My oldest daughter Kate is an 8th-grader at Lipscomb Academy, and this week I have the pleasure of being a chaperone for their class field trip to Washington DC. Our trip began with a 4am wake up and then a 5am Uber to the airport. The check-in was a bit of a hassle with such a large group but was otherwise uneventful.
After a smooth flight, we landed in Baltimore. As a chaperone, I got very lucky with the group assignments. There are only four students (Abby, Miranda, Ava, and Kate) and three parents (Beth, Laura, and myself). These girls are such a sweet group of friends, and I feel very blessed to be in DC with them and their awesome parents.
After getting our group assignments, we boarded a bus to Washington DC and the US Capitol Building. Before leaving, we were introduced to Darrell, our driver for the trip.
At the US Capitol building, we all went through security and then watched a short orientation film. The film started with a reminder of our nation’s motto, e pluribus unum (out or many, one), then covered our system of government and provided some interesting facts about the building.
I learned that upon its initial completion in 1811, it was the largest building in the United States. I also learned that there were many slaves involved in the construction. The Dome was not completed until 1866, near the end of the Civil War, and is topped by the Statue of Freedom. We got to see a replica of this statue in the Visitor’s Center.
After the movie, we began a tour with our guide Charles Chen. He first took us to The Crypt, which is the foundation layer under the Dome. It is a circular room filled with columns that support the Dome above. The columns are some of the oldest structures in the building and still bear the chisel marks from the slaves who constructed them.
We learned that each state in the union has provided two statues for the Capitol Building, and 13 are in the Crypt representing the original 13 states. In the middle of the Crypt is the “Compass Stone,” which is the geographical center of Washington DC and was supposed to mark the grave of George Washington. However, George Washington dies in 1799 before construction was finished, so he was buried at Mt. Vernon instead.
Next we went upstairs to the Dome, which is the ceremonial space for our nation. Charles told us that 36 individuals have been brought to the Dome after their passing to lie in state for the public to mourn. These have included 12 presidents. The only woman to ever lie in state under the dome was Rosa Parks in 2005. The Dome itself is over 280 feet tall and could fit the entire Statue or Liberty under its roof. It is comprised of an outer and inner dome, and is constructed entirely out or cast iron. The total weight of the Dome is almost 9 million tons.
Even though the painting at the top of the Dome looks fairly small, it is actually the same size as the floor below. It took 11 months to complete and was finished in 1865, a year before the Dome was fully completed. It feature George Washington along with our Nation’s mottto.
The middle layer of the Dome contains a sequence that represents 400 years of US history. Our guide described it as like a “comic” book.
Just like in the Crypt, the bottom of the dome features a number of statues from various states, including President Andrew Jackson from Tennessee. Charles highlighted how Jackson is know from some incredible triumphs, like his victory at the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812, along with some unspeakable tragedies like the removal of the Cherokee Indians (i.e. The Trail or Tears). There is also a statue that represents the National Women’s Party and the passage of the 19th Ammendment in 1920, which gave women the right to vote.
The bottom of the dome is also surrounded by numerous paintings depicting US History, the most famous of which is the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Our final stop of the tour was the National Statuary Hall, which features the second statue from Tennessee, John Sevier. He was one of the founders of our state. There are lots of other state statues in here as well, along with a statue of Rosa Parks that was given by congress. This room was originally the chamber of the House of Representatives beginning in 1807. This lasted for 50 years until they outgrew the space. There are plaques on the floor designating where each of the representatives sat while in session. Because the room is a half dome, there are two spots across the room from each other, where someone could clearly hear another speaking as if they were standing next to them. These are called “Whisper Spots,” and Charles gave us a quick demonstration.
Once the tour was over we grabbed some lunch in the cafeteria and then went outside to meet with Congressman Mark Green who was newly elected to the U.S. Representative for Tennessee’s 7th congressional district. We waited for about 20 minutes before being told that he had been detained and would not be able to make it.
After a short walk across the street, we went to the Library of Congress for about 30 minutes. This is a beautiful building that contains lots of mosaics on the inside. The highlight for me was getting to see a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, one of only 21 complete editions still in existence. This Bible was was among the earliest major books printed using mass-produced movable metal type in Europe in the 1450s.
After the Library of Congress, we walked back to the busses and got to see the beautiful, blooming cherry trees surrounding the Capitol Building. This is Cherry Blossom week, and they are gorgeous.
The busses took us back to Maryland to check in at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center, which is our hotel for the week. We then headed out to National’s Park to see The Washington Nationals play the Philadelphia Phillies. This was the first time that Bryce Harper returned to face his former team after the big trade. The game was delayed for an hour because of rain, but our seats were covered so it was good time. I particularly enjoyed sitting with Kate and explaining the game to her. Because of the late start, we had to leave at the end of the 5th inning, so we missed Harper’s home run.
We ended our day back at the 4-H Center.