Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Introduce your family to DC history at these local sites

Hatchet File Photo by Graeme Sloan
The Heurich House Museum located adjacent to Dupont Circle.

When families flock to the District for Commencement weekend, GW seniors don not just a cap and gown but also the hat of a D.C. tour guide.

While it’s all too easy to just take your family to the major historical sites around the District that exhibit American history, D.C. as a city has a rich past. To teach your family about the stories of the city where you’ve spent your college years — its local history and place in American politics — plan a visit to these stops:

Martin’s Tavern 

Your journey begins in Georgetown. While the neighborhood may be full of Hoyas lurking the streets in polo button-ups and golf outfits, a gem of GW and D.C. history is on Wisconsin Avenue: Martin’s Tavern.

Through the weathered, wooden doors of Martin’s Tavern is a bar and restaurant that emanates history. The Martin family has run the restaurant for four generations since founding the Tavern in 1933 as prohibition was coming to an end. 

The restaurant connects to the history of D.C. as the site of political drama beyond just its place as a historical local business. The Tavern was the meeting place of many politicians and government officials, witnessing many gatherings among the staff of the Office of Strategic Services, the CIA’s predecessor, in the Tavern’s backroom during World War II. John F. Kennedy also frequented the Tavern as his post-Mass breakfast joint when he briefly lived just a block away in the 1950s.

To really impress your family, request the “proposal booth” where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Kennedy, who graduated from GW in 1951 with a degree in French literature and is the namesake of JBKO Hall. Recount your own tales of JBKO fire drills, sirens and preachers by the Foggy Bottom-GWU metro stop as you dine on Martin’s Tavern’s classic American pub food, like burgers, and the restaurant’s more coastal brunch food, like the crab-based Martin Chesapeake Benedict.

Martin’s Tavern can be a little pricey — an $18 omelet may only be in a college student’s budget when their parents are paying the check. So if you can, take advantage of Commencement weekend and enjoy a similar meal to what many past presidents and spies enjoyed that doesn’t require meal swipes.

Dumbarton Oaks and Oak Hill Cemetery

After you finish a hearty breakfast, walk off the calories on a stroll through the cobblestone streets of Georgetown toward Dumbarton Oaks and Oak Hill Cemetery, about 15 minutes north from Martin’s Tavern.

Within the cemetery is the mausoleum where Abraham Lincoln’s son was temporarily interned after dying from typhoid fever in 1862, and Lincoln frequently visited the area when living in D.C. The mausoleum inspired George Saunders’ Booker Prize winning novel, “Lincoln in the Bardo,” as Saunders sought to capture the sheer grief the president must have felt.

The cemetery is also home to notable figures from the District’s past including Katherine Graham, the longtime publisher of the Washington Post whose tenure at the paper’s helm from the 1963 to 1991 saw the publication cover the minute happenings of D.C. and the grand-scale political operas, like the Watergate scandal, that played out.

Dupont Little Flea Market

If you choose to lead your tour on a Sunday, bring your family and friends to the Dupont Circle Farmers Market and Little Flea Market, two markets which together cover most of the Dupont Circle neighborhood. The food-focused farmers market is open 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., while the flea market is open and full of tchotchkes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Little Flea market is your best bet to bring family members who are fans of both history and thrifting, with art and antiques from around the world, letting one see how frequently D.C. intersects with international politics. 

Heurich House

If your family tasks you with tour guiding on a day other than Sunday, stop by the Heurich House, also in Dupont Circle, for a different taste of the District’s international flavor — specifically, one that tastes like beer.

The gothic house was built in 1892 and was nicknamed the Brewmaster’s Castle, serving for many years as the base of operations for German American immigrant Christian Heurich’s brewing company. While it no longer actively churns out ales, the house is now a museum intended to explore Heurich’s experience as a German American immigrant living in D.C. during the late 1800s.

Ben’s Chili Bowl

Finally, wander 25 minutes from Dupont Circle to U Street, a historically Black neighborhood. The area has a vibrant jazz scene, denoted by sites for jazz legend and D.C. native Duke Ellington, spanning from his boyhood home in the neighborhood to jazz murals on the sides of parking garages.

Grab dinner at Ben’s Chili Bowl, a vibrant diner known for its chili half-smoke, a pork and beef hot dog topped with spicy chili. The half-smoke is the closest thing D.C. has to a signature food item as the hot dog variation is one of the few dishes which emerged within the DMV and continues to populate the area, from the original Ben’s to DCA to Nationals Park, giving you a  chance to introduce your family to the culinary culture of your soon-to-be alma mater.

Then-newlyweds Ben and Virginia Ali founded the diner in 1958 — and Virginia may even stop by your table to say hi as she still works at the restaurant. Photos from the March on Washington on the walls of Ben’s, where the Alis donated out their signature half-smoke, show the restaurant has long been woven into D.C. politics. Over its six decades of existence, countless visitors have munched on hot dogs at Ben’s — from Barack Obama and Pope Francis to Kevin Hart and Chance the Rapper — so join the diner’s legendary crowd before your time at GW comes to an end.

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