Two More from Chinatown

Spy Museum, G Street, Twilight
Spy Museum, G Street, Twilight

This is looking West on G Street, across the street from the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum (they’re housed in the same building, the former US Patent Office, once the largest building in Washington, occupying an entire square block. Designed to be fireproof (although proven later due to budget cuts during construction to NOT be as fireproof as designed), it was home to Abraham Lincoln’s Inaugural Ball). If you saw photos of this street from 30 years ago you would barely recognize it – the entire neighborhood was in rough shape, and despite the museum’s presence, not a safe place to be. They wouldn’t let school groups wander beyond the museum – it was straight from the bus to the building, and back directly into the bus in those days. The whole neighborhood smelled of Eau de Homeless. Now, drinks at Zola are $10-15 each for bottom-shelf liquor, and dinner for two at Rosa Mexicano around the corner will routinely set you back $70-100.

Portrait Gallery Steps, Twilight
Portrait Gallery Steps, Twilight

As you can see, sitting on the steps of the Portrait Gallery is a popular pastime, although not as popular as it used to be amongst teenagers who used to congregate there in large numbers pretty much all year round. The downside was that they weren’t absorbing culture – they were there being teenagers, being rowdy and noisy, sometimes getting into fights, and other inappropriate behavior. So the museum installed speakers that play classical music. Beethoven, the ultimate teenager repellant!

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