Happy Birthday Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field 100, Photo credit: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

April 23, 2014, Washington, DC: There’s something about ballparks. Their charm and nostalgia is unrivaled by virtually all other types of gathering spaces. Today on the 100th anniversary of the opening of Chicago’s Wrigley Field, I’m especially appreciative of those old ballparks still standing in the heart of our cities, now wedged tightly into urban neighborhoods. They’re aren’t many of them left and they’ve stood there as anchors while their communities grew up around them. I recall an afternoon I spent at Wrigley several years ago, drinking a Schlitz on a snowy April afternoon, and I can’t think of anything more quintessentially Chicago.

The Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune have lovely tributes to Wrigley on their websites today. It’s evident in features like these that there’s more to it than the game, that there’s something about the place as well that brings out the collective energy of the people who gather there. The last time I was in Wrigleyville was about a year and a half ago on a drab day in the offseason. Even then, driving west on Waveland Ave. past that ancient scoreboard, the history and pull of the structure itself was palpable. I was immediately daydreaming of the next time I’d be inside, enveloped by the spirit of 100 years worth of fans and ghosts.

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City Hike: Follow That Crowd

Cherry Blossoms DC, April '14, Credit: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

Cherry Blossoms DC, April '14, Credit: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

April 15, 2014, Washington, DC:  Washingtonians often remark how much they hate tourist season, but once in awhile it’s wise to keep the opinions to yourself and follow that crowd. The tourists of April are onto something here: a refreshing tradition that celebrates the arrival of spring with an explosion of pink. Sure, cherry blossoms are scattered throughout the city and we don’t need to head specifically to the Tidal Basin to catch a glimpse, but isn’t it nice to get caught up once in awhile in the spirit of something you wouldn’t necessarily do at home? A total mob scene, but a joyous one, and boy, is it beautiful.

Taking a cue from heaps of visitors, Sunday’s city hike took us on a walk down Capitol Hill straight to a Tidal Basin filled with paddle boats. We ducked through family photographs and slipped through crowds jam-packed along the sidewalks before turning east along the waterfront for a walk around Washington’s south side. Crowds thinning as we strolled past the marina and an already smelly fish market in the heat of the day, we continued past construction advertisements along the Southwest Waterfront, alongside Arena Stage and beyond the shiny new buildings of M St. SW. We detoured after crossing South Capitol back into the quadrant where we live, taking the long way through L’Enfant Plaza and between DC’s federal buildings, then going against the grain back up Capitol Hill and arriving home.

Soon enough, blooms will disappear, heat will weigh on us, tourists will vanish, and traffic will subside. In no time flat, the city will be ours again and we’ll be glad we followed that crowd while it lasted.

Cherry Blossoms DC, April '14, Credit: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

DC Is Blooming. No Turning Back.

DC in bloom, April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

National Mall, April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

April 6, 2014, Washington, DC: It’s baseball season, the sky is blue and the blossoms have finally made an appearance. What more could a girl ask for? It’s walking weather here in DC, and we walked for hours this weekend — to Hill East’s Pretzel Bakery and around Lincoln Park, home from Nationals Stadium and through Eastern Market, down Capitol Hill onto a crowded National Mall, to Taylor Gourmet and back again. This year the transition from winter to spring in the city is sweeter than ever. After all, we waited a long time for it. Can you believe it was snowing last Sunday? It appears we’re all doing our best to forget.

Eastern Market April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

DC in bloom, April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

DC in bloom, April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

US Capitol, April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

 

Home Opener, Nationals Park

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“The baseball fan this morning awoke from a long Winter’s sleep, stretched his arms, yawned and frightened the neighborhood trying out the rusty pipes of his vocal register.”

-New York Times on Opening Day, April 12, 1911

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Downtown Miami: A Work of Art

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March 29, 2014, Washington, DC: The city of Miami is itself a work of modern art. Its scale pushes boundaries. Its colors are arresting. Its bold and sculpted subjects ooze style. The other night I watched from a high downtown balcony as someone threw a rainbow of strobe lights against this interactive exhibit to gear up for the weekend’s Ultra Music Festival. The city literally pulsed to the sound of a rave.

