I used to live and work near Georgetown so I spent a lot of time making my way up and down Wisconsin Avenue, back and forth past the Washington National Cathedral. Funny how routinely driving or walking past something can make it almost disappear, even if it’s the sixth largest cathedral in the world and a Gothic wonder.
I decided to take a closer look.
George Washington’s vision of the capital city included, “A church intended for national purposes … assigned to the special use of no particular sect or denomination, but equally open to all.” It wasn’t until 1907 that construction began, and it took 83 years to complete—from Teddy Roosevelt to the first George Bush. One of the informational plaques on the seventh-level observation deck describes that “strolling by in the years just after World War I, one could have seen horses still in use to haul dirt away.”
Whether following the flower-lined path in the walled-in Bishop’s Garden, craning your neck to count gargoyles and flying buttresses, or basking in the jewel-colored light streaming through 200 stained glass windows, you’ll be suitably inspired.
Be sure to notice the moon rock brought back by the Apollo 11 crew in the center of deep purples and swirled stars in the “space window.”
Helen Keller is buried here, as well as the ashes of her teacher Annie Sullivan. Woodrow Wilson’s final resting place is also here. Martin Luther King spoke from this pulpit—his last Sunday sermon before he died.
You can hear the massive organ pipes brought to life every Monday and Wednesday afternoon during free mini-recitals. The Cathedral offers behind-the-scenes tours (there’s one that includes tea on the uppermost level) and some engaging ideas for the Cathedral’s younger visitors.
There’s a parking garage under the 57-acre site, but I had no trouble finding a spot on the street. With several nearby restaurants offering outdoor seating, now is the perfect time to get a nice spot of glory and lunch on Wisconsin Avenue.