MS. REBECCA SHEIR
So we've established that D.C. is chock-a-block with cool places to visit. I mean, really, pardon me while I boast, but we have parks, we have green space. We have more museums than you can shake a stick at. And if you're a sucker for monuments, memorials and historic sites, we have hundreds, including, of course, the usual suspects, right? Popular favorites like the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, but if you look closely right near each of these biggies, there's at least one historical spot most people miss. Emily Friedman takes us on a tour to check out several of these small fish in a big site-seeing pond.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1
And if you look to the left of the Jefferson Memorial, you see the Washington Monument.
MS. EMILY FRIEDMAN
When touring around D.C., you have to try not to see the Washington Monument. It's the tallest building in the District right in the middle of the National Mall. And when it comes to attracting tourists, it turns out size does matter, in this case, height.
MS. CAROLYN CROUCH
We are standing by a comparatively shorter, not an obelisk, but a stone shaft, which is known as the Zero Milestone.
And comparatively shorter, how short is it?
Well, the Washington Monument is 555 feet tall. This little guy must be maybe three and half feet, four feet tall.
Carolyn Crouch is the founder of Washington Walks.
It's a D.C.-based walking tour company.
She's helping me track down three of the most-missed monuments in D.C. First stop, the Zero Milestone. It's on the Ellipse, about halfway between the White House and the Washington Monument. And because it's so close to these marquee destinations a lot of people pass by. But do they know what it is?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 1
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 2
I thought it might be a water fountain or something from first glance.
So what is the Zero Milestone? According to Pierre Charles L'Enfant, original city planner, this was the official starting point from which all distances in the country would be measured. And while that plan didn't quite pan out, Carolyn Crouch says, there is one road that did start here.
Well, it was the starting point of a transcontinental highway known as the Lee Highway. It's in honor of a very well-known Virginia-born military man, Robert E. Lee and it stretches across the Southern part of the United States and it goes to San Diego.
Before we move on to our next stop, one quick fact about the Zero Milestone. So if you google map Washington D.C., not a certain place here, just the name of the city, the little marker shows up on the Zero Milestone, a little trivia for you. Moving on to stop number two, about 100 feet from the White House, the Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain.
We're looking at what should be a working fountain, but it's actually a memorial to two men.
Now, 100 feet from the White House is pretty close. You'd think, well, they must be really important people and they were, about 100 years ago.
And if you came here now, you wouldn't really know much about who these two men are.
So you have to do a little detective work. Take a look at the figures on the fountain.
One is a military figure and the other is a figure holding a paint brush and a palette. And that gives us a clue as to who these men were.
Military man and an artist, that's what we have to work with. Good thing we have a tour guide.
One was named Francis Davis Millet and he was the one who was an artist. He was very good friends with Archibald Butt who was from Georgia and had a career in the U.S. military.
Butt and Millet were key advisors and friends of the Roosevelt and Taft administrations. They both happened to be in Europe at the same time in the spring of 1912. So they decided to sail back to Washington together on a brand new ocean liner called "The Titanic."
And then this tragedy strikes and they were both last seen giving their life preservers to women as the ship was sinking.
Within a month, their friends had raised enough money to build a memorial.
But sadly, I think they've pretty much been forgotten.
For the record, how many people are also viewing the fountain with us right now?
We are the only people viewing this fountain right now.
If there's one spot that gets fewer visitors than the Butt-Millet Fountain or the Zero Milestone, it's this place, our third and final stop, Signers' Island. You cross over a wooden bridge to access the island where you'll find a memorial for the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence.
You have 56 different pieces of stone on which is engraved the actual signature of each of the signers.
Crouch says seeing the engraved signatures reminds visitors how signing the Declaration of Independence was a serious decision.
Because this was an act of treason, this could have meant for them a death sentence or imprisonment. It wasn't the same sort of fireworks, joyous, how we acknowledge it today. It was, well, here we go, now what?
Although the site celebrates the very foundation of our country, it is not well known.
A lot of people, if they've gone over there, they might think of it as goose guano island because a lot of Canadian geese hang out there. They're very territorial about that place.
Crouch understands how these geese feel. Signers' Island is a special place for her, too.
This is where my husband proposed to me. I don't see any benches, but I know I was sitting down and I'm afraid I might have been sitting on one of the signers' stones. I don't know. But there was no one else here appropriately. He brought a little candle, lit it, got down on his knee and I was engaged to be married.
Just one of the benefits of knowing Washington D.C.'s most-missed monuments, I'm Emily Friedman.
You can find photos and a map of some of D.C.'s most-missed monuments on our website, metroconnection.org And if you have some favorite missed monuments of your own, we want to hear about them. Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit us on Facebook. That's facebook.com/metroconnection.org
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