By Holly J. Morris
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — What if you threw an inauguration and every president — dead ones included — came? There would be a lot of grousing (“My hair did NOT look like that”) and some hurt feelings (“THAT’s my legacy?”). To ease these bruised egos, we found locations at which to honor each commander in chief, even the lousy ones.
1. George Washington
Unlike the earthquake-stricken Washington Monument, the George Washington Masonic Memorial is open. Plus: GW memorabilia (he was a Mason from age 20, so there’s lots), a replica Ark of the Covenant, adequate views from the tower, and a shop full of arcane souvenirs.
George Washington Masonic Memorial: 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria; 703-683-2007.
2. John Adams
Our second president has no D.C. memorial! One’s in the works, but such things take decades. For now, visit the Jefferson Memorial. The pediment depicts T.J. and the four men appointed to help him draft the Declaration of Independence; Adams is on Jefferson’s left, looking prissy.
Jefferson Memorial: 900 Ohio Drive SW.
3. Thomas Jefferson
After tsk’ing at Adams’ poor treatment, might as well go inside the Jefferson Memorial. More to tsk at: The architects doctored the quote from the Declaration of Independence so it would fit the space. The nerve! The uncut Declaration is on view at the National Archives.
National Archives: 700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202-357-5000.
4. James Madison
The president and his wife, celebrated hottie Dolley, decamped to Octagon House after the White House was burned in 1814. Stand outside (it’s closed until Feb. 4) and listen to one of the four audio tours available at Theoctagon.org. You’ll learn why the hexagonal structure was so egregiously mislabeled and why the British didn’t set it on fire. Legend suggests a tunnel ran between Octagon House and the White House, which doesn’t seem particularly useful: “Hey, Dolley, let’s secretly go see the smoking carcass of our former home.”
Octagon House: 1799 New York Ave. NW; 202-626-7439.
5. James Monroe
The first couple waited out the rebuilding of the White House in their pre-presidency home. The Arts Club of Washington now resides in Monroe House, open for unguided tours. Among the handful of Monroe-relevant items is a portrait of the president standing in front of the house.
Monroe House: 2017 I St. NW.
6. John Quincy Adams
As befits a lover of skinny-dipping, Adams’ greatest victory as president was over the Potomac River: In 1828, he broke ground on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The 184.5-mile aquatic superhighway starts in Georgetown; pick up the path on Thomas Jefferson Street NW.
C&O Canal starting point: Thomas Jefferson Street NW between M and K streets.
7. Andrew Jackson
When Clark Mills was commissioned to sculpt Jackson astride a horse, he had never seen an equestrian statue before. So it’s all the more impressive that his 1853 work, the centerpiece of Lafayette Square, was the first in the world to be balanced on the horse’s hind legs.
Lafayette Square: H Street between 15th and 17th streets NW.
8. Martin Van Buren
As secretary of state, Van Buren lived across from the White House, in Decatur House. Like middle-school sweethearts, he and President Jackson would signal each other from their windows. The White House Historical Association is there now; dig for Van Burenalia in its shop.
Decatur House: 1610 H St. NW; 202-737-8292.
9. William Henry Harrison
His 105-minute inaugural speech remains the longest given; his term remains the shortest served. Old Tippecanoe took ill and died a month after his marathon oration. Show him you care by wearing hats and gloves Monday, then not dying.
10. John Tyler
He was the other half of “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too.” His second wife, a foxy young thing who sat on a throne to welcome visitors, outshone him. See Tyler at the National Portrait Gallery or Madame Tussauds, both of which indiscriminately feature every president.
National Portrait Gallery: 8th Street and F Street NW; 202-633-8300.
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum: 1001 F St. NW; 202-942-7300.
11. James K. Polk
Polk was a Mason, so we asked the House of the Temple on 16th Street NW for help honoring the hard-working, underrated president. Our contact found a James K. Polk commemorative Masonic coin, issued by the Charleston Mint in 1994, on display in the Temple’s library. Score.
