We recently took a trip to Maryland to visit our grandson…and his parents, too! Our son’s family lives about thirty miles east of Washington DC, so more often that not, we take one day of our stay to visit our nation’s capital. Our primary aim on this visit was the Library of Congress.
The library was established on April 24, 1800, an integral part of the new nation’s move to its new capital city in Washington, DC. At its opening, the library was housed within the Capitol building, and held a total of 740 books and three maps.
In 1814, during the War of 1812, the British burned the Capitol, and with it the Library of Congress, destroying most of its collected 3000 books. To refill the shelves, Congress appropriated the funds to purchase the library of Thomas Jefferson which contained 6,487 books, and represented a large number of topics from many disciplines.
The library suffered another destructive fire in 1851, which destroyed all but 2,000 of the 35,000 books that had been collected following the first fire. Many of the books lost were from Jefferson’s original library.
The Library’s current building opened in 1897. Its architecture draws on the Beaux Arts style, known for its ornamentation and theatrical atmosphere. It was built to last, using marble, granite, iron, bronze and mahogany. It seems that Congress and the architects wanted to do whatever they could to avoid another disastrous fire.
The dome of the new building is plated with 23 karat gold. The plated dome is inside the library’s Main Reading Room, open only to scheduled tours, members of Congress, and government officials.
While we were not able to arrange a tour of the Main Reading Room, we were able to visit the library of Thomas Jefferson.
Our grandson was so excited all day, and could hardly wait until he could see the library of his “favorite” President. As you can see by his picture, he was devastated to find that, for their own protection, all of the books in Jefferson’s library are kept behind glass.
He perked up when he helped his dad find the books that were actually owned by Jefferson. Tabs within the books tell which are his original books, and which are replacements the library has found to replace the many that were lost in the fire. Those that have not been replaced are represented by empty white boxes bearing the name of the missing book.
The Library of Congress is truly a national treasure, as can be seen by the pictures I could not stop taking. I have included but a few in this post…
In 2018, the library reported holding 168,291,624 items, with its more than 90 million books held on a total of 540 miles of bookshelves, making it the largest library in the world. This number is always changing, and these are the latest figures I could find. The items in the library represent more than 450 languages.
Items in the library can be checked out only by Congress, government officials and employees of the library.
My favorite items in the library were the Gutenberg Bible, and the Waldseemüller map of 1507.
This Bible is one of only four remaining original Bibles printed on vellum by Johann Gutenberg, and completed in 1455. The other three remaining copies are located in London, Paris, and in Gutenberg’s native country of Germany.
In 1507, Martin Waldseemüller created this map of the world. It is the first map to depict the New World as a completely separate land mass. Waldseemüller named this new land mass “America”.
After leaving the library we walked to a nearby restaurant and had that all-American dish, pizza! I love eating in Washington, and strolling its streets just as comfortably as I walk the streets in my own hometown. But the best part is to feel how open and free we are, and can be, in this big, wide, wonderful country. We have our problems right now, but as I watched my son read to our grandson on the lawn of the Capitol, then watched as Luke did somersaults in the shadow of its governing bodies, I felt renewed hope that we will find the resolve to come back together and feel the shared pride of being Americans.
On the Top of the Kennedy Center
For our Birthday and Christmas presents, our son and daughter-in-law sent us to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to hear the Washington DC Symphony following dinner at the Roof Terrace Restaurant atop the Center. What a magnificent evening! The acoustics in the hall were amazing, and it was a truly special night.
Our son told us to bring some dressy clothes…I forgot how handsome Jim looks in a white shirt and tie!
The dish I had at the restaurant was salmon with Brussels sprouts in a brown butter sauce. It was amazing, so I tried to make a similar side dish at home. My recipe is slightly adapted from one I found on the Challenge Dairy site.
Autumn Brussels Sprouts
A delicious, easy side dish for all those holiday meals coming your way
- 4 Tbsp. butter
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
- 1/3 c. raw hazelnuts, chopped
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/3 c. dried cranberries
- Preheat the oven to 450°
- Melt butter with the hazelnuts in a small pan over medium-high heat until the butter is browned and has a pleasant nutty smell, about 3-5 minutes. Watch this carefully, it can easily get too brown.
- Toss the Brussels sprouts, browned butter and hazelnuts, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
- Spread mixture on a foil lined baking sheet
- Roast in oven for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, add the dried cranberries. Bake for 5 more minutes or until Brussels sprouts are tender. Don’t let them or the cranberries bake too long!
- Adjust the seasonings (I added more salt), sprinkle the top of the dish with about a tsp. of grated lemon rind and serve.