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Everyone knows that the height of Washington, DC buildings is restricted, and many people mistakenly think the law says that buildings can be no higher than the Capitol Dome, which is a myth. In 1910, the Federal Government passed the Height of Buildings Act of 1910 which amended the Height of Buildings Act of 1899. See? You just learned something - there were two of them! After you read this post, you'll get the greatest benefit if you read the Wikipedia article about 1899 first (which includes a section about the Capitol Dome myth), and then the one about 1910 next. The 1899 law limited height to between 60 and 130 feet, and if you read the fascinating article (and the Act itself), it seems to make reasonable sense. Architecture aside, I can see a legitimate fear about fires breaking out many stories above the ground (don't forget - we had no motor-powered firetrucks, and certainly no high-tech hook-and-ladder vehicles, in 1899). Interestingly, an impetus for the 1899 Act was The Cairo apartment building in North Dupont. Built in 1894, it was the tallest building in the entire city at 14 stories (164 feet), and to this very day, it remains DC's tallest residential building. Most of the material was covered by the 1899 Act (which is why you should read it first), and the 1910 Act served largely to "make minor modifications and tighten it up," and that 1910 Act is still the law today. Here is the current law, as of Mar 11, 2016, in my everyday, "roadside prose," as Vladimir Nabokov would say: * No building can be taller than the width of the street in front of it plus twenty feet. For example, if the street directly in front of a building is 40 feet from-curb-to-curb, the building can only be 60-feet tall. * No building can be taller than 130 feet, with one exception: on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue between 1st and 15th Streets NW (the parade route), a building can be 160-feet tall. * On a residential street, no building can be taller than 90 feet. * On a corner lot, the wider of the two streets is used as the basis for calculation. * On blocks adjacent to public buildings (e.g., schools), the maximum height is to be determined by a schedule written by the DC Council. * Next to the front of Union Station (the plaza), all buildings must be fireproof and cannot be taller than 80 feet. * Section 5, Paragraph h, is extremely long, but basically says that things like spires, towers, steeples, chimneys, smokestacks, etc. are exempt (this is an extreme simplification). If you're familiar with these seven bullet-points, you know the law better than 99.9% of the DC population. If anyone cares to discuss this further so that we can hit 99.999%, that's okay by me. The Tallest Buildings in Washington, DC 1. The Hughes Memorial Tower (1989, 761 feet) in Brightwood is the tallest structure in the Baltimore-DC metropolitan area (note the last bullet point above - it's exempt). 2. The Washington Monument (1848-1888, 555 feet) was grandfathered in, as were several other buildings and structures. 3. * The Basilica of the Natural Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (1920-1959, 329 feet) is one of the ten largest churches in the world, and the tallest habitable building in DC - it was granted an exemption). 4. * The Old Post Office Building (1892-1899, 315 feet) is being leased to The Trump Organization - there is a great deal of complexity to this lease, so bone up before chiming in, please. 5. The National Cathedral (1907-1990, 301 feet) is the second-largest church in the U.S. after The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. 6. * The United States Capitol (1793-1863, 289 feet) is under a major, three-year, external restoration project, and will have scaffolding around the dome until early 2017. 7. One Franklin Square (1989, 210 feet) is the tallest commercial building in DC, and is now home to The Washington Post - I'm