House of the Temple: 1733 16th St. NW; 202-232-3579.
12. Zachary Taylor
Historians blame Taylor’s death by cholera on the cherries and milk he snarfed after a long day of July Fourth festivities. His body was stashed in Congressional Cemetery’s Public Vault, a repository for dead VIPs, and stayed there until it was moved to Kentucky three months later.
Congressional Cemetery: 1801 E St. SE; 202-543-0539.
13. Millard Fillmore
Until the Fillmore administration, presidents took their books with them when they left office. Fillmore established a permanent White House library and signed legislation funding the Library of Congress, where you can read about how he didn’t like Catholics or immigrants.
Library of Congress: 10 1st St. SE; 202-707-8000.
14. Franklin Pierce
The nature of Pierce’s tousled mane, which cascaded over his forehead, is a controversial issue among Pierce scholars. Was he unkempt or vain? Was the hairstyle an elaborate comb-over? The lock of his hair at the National Museum of American History offers no insight.
National Museum of American History: 1400 Constitution Ave. NW; 202-633-1000.
15. James Buchanan
In his speech dedicating Buchanan’s memorial in Meridian Hill Park, the best President Hoover could say was (we paraphrase) “right guy, wrong time, bad luck.” The compromise candidate, who failed to prevent the Civil War, is not beloved. The monument was paid for by his niece.
Buchanan Memorial: Southeast section of Meridian Hill Park, near intersection of 15th Street and Florida Avenue NW.
16. Abraham Lincoln
Before there was the Lincoln Memorial, there was Lincoln Park, which in 1867 became the first site named for the president after his assassination. A statue there shows Abe holding the Emancipation Proclamation and towering over a black man wearing broken shackles and a loincloth. (The freed slave was modeled on Archer Alexander, the last person to be captured under the Fugitive Slave Act.) The work has been controversial since it debuted in 1876; Frederick Douglass criticized it at the dedication ceremony.
Lincoln Park: East Capitol Street SE and 11th Street SE.
17. Andrew Johnson
The headline of Johnson’s presidency was “Lincoln Shot, Some Rando Now in Charge.” Trek to the Petersen House, part of the Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site, and see where Lincoln died and Johnson’s nightmare began. His finest hour: just barely not getting kicked out of office.
Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site: 511 10th St. NW; 202-426-6924.
18. Ulysses S. Grant
The Grant Memorial is notable for the misery of its sculptor, Henry Shrady, who agonized over his masterpiece for 20 years and died two weeks before its dedication. The fallen soldier about to be trampled by horses is reputedly a self-portrait of Shrady.
Grant Memorial: 1st Street between Pennsylvania Avenue NW and Maryland Avenue SW.
19. Rutherford B. Hayes
Hayes and first lady Lucy banned all forms of alcohol from the White House (thus locking down the teetotaler vote). They probably appreciated the circa-1880 Temperance Fountain, a gift to D.C. from a rich dentist who wanted universal access to booze’s uptight cousin, water.
Temperance Fountain: 7th Street NW between Pennsylvania and Indiana avenues.
20. James Garfield
What’s better: a statue of a president who died six months into his term, shot by a loony bird in 1881? Or that president’s first lumbar vertebra, pierced by a bullet and removed during autopsy? One’s by the U.S. Capitol; the other’s at the National Museum of Health and Medicine.
Garfield Memorial: 1st Street and Maryland Avenue SW.
National Museum of Health and Medicine: 2500 Linden Lane, Silver Spring; 301-319-3300.
21. Chester A. Arthur
The president never lived in the Chester A. Arthur House, a Victorian once owned by an Arthur undersecretary that’s now a bed-and-breakfast. “It was incredible stay in a 1830 former house of a secretary of tresury of a US President!!!” notes “Alessandra D,” Tripadvisor.com user.
