral
Accomplished in 1990, after 83 years of development, the neo-Gothic construction on the nook of Mass and Wisconsin — one of many metropolis’s highest factors — is an architectural treasure. (Stone carvings embody a Darth Vader grotesque; convey your binoculars). It’s additionally dwelling to a number of the most lovely public grounds within the District, initially developed by Frederick Regulation Olmsted Jr. Gorgeous and aromatic in any season, the Bishop’s Backyard options cedars and fig timber, roses that bloom till November, an 18th-century English bronze sundial and a finial that fell from the cathedral within the 2011 earthquake. Observe a stone footpath via the oak, beech and maple timber of Olmsted Woods, one of many few remaining old-growth forests within the metropolis. You’ll discover a quiet and secluded amphitheater with curved stone partitions and grassy tiers, an ideal spot for studying or considering. Simply throughout Massachusetts from the cathedral, uncover Bryce Park, a multilevel inexperienced area that’s straightforward to overlook from the window of a whizzing automotive. Named for British Ambassador James Bryce, the park hosts DC Tai Chi courses and personal instruction with swords or spears. Drop-ins are welcome for newbie courses.
4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Superbly landscaped, the AU campus is an arboretum — with greater than 3,000 timber, together with a scarlet oak from the college’s founding as a Methodist college within the 1890s, and such uncommon varieties because the Korean cherry, maidenhair and daybreak redwood. Throughout World Struggle I, the federal government used the campus for chemical warfare laboratories and proving grounds; the McKinley constructing grew to become the birthplace of the Military Chemical Corps. A extra peaceful spot: the Ilene Zatkin-Butler Backyard. Throughout Mass Avenue is the varsity’s Katzen Arts Middle and American College Museum (presently closed), with a cascading, terraced fountain, benches, gardens and a number of other out of doors sculptures, together with three from Jules Olitski’s “Cyclops” sequence.
Wesley Theological Seminary
4500 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Massachusetts Avenue is dotted with greater than a dozen church buildings and spiritual establishments: Search for Washington Hebrew Congregation’s 24-foot-tall metal chrome steel menorah, halfway between Washington Nationwide Cathedral and American College. Just a little previous AU within the Spring Valley neighborhood, you’ll discover Wesley Theological Seminary’s significantly inviting campus, boasting a shady courtyard, bell tower, giant grassy garden, picnic tables and a bronze statue of John Wesley, the founding father of the Methodist Church and the spiritual college’s namesake. When you have children in tow, hunt down the favored close by playground at Friendship Park at 45th and Van Ness (higher recognized to locals as Turtle Park). If you should gasoline up, cease at Millie’s, which has a well-liked kid- and dog-friendly patio and ice cream/takeout window.
Little Falls Stream Valley Path and Capital Crescent Path
Westmoreland Circle, the uncommon roundabout and not using a statue, straddles the D.C.-Maryland border. As you proceed into Montgomery County, you’ll cross residential neighborhoods and are available to Little Falls Stream Valley Path, a 3.5-mile paved path that runs perpendicular to Mass between Little Falls Stream Valley Park, to the south, and Norwood Native Park to the north. It’s extra scenic on the south aspect of Mass — the path is clearly marked with an indication — the place you may see foxes, owls and geese. The pathway runs parallel to the Capital Crescent Path, which runs between Georgetown and Bethesda on the previous rail mattress of the B&O Railroad. (It’s straightforward to overlook in case you don’t see the path going over Mass on a bridge, only a couple hundred toes north of the Little Falls path.) Shortly after the paths, discover Norman’s, a beloved produce stand that’s been on this spot for 25 years. The stand is open every day till the top of October, with squashes, apples, beets, pumpkins and recent cider.