If the experience of the FDR Memorial is any indication, more than half a century will pass before there’s a Ronald Reagan Memorial in Washington, D.C. So what’s a conservative visiting our nation’s capital to do? Plenty, as it turns out–and I’m not just talking about Arlington National Cemetery, the Smithsonian, or any of the other conventional stops on the tourist circuit. Here’s a guide to several key conservative attractions, few of them listed in the standard tour books.
The Burke Statue
Edmund Burke never set foot in America, but he was one of our country’s most important friends during the Revolutionary War. There was a time when schoolchildren were required to read and sometimes memorize excerpts from his 1775 speech on conciliation with America. He is also widely regarded as a founding father of the modern conservative movement. “Burke’s ideas did more than establish islands in the sea of radical thought: they provided the defenses of conservatism, on a great scale, that still stand and are not liable to fall in our time,” wrote Russell Kirk in The Conservative Mind.
At the intersection of Massachusetts Ave. and 11th St., N.W., there’s a statue of Edmund Burke–or of “BVRKE,” as the inscription has it, replacing the U for a V in the old Latin style and dropping the man’s first name. Erected in 1922, the statue portrays Burke waving with his right hand, as if he were quieting a crowd. He holds a tri-corner hat in his left hand and appears to be taking a half-step forward. There’s a pronounced lean in this gait; viewed from the side, it looks as though Burke is about to fall flat on his face. “Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom,” says an inscription on the pedestal.
For the truly intrepid, there’s also the Edmund Burke School at 2955 Upton St., N.W. The school was founded in 1968–not a great year, unless you’re a Detroit Tigers fan–and the statement of principles on its website refers to “the primacy of informed social action.” Students are encouraged “to discover the powerful role that they can play in effecting social change.” Hmm. Doesn’t sound very Burkean. At any rate, the name of the school honors the man.
Where Chambers Met Hiss
“I know that I am leaving the winning side for the losing side,” said Whittaker Chambers in 1948, “but it is better to die on the losing side than to live under Communism.” The pessimistic Chambers is a hero to conservatives for abandoning the Communist party, which he had joined in the 1920s, and revealing that Alger Hiss was a spy for the Soviet Union. The question of Hiss’s guilt–today beyond reasonable doubt–was one of the most bitter controversies separating Right from Left during the Cold War.
Hiss was a State Department official who passed on classified material to Chambers in the 1930s. The two men would have come into contact at Hiss’s home in Georgetown, at 3415 Volta Place, N.W. The building is a mismatched pair of joined townhouses. The wider one on the left is covered in white clapboard, and the narrower one on the right is of red brick. (Years later, presidential ancestor Prescott Bush, a senator from Connecticut, lived here.) Before Hiss moved to this address in 1938, he lived a few blocks away at 1245 30th St., N.W., the middle townhouse in a row of three. Chambers claimed to have spent many nights sleeping here. Currently painted a pale green, it is one of the more modest residences in the area. According to Undercover Washington, a fine guide to the homes and hangouts of Washington’s spies, one post-Hiss owner of this property painted the interior the color of a pumpkin, in honor of the Pumpkin Papers. Prior to 30th Street, Hiss lived in a townhouse at 2905 P St. NW.
THE HOMES OF JOE MCCARTHY
Say what you will about Tailgunner Joe–one of the most controversial senators in American history–but it’s awfully hard to dispute that he was fundamentally correct in identifying Communism as a subversive threat to the United States, at time when so many others were in denial. “It is curious that what is widely thought of as a contemptible aspect of Senator McCarthy’s method actually amounts to nothing more than his intimacy with people,” wrote William F. Buckley and Brent Bozell in 1954. “McCarthy’s continuous appeal to the people sorely aggravates the same Liberals whose certified faith in the people’s judgment never extends to those situations in which the people disagree with the Liberals.”
McCarthy had two homes in Washington, both on Capitol Hill. The first is a house at 20 3rd St., N.E.–red brick, three stories, and seven steps up from the sidewalk. There’s a flagpole in the front yard, the only one on the block. In 1953, McCarthy moved to 335 C St., S.E., a corner building that is now a real-estate office. It’s painted a dark red.