Chester A. Arthur House: 13th and P streets NW on Logan Circle; 202-328-3510.
22 and 24. Grover Cleveland
Cleveland Park is named for its most famous resident, Horatio Beauregard Cleveland, “father of American clowning.” Fooled you! It’s named for Grover Cleveland. The president summered on Newark Street NW during his first term in office. His house is gone, but the estate across the street, Rosedale, thrives. The residence is private (it sold for $4.45 million last year); the land around it is a stupendously pretty community park.
Rosedale: Newark Street NW between 35th and 36th streets.
23. Benjamin Harrison
The first leader of the Daughters of the American Revolution was White House wife Caroline Harrison; admire her legacy at the DAR Museum. She’s also responsible for establishing the White House china collection — before, presidential services weren’t considered valuable.
DAR Museum: 1776 D St. NW; 202-879-3241.
25. William McKinley
So many presidents named William! McKinley’s the one assassinated in 1901. He spent some pre-presidency time living at a boarding house owned by one William E. Ebbitt. That house developed into a saloon, moved around a bit, and is now the Old Ebbitt Grill downtown.
Old Ebbitt Grill: 675 15th St. NW; 202-347-4800.
26. Theodore Roosevelt
Even a straight-shootin’, big-stick-carryin’ president like Roosevelt can see his memorial sucked into development hell. The statue on Theodore Roosevelt Island was left inside its box for a year (with Teddy’s right hand sticking out) while the government got its act together.
Theodore Roosevelt Island: off George Washington Memorial Parkway in Arlington; 703-289-2500.
27. William Howard Taft
Taft, who weighed more than 300 pounds in his heyday, reclines, torso bared, on the far left of the Supreme Court’s West Pediment. The artist used a college-age Taft as his muse, and, while the former chief justice is no Channing Tatum, those bulges are pecs, not man-boobs.
Supreme Court: 1 1st St. NE; 202-479-3030.
28. Woodrow Wilson
Wilson died in D.C. (at the Woodrow Wilson House) and is the only president buried in D.C. (at the Washington National Cathedral). The house was kept in tip-top shape by his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson. She was quite the hoarder, so you can still enjoy Wilson’s bath mat, kangaroo-skin coat and baseball signed by Britain’s King George V. And, the area’s most reviled presidential monument is a tribute to Wilson. The original Wilson Bridge, demolished in 2006, was a well-intended failure on par with you-know-who’s League of Nations.
Washington National Cathedral: 3101 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-537-6200.
Woodrow Wilson House: 2340 S St. NW; 202-387-4062.
Wilson Bridge: between Alexandria and Oxon Hill, Md., over the Potomac River.
29. Warren G. Harding
Harding and his cronies drank and played poker at 1625 K St. NW, known as “The Little Green House on K Street.” The corrupt dealings behind the Teapot Dome scandal (a mess involving bribes and oil reserves) went down at that address, now occupied by the Commonwealth building.
Former site of the Little Green House on K Street: 1625 K St. NW.
30. Calvin Coolidge
Silent Cal’s “rugged health” and “ability to withstand long hours of labor” were, a 1925 report said, due “to the attention he has given his electric horse.” The equine-ish device, on view at the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum, has two speeds and weighs about 300 pounds.
National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum: United States Patent and Trademark Office, Madison Building, 600 Dulany St., Alexandria; 571-272-0095.
31. Herbert Hoover
The USS Sequoia, a government-owned yacht, hosted the shenanigans of presidents Hoover through Ford. (Jimmy Carter, ever prim, sold it.) Hoover used a photo of the Sequoia on his 1932 Christmas cards, which might have well read: “Screw the Depression, your taxes bought me a boat!”
The Sequoia: docked at Gangplank Marina, 6th Street and Maine Avenue SW.
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
FDR told a friend that the only memorial he wanted was a block of stone, about the size of his desk, in front of the National Archives. He got it, in 1965. Maybe he won’t notice that big monument America put over by the Tidal Basin in the ‘90s.
