Washington exhales history. Countless neighborhoods, monuments, and buildings (and the city itself) are named for luminaries of the past. Just imagine how proud these men and women would be today if they could see the places that bear their names.
George Washington, who at only 22 was named “Colonel of the Virginia Regiment and Commander in Chief of all forces now raised in the defense of His Majesty’s Colony,” would surely be delighted to see his eponymous capital city ranked #1 for attracting millennials.
And George, son of the landed slaveholding gentry himself, would be especially proud to see that the private university bearing his name is known for attracting children of immense privilege and wealth from all over the world.
Granted, George might not be so pleased with the George Washington University’s intentional inflation of its admission data for over a decade, a scandal that saw the school expelled from the US News college rankings in 2013. But then, mistakes happen. George would understand. After all, he was routed at the Battle of Brooklyn and expelled from New York in 1776, and that all turned out fine!
Abraham Lincoln would be so relieved to know that his death was not in vain. How heartened he would be to see that the street on which he was shot and killed has become a tourist hub with souvenir shops and museums named in his honor. That visitors to 10th Street can even glimpse the room and bed in which he perished would be of considerable solace to the sixteenth president. And, born in a log cabin, Abe would be especially proud of Lincoln’s Waffle House, just across the street from the Hard Rock Café.
President Grover Cleveland would love today’s Cleveland Park and the fact that it’s home to our nation’s foremost public intellectual, David Brooks, and our preeminent muckraker, Lara Logan.
French-born architect and engineer Pierre L’Enfant laid out our fair capital, imbuing it with its European charm rue by diagonal rue. So what better way to honor his work and memory than by naming a square for him in one of Washington’s most beautiful settings? L’Enfant would likely shed a tear of joy if he could stand in L’Enfant Plaza today and take in the brutalist federal office buildings that flank it and cast shadows over his enduring name.
Jackie O would be so gratified to see her name affixed to a mid-century GW dorm building where thousands of college kids have lost their virginity. But don’t worry kids, Jackie isn’t watching you from heaven. She prefers to turn a blind eye to such things, proud as she may be.
And just imagine the fulfillment that John Quincy Adams and former DC police chief Thomas P. Morgan would feel if they could see 18th Street at 2am on a Saturday morning in the neighborhood that bears their names. A more fitting tribute to two great men than any epitaph could deliver, to be sure.
Banker and philanthropist Charles C. Glover made immense contributions to the District. He donated land for the National Zoo, helped build the Washington National Cathedral and Washington Monument, dredged the Potomac to make way for the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, and created Embassy Row. Quite a guy! And what better way to honor him than with a beautiful neighborhood, Glover Park. Mr. Glover would be gratified, even if almost everyone pronounces his name incorrectly, making it rhyme with ‘clover’ for reasons obscure to his ancestors.
18th century tavern owner John Tennally would be tickled pink to see a neighborhood in Washington named for him, even though the neighborhood, Tenleytown, misspelled his name, and even though it’s known today for its crippling lack of taverns.
LeDroict Langdon is certainly smiling with pride somewhere as he watches the neighborhood bearing his name, LeDroit Park, slowly but surely return to its original form as a whites-only suburb that attracts wealthy urban professionals with its aesthetic charm. Should be just a few more years, LeDroict!