A Walking Tour of Downtown Washington
by Doug Gelbert
There is no better way to see America than on foot. And there is no better way to appreciate what you are looking at than with a walking tour. Whether you are preparing for a road trip or just out to look at your own town in a new way, a downloadable walking tour from walkthetown.com is ready to explore when you are.
Each walking tour describes historical and architectural landmarks and provides pictures to help out when those pesky street addresses are missing. Every tour also includes a quick primer on identifying architectural styles seen on American streets.
Geographically, downtown Washington is broadly considered to be anything north of Constitution Avenue - this tour takes in the part of downtown between Pennsylvania Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue between the Capitol and the White House. It is a land of office buildings and hotels, Chinatown and the Verizon Center, home of Washington’s professional indoor sports teams.
Unlike other large cities in America, Washington’s downtown has a low skyline. In 1899, Congress passed the Heights of Buildings Act in response to the 14-story Cairo apartment tower, which at the time was reviled as a monstrosity overshadowing its Dupont Circle neighborhood. (It is now admired as one of Washington’s most beautiful residential buildings.) The original law limited buildings to the height of the Capitol, but was amended in 1910 to the width of the adjacent street plus 20 feet, so a building facing a 90-foot-wide street could be only 110 feet tall. The basic intent was the same: No skyscrapers.
The result is a boxy appearance to the streetscape - as you walk around you can see older buildings that had extra floors built on their roofs to maximize the space allotted to them by law. The tallest commercial building in Washington DC is at One Franklin Square, only 210 feet high.
This walking tour will start at its northernmost point, in Mount Vernon Square...
- Doug Gelbert, January 2010
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