THE TAFT CARILLON
Sen. Robert A. Taft of Ohio was called “Mr. Republican,” and he was one of Old Right’s political heroes–a man who might have captured the GOP nomination for president in 1952 if Dwight Eisenhower had not become a candidate. But he probably wouldn’t have been president for long: He died the next year. In 1959, Eisenhower dedicated this 100-foot-tall memorial carillon in his honor. Surrounded by trees and a moat-like pool, it sits a bit to the north of the Capitol Building on Constitution Ave. between New Jersey Ave. and First St., N.. Conservatives especially will enjoy an inscription on its north face: “Let us see that the state is the servant of its people and that the people are not the servants of the state.”
BARRY GOLDWATER SLEPT HERE
Perhaps the most consequential loser in the history of U.S. presidential elections, Barry Goldwater was elected as a Republican senator from Arizona five times, beginning in 1952. Although LBJ trounced him in the national contest of 1964, Goldwater is widely credited with establishing conservatism as a mainstream force in politics. His failure made Ronald Reagan’s success possible. Goldwater’s acceptance speech at the GOP convention includes one of the most memorable lines in American rhetoric: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
As a senator, Goldwater lived at The Westchester, a massive apartment complex at 4000 Cathedral Ave., N.W. Several maroon-brick towers surround a sunken garden, full of flowers and benches as well as a fountain that wasn’t working on a recent visit. (It would be an ideal location for a Goldwater statue.) The lobby of the main building feels like it belongs in another era, with a light green and peach color scheme, mirrored columns, and a grand piano. A dining room is open to the public, except on Mondays. You can have a club sandwich for $7.50 or filet mignon for $20.
THE REAGAN SHOOTING
The Reagan Revolution might have ended before it got started, if deranged gunman John Hinckley Jr. had killed Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981. The shooting took place outside the Washington Hilton, located at 1919 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Reagan was treated at the George Washington University Medical Center, located beside the traffic circle at Pennsylvania Ave. and 23rd St., N.W.–and now home to the Ronald Reagan Institute of Emergency Medicine. It was here that Reagan, about to enter surgery, quipped to his doctors: “I hope you are Republicans.”
There are of course other Reagan sites in Washington, such as the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. (It’s best viewed from 14th St.) But isn’t there something inappropriate about naming the federal government’s largest building after the Pentagon in honor of a man who wanted to downsize the public sector? Clearly, our nation’s capital needs a Ronald Reagan Memorial worthy of the man.
VICTIMS OF COMMUNISM MEMORIAL
You won’t see anything except a patch of grass, a few trees, and a bunch of parking meters at the triangular plot of land at the junction of Massachusetts Ave., New Jersey Ave., and G St., N.W. If all goes according to plan, however, this is the future site of a memorial honoring the 100 million people who lost their lives to Communism in the 20th century. It’s a good location, a couple of blocks from Union Station and featuring a good view of the Capitol dome. It’s also across the street from the Georgetown University Law Center (which isn’t actually in Georgetown). For more information on memorial, visit the website of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. And think about making a financial contribution to this worthy cause.
WHERE LINCOLN WORSHIPPED
There’s no shortage of sites in Washington associated with Abraham Lincoln–many of them famous, and even more of them obscure. Like so much in the nation’s capital, almost all are secularized. That’s what makes the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church special. This is where Lincoln came to worship. The building he used to enter on Sunday mornings has been replaced by a newer one, but the pew he sat in can still be seen in the center of the church, located at 1313 New York Ave., N.W., close to the White House. The public normally can visit between 9 A.M. and 5 P.M. on weekdays, though this can vary because the church’s main priority is something other than accommodating tourists
What’s D.C. without a scandal? To see the townhouse where presidential aspirant Gary Hart was busted for cheating on his wife, visit the brown brick townhouse on Capitol Hill at 517 6th St., S.E. Onetime Bill Clinton advisor Dick Morris was caught with a prostitute at the Jefferson Hotel at 16th and M Sts., N.W. Finally, Gary Aldrich’s best-selling book Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House described the Man from Hope as “a frequent late-night visitor to the Marriott Hotel in downtown Washington”–an allegation that was not proved, but which nevertheless generated headlines. The hotel in question was the JW Marriott at 1313 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
–John J. Miller is national political reporter for National Review and the co-author, most recently, of Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America’s Disastrous Relationship with France.