First FDR Memorial: near the corner of 9th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, in front of National Archives.
Second FDR Memorial: near the intersection of Independence Avenue, West Basin Drive and Ohio Drive SW; 202-426-6841.
33. Harry S. Truman
Truman called General Douglas MacArthur a “dumb son of a bitch.” He suggested that FDR “go to hell” when asked to be his running mate. In 2000, the U.S. Department of State’s building was renamed for Truman. Make him proud by working “hell” and “SOB” into a sentence about that.
Department of State: 2201 C St. NW; 202-647-3241.
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Not even Dwight’s grandkids like Frank Gehry’s proposal for the Eisenhower Memorial, to be built just south of the Air and Space Museum. With 80-foot columns, steel tapestries, statues, quotes and a companion app, the design IS a bit busy.
Planned location of Eisenhower Memorial: bounded on the east and west by 4th and 6th streets SW and to the north and south by Independence Avenue SW and Department of Education building.
35. John F. Kennedy
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is the only D.C. presidential memorial where you can see a musical. Smack in the middle of the Grand Foyer is a 3,000-pound bust of JFK rendered in what looks like chewing gum, sculptor Robert Berks’ signature style.
The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW; 202-467-4600.
36. Lyndon B. Johnson
The centerpiece of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove is an unpolished, 45-ton piece of granite from Texas. This gave every journalist covering the park’s 1976 dedication the chance to compare a rough-hewn Texan rock to a rough-hewn Texan president. Most did.
Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove: Getting there’s a little tricky. Use the directions at Nps.gov/lyba.
37. Richard M. Nixon
Let’s all thank Tricky Dick for the National Zoo’s pandas. When he visited China in 1972, he arranged an exchange of two Alaskan musk oxen for two giant pandas. Even though the oxen began shedding and coughing on arrival, “panda diplomacy” is still going strong today.
National Zoo: 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-633-4888.
38. Gerald R. Ford
Ford was such a snoozefest that his statue in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall shows him carrying file folders. At the sculpture’s 2011 dedication, Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, noted that Ford had married up and “did not set out to ‘fix’ America.” Zzzzzz.
U.S. Capitol: East Capitol Street and 1st Street; 202-226-8000.
39. Jimmy Carter
Gas was obscenely expensive during the Carter administration. Until November 2012, drivers could bankrupt themselves at the Watergate Exxon, renowned for its Carter-era prices. The throwback station is closed for renovations, a poignant reminder of the energy crisis.
Watergate Exxon: 2708 Virginia Ave. NW.
40. Ronald Reagan
In contrast to Ford’s, the statue of Reagan in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall sports a torch, eagles and bits of the Berlin Wall. Would that they were animatronic, so Statue Reagan could end the Cold War and balloon the national debt while Statue Ford did some filing.
U.S. Capitol: East Capitol Street and 1st Street; 202-226-8000.
41. George H.W. Bush
Bush first said “a thousand points of light” in his acceptance speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention. The phrase begot a push for volunteerism, a Randy Travis single, and mockery. See 41,000 points of light in “Multiverse,” an installation at the National Gallery of Art.
National Gallery of Art: 4th Street and Constitution Avenue NW; 202-737-4215.
42. William J. Clinton
This blurb is a Monica Lewinsky-free zone. Clinton’s official pre-inaugural prayer service, for both his terms, was held at the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church. No president before Clinton had attended an inaugural service at an African-American house of worship.
Metropolitan A.M.E. Church: 1518 M St. NW; 202-331-1426.
43. George W. Bush
The Newseum’s Palm Beach County, Fla., voting machine from the 2000 presidential election is the Coolidge electric horse of our day: unfathomable to our distant predecessors, absurd and primitive to generations to come. What will journalists in 2313 make of hanging chads?
Newseum: 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 888-639-7386.