Historic Hydrants in Washington, D.C.

White House Vicinity

Hydrant 7: The National Museum of Natural History

Opposite the busy and tourist-buzzing museum's disabled ramp entrance near Ninth Street is the spiffy"James B. Clow" hydrant No. 062. The only dogs inside the museum, alas, aren't walking around anymore. But, hey, it's a museum. Representing Canida, the dog family (as opposed to the family dog), in this treasure house of more than 118 million specimens of plants, animals, minerals, fossils, and human artifacts, is the timber wolf that in Washington City's earliest days populated this region. Coyotes are inside; so are eight varieties of foxes. Foreign members include the hyena, jackal, and the odd-ball wild dog of Australia.

Walk This Way
It's prime time if you or the pup needs refreshment. Outside the National Museum of Natural History is an array of street food dealers, including one of the National Park Service's own snack kiosks where our canine shared a hot dog with us. You'll find water fountains here, too. This is the last chance to bail out before heading away from the Mall and the tour's finish line. Want to end it? Head across the Mall to Hydrant 11.Now continue past all that natural history, cross 12th Street NW, and turn right to walk down alongside the National Museum of American History on your left. Go two long blocks, crossing Constitution Avenue and passing the Internal Revenue Service building on your right and the Environmental Protection Agency on your left.

Hydrant 8: The Old Post Office Tower

Pass by the new-fangled"Powhattan Standpipe" hydrant you find along 12th Street (our dog didn't even recognize it as a hydrant), and head straight to the beautiful "Smith" hydrant at the corner of 12th and Pennsylvania Avenue. This is a good viewing place for the Benjamin Franklin statue across 12th Street and the historic Old Post Office. Stop and let your mailman-chasing mutt rev his engines a bit at the thought of the good old days when the postman always rang twice-and then skedaddled like the dickens with Butch on his heels. But times change, and so has this turn-of-the-century federal post office that in 1899 was the city's first clock tower and its largest government building. Today it holds a retail and food mall downstairs. Upstairs, besides one of the city's best observation decks, are the Congress Bells, which ring snappy tunes continuously for about three hours on the opening and closing days of Congressional sessions.

Walk This Way
Turn left and head up Pennsylvania Avenue where you'll pass several old green "James Clows" on the four-block hike toward the White House. Opposite one of them, about 90 feet beyond 13th Street NW and across Pennsylvania Avenue, is Freedom Plaza, and next to it past 14th Street is Pershing Park. Here you'll pass the White House Visitor Center at your left. It's cool inside and they have excellent downtown maps for free. Now turn right on 15th Street NW and walk past Sherman Square on your left (water fountains are near here). Walk along East Executive Avenue and the wrought-iron fencing circling the grounds.

Hydrant 9: The White House

Honestly, there are no hydrants around the White House to obstruct the incredible views of the home of every president since John Adams. Stand outside awhile and wait for the presidential doggy, Buddy, to exit a side door and take a leak (with a Secret Service man at the other end of his leash). After an appropriate amount of waiting (say 15 minutes) move on. If you don't, you might find yourself on the other end of the Secret Service leash for loitering suspiciously outside the White House.

Walk This Way
Continue walking around to Executive Avenue West, where you see the Old Executive Office Building on your right, one of the Seven Wonders of the Architectural World (just kidding). Across 17th Street NW is the Corcoran Art Gallery, and behind you to the south is the First Army Division Memorial. Turn left and stroll along 17th Street and cross Constitution Avenue.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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