Bureau of Engraving and Printing
The Bureau of Engraving & Printing is where the country’s paper money is made. No coins are made here because that is done by the US Mint. Our tour group was small because I arranged for tickets several months ahead of time through my state representative’s office. We got to see sheets of money being made along with a narrative about the process. We learned that the design on US paper money is changed approximately every seven years to stay ahead of counterfeit efforts. There were signs everywhere that pictures and video were not allowed and that the US government would seize your camera if you even tried.
Although it must be tempting for employees to take the money they print, it is still worthless at this point. It’s not until the notes, as each denomination is referred to, are forwarded to the Federal Reserve that the serial numbers are entered into a database and the money is circulated. The Federal Reserve is responsible for disbursing the notes to every bank and credit union in the United States. Learn more about the Bureau of Engraving and Printing here: http://www.moneyfactory.gov/
Ford’s Theatre, located in downtown Washington D.C., is where President Abraham Lincoln was shot on the evening of April 14, 1865 by John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln passed away the next morning at the Petersen House across the street from Ford’s Theatre, which we also visited. The house has been restored to its original 1865 appearance and renamed the Center for Education and Leadership with numerous exhibits added. The booth where the president, his wife Mary Todd Lincoln and two friends sat to watch the play is permanently closed off to other patrons. A pane of glass separates people from the historic site, but we got within inches of seeing the fateful location. There is a sign showing exactly where Booth entered when he shot Lincoln behind the ear from a distance of six inches away. Ford’s Theatre remained closed for 103 years until re-opening again in 1968 as a national historic site and working theater. There are several performances each year. Learn more about Ford’s Theatre here: www.fordstheatre.org/home/about-fords
George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate
My favorite attraction of all during our trip to Washington D.C. was George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon, Virginia. We took two subways and a bus from our hotel near the Capitol Building to get there and then we made a day of it. The plantation has been restored to appear as it would when Washington died there in 1799. I was amazed at how huge the place was. There were several master gardens, a horse stable, a blacksmith shop, an incredible museum and, of course, a gift shop and restaurant. We also got to see George and Martha Washington’s guarded tombs and a memorial to over 300 slaves who worked on the property.
Since we went there the last week of August, it was not as busy as it is earlier in the summer. Our tour through the Washington home was leisurely. George Washington inherited the property from his half-brother, but rarely got to spend any time there due to fighting in the Revolutionary War and being the first president of the United States. After leaving the presidency, he lived there with his wife Martha for approximately 2 1/2 years before he died in his late 50s of what would be nothing more than a severe cold today. His relative named the estate Mount Vernon after a military official named Vernon and the fact that the plantation reached high like the mountains.
Washington was a remarkable man, but he was still a slave owner. I also think he was cowardly about the issue. He only granted his slaves freedom after his death so as not to start a debate with pro-slavery enthusiasts. It was sad to see the memorial for the slaves and not even know their names or the exact number who lived and worked on Washington’s plantation. He provided them only one new outfit every year. It would be another 66 years after his death until the Emancipation Proclamation. Learn more about the Mount Vernon estate here: www.mountvernon.org/visit-his-estate
Capitol Building Tour
I had high hopes for this tour, but unfortunately all of us were quite disappointed. I arranged tour passes for the Capitol Building back in May. My first mistake was that I thought we were going to see the White House! No, just the public portion of the Capitol Building. I have no idea why we were told to meet outside of Michele Bachmann’s office (my state rep) only to be walked down to where the public tour was starting. That was weird, but getting there nearly killed me. The Capitol Building itself was only a few blocks from our hotel, but we had to find a specific building on a specific street to meet at Michele Bachmann’s office. I wrongly assumed that meant we were getting a VIP tour or something. Bachmann wasn’t even there and her aides seemed confused by our presence. It was extremely hot out that day and all the walking was taking a toll on my overweight body. I was miserable before we even got there.
So there’s six different tours going on at the same time. They give each person a headset to be able to hear what the tour guide was saying. Unfortunately, both of my teenage daughters are hard of hearing and didn’t catch a thing. The only things the tour guide talked about were the two rotunda rooms and the statues donated by each state. Some of them, such as the statue of Confederate Jefferson Davis, seemed to be shoved into a corner. The guide said each state could donate whatever it wanted, which explains how racist and outdated some of them were. We thought we might actually get to see the house or senate in action, but no such luck. I can understand the need for very tight security when dealing with the public in Washington D.C. Learn more about visiting the Capitol Building at: http://www.visitthecapitol.gov/