In Miami, I instinctively describe the city as an art critic might describe a gallery opening. I begin to study the negative space between shiny buildings, to consider perspective from high above Biscayne Bay, to observe how the shapes and lines that cover this canvas rest on the edges of the Miami River and spread wide over the port and South Beach beyond. I am struck by the contrast of the landscape, by this obsession with the color blue, by the bright white light and the glare and the pushing of the envelope.

Take a walk today and imagine your city as a work of art. What do you see? Who might have painted or sculpted it, and in which museum might it belong?

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Before Photos: Breaking Ground on DC’s Southwest Waterfront

Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

March 16, 2014, Washington, DC: Redevelopment of DC’s Southwest waterfront is set to begin with groundbreaking on Wednesday, so I wanted to be sure to spend a few moments today taking “Before” photos of the soon-to-change scene. On a grey day with more unwelcome snow on the way, I ventured over to Hains Point to snap shots of the Southwest waterfront from across the Washington Channel. This is a section of skyline that will be altered dramatically starting this week and continuing for years to come. I’ve grown to love this corner of the city over the last three years, and I’m rooting for its success as it transforms from underutilized, prime real estate to a vibrant urban waterfront.

At midday, DC Sail teams are practicing on the Channel against the backdrop of Arena Stage and Cantina Marina. They navigate cold waters in the foreground of relocated houseboats and the slips they’ve vacated at Gangplank Marina a couple hundred yards west. I imagine how this scene might look on a cold March day several years from now: I contemplate whether the apartments one block off the Channel will still have water views and whether development here will have succeeded in steering clear of generic. I hope I’ll stand in this same spot then, documenting a waterfront that’s full of eclectic people who call this neighborhood home as they go about their Sunday routines in downtown DC.

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Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

History Of A House

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March 11, 2014, Washington, DC: Our new house is older than we imagined. The real estate listing noted it was built in 1906, but during the home inspection, we were told it could very well be older. The inspector reported that judging from the foundation beneath the house, the home may have been raised up 6 feet or so, perhaps around the date listed, but chances are it was built earlier, likely at the same time as the shorter homes on either side of it. The homes built on Capitol Hill in the late 1800s , he said, often housed workers continuing to construct the US Capitol Building. Fascinating, right? That this house may have stood here as the statue was heaved atop a new Capitol dome or as painter Constantino Brumidi finished his fresco in the Rotunda beneath?

It turns out the inspector was right. A few days ago, one of our new neighbors dropped off an incredible packet of house history, completed by a man named Paul K. Williams who has made a business of researching local homes. His findings relay the story of these six homes in a row, built all at once and originally of wood by an Irishman named Patrick McCormick sometime between 1860 and 1869. Public records reveal ours received the makeover that sets it apart from the others on this row around 1899, and that it was one of three Patrick kept for various members of his family. One of his sons, Thomas, who operated a carriage making business across town with his twin brother, lived here with five of his seven children around 1900, just a few doors down from his older brother Michael.

To place the people who lived here before us in the context of history is truly unbelievable. What might those earlier occupants have seen out these windows and throughout the neighborhood? Could workers have been hammering away on constructing our home that evening in 1865 when John Wilkes Booth sped through the neighborhood on his escape from Ford Theater? Did Patrick venture over to Eastern Market to shop there on opening day 1873? Could he have known groundbreaking journalist Emily Edson Briggs who lived in the Maples just a few blocks away? Might his sons have crossed paths with John Philip Sousa as children?

House history is as captivating as a family tree. Though not connected by blood, we have joined a lineage of people connected by place. In this strange sense, we are family, brought together under one roof over the course of 150+ years.

How much do you know about the history of your home? We’d love to hear what you’ve learned in the Comments section below.

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