We've all heard the expression, "If only walls could talk." But I would like to ask, what about town squares?
It seems like there is one no matter where you go - a central meeting place, a public park, a town landmark. Whether in a small village or a bustling city, these squares help form a community's identity, its personality. And if you're going to be in my town for the inauguration, I invite you to come visit our nation's square.
Formerly known as President’s Park, Lafayette Square is the D.C. neighborhood that President-Elect Barack Obama will soon call home. If it could talk, it would tell you the story of the United States in a way that no other place could - through tales of the legendary people who have met on the benches here and of the historic buildings that surrounded them.
I have the pleasure of peering out of my office window every day to see the square, which never fails to be a lively place. Some days there are packs of protestors, while others are quiet and calm. Sometimes there are people lying in the grass or flipping pennies into the fountains, and sometimes there are construction crews assembling barriers and metal gates to protect important White House visitors. And don't even get me started on the motorcades...
Lafayette Square has slowly been transforming though, a process that began in late 2008. See, every four years, rows of bleachers are erected in front of the White House and on the south end of the square so that we can properly welcome (or re-welcome) a president. With just days until the 2009 inauguration, crews are scrambling to complete the finishing touches. Check out some of the photos I've been taking this week in the slideshow above.
Lately, the Hay Adams Hotel has been buzzing with excitement, TV trucks and many secret service agents. As you probably know from the news, this historic hotel has been one of two temporary homes for the First Family as the big day gets closer and closer. For security reasons, all vehicle traffic has been diverted and foot traffic has been limited. Thankfully, it hasn't stopped people from enjoying the square or from taking pictures by its statues.
Others who work in the area scrunch their noses at the sound of what could be considered chaos. I, however, view it as history happening right before my eyes. Lafayette Square is a special place because for centuries, others just like me have witnessed the buzz on the square before, during and after historic events that eventually make their way into our history textbooks. Overall, I think those of us who work on the square are lucky. While we might not have tickets to the inauguration ceremonies or get to see the parade, we have had front row seats for the most important event of all: a historic election that will bring many new faces to our square.
If you are making the trip to Washington, I invite you to take a stroll past the I (or "Eye" according to locals) Street and 17th Street barriers to the Decatur House on Lafayette Square. We offer brochures for a free cell phone audio tour that will teach you the history of Lafayette Square and its value to our nation. And while you are here, you can also warm up in our popular museum gift shop. It will be a destination for inauguration mementos and souvenirs.
– Mame Croze
Mame Croze is the manager of public relations and marketing for the Decatur House, a National Trust historic site. Stay tuned leading up to the inauguration as more National Trust staffers share their stories about the greater D.C. area. Coming to town for the historic event? Be sure to visit our new Preservationist’s Guide to Washington.
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