This is surely the best-known address in the United States: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Pierre-Charles L'Enfant called it the President's House; it was known formally as the Executive Mansion; and in 1902 Congress officially proclaimed it the White House after long-standing common usage of that name. Irishman James Hoban's plan, based on the Georgian design of Leinster Hall in Dublin and of other Irish country houses, was selected in a 1792 contest. The building has undergone many structural changes since then. Andrew Jackson installed running water. James Garfield put in the first elevator. Between 1948 and 1952, Harry Truman had the entire structure gutted and restored, adding a second-story porch to the south portico. Each family that has called the White House home has left its imprint on the 132-room mansion. The White House is open to visitors, but you'll need to do some serious advance planning: visitors wishing to tour the White House must make arrangements at least three months in advance through the office of their member of Congress. Non-U.S. citizens must make arrangements through their embassy.
The United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., is among the most architecturally impressive and symbolically important buildings in the world. It has housed the meeting chambers of the Senate and the House of Representatives for almost two centuries. Begun in 1793, the Capitol has been built, burnt, rebuilt, extended, and restored; today, it stands as a monument not only to its builders but also to the American people and their government. As the focal point of the government's Legislative Branch, the Capitol is the centerpiece of the Capitol Complex, which includes the six principal Congressional office buildings and three Library of Congress buildings constructed on Capitol Hill in the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to its active use by Congress, the Capitol is a museum of American art and history. Each year, an estimated 3-5 million people from around the world visit it. A fine example of 19th-century neoclassical architecture, the Capitol combines function with aesthetics. Its designs derived from ancient Greece and Rome evoke the ideals that guided the nation's founders as they framed their new republic. As the building was expanded from its original design, harmony with the existing portions was carefully maintained.
Mount Vernon is the most popular historic estate in America. Located just 16 miles south of Washington, D.C. and 8 miles south of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, the plantation rests on the banks of the Potomac River. Visitors are invited to tour the Mansion house and more than a dozen outbuildings including the slave quarters, kitchen, stables, and greenhouse. Stroll four different gardens, hike the Forest Trail, and explore the George Washington: Pioneer Farmer site, a four-acre working farm that includes a re-creation of Washington's 16-sided treading barn. George and Martha Washington rest in peace in the tomb where wreath laying ceremonies are held daily, and the Slave Memorial and Burial Ground is nearby.
Like its 14th-century counterparts, this 20th-century cathedral has a nave, flying buttresses, transepts, and vaults that were built stone by stone. 2007 was the Centennial of the Cathedral.
Located along the famous Cherry Tree Walk on the Western edge of the Tidal Basin near the National Mall, with its waterfalls, wide walkways, and inspiring messages, this rambling memorial is ideal for contemplation. This is a memorial not only to FDR, but also to the era he represents. The memorial traces twelve years of American History through a sequence of four outdoor rooms-each one devoted to one of FDR's terms of office.
The words of Thomas Jefferson, some written more than 200 years ago, have shaped American ideals. Today, many of these impressive, stirring words adorn the interior walls of his memorial. Jefferson always admired the Pantheon in Rome, so architect John Russell Pope drew from the same source when he designed this graceful memorial facing the Tidal Basin.
"In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever." Beneath these words, the 16th President of the United States-the Great Emancipator and preserver of the nation during the Civil War-sits immortalized in marble. As an enduring symbol of Freedom, the Lincoln Memorial attracts anyone who seeks inspiration and hope.
More than four million people visit the cemetery annually, many coming to pay final respects at graveside services, of which nearly 100 are conducted each week, Monday through Friday. A first stop on a trip to the cemetery should include the Visitors Center, located by the cemetery entrance, where maps, guidebooks, exhibits, information services (to include grave locations), a bookstore and restrooms can be found. Tomb of the Unknowns, at this moving shrine in Arlington National Cemetery, soldiers from the Army's U.S. Third Infantry keep watch around the clock.
Deliberately setting aside the controversies of the war, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors the men and women who served when their Nation called upon them. The designer, Maya Lin, felt that "the politics had eclipsed the veterans, their service and their lives." She kept the design elegantly simple to "allow everyone to respond and remember."
The Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum maintains the largest collection of historic air and spacecraft in the world. It is also a vital center for research into the history, science, and technology of aviation and space flight, as well as planetary science and terrestrial geology and geophysics The Museum has two display facilities. The National Mall building in Washington, D.C. has hundreds of artifacts on display including the original Wright 1903 Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis, the Apollo 11 command module, and a lunar rock sample that visitors can touch. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center displays many more artifacts including the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay and Space Shuttle Enterprise.
The Rotunda of the National Archives Building in downtown Washington, DC, contains the permanent exhibit of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. A new exhibit called the Public Vaults displays over 1,000 fascinating records (originals or reproductions) from the National Archives holdings.
John Russell Pope's domed West Building and I. M. Pei's East Building house one of the world's finest collections of paintings, sculptures, and graphics. The National Gallery of Art was created in 1937 for the people of the United States of America by a joint resolution of Congress, accepting the gift of financier and art collector Andrew W. Mellon. During the 1920s, Mr. Mellon began collecting with the intention of forming a gallery of art for the nation in Washington. In 1937, the year of his death, he promised his collection to the United States. Funds for the construction of the West Building were provided by The A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust. On March 17, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt accepted the completed building and the collections on behalf of the people of the United States of America.
The Museum's Permanent Exhibition The Holocaust spans three floors of the Museum building. It presents a narrative history using more than 900 artifacts, 70 video monitors, and four theaters that include historic film footage and eyewitness testimonies. The exhibition is divided into three parts: "Nazi Assault," "Final Solution," and "Last Chapter." The narrative begins with images of death and destruction as witnessed by American soldiers during the liberation of Nazi concentration camps in 1945. Most first-time visitors spend an average of two to three hours in this self-guided exhibition. Recommended for visitors 11 years of age and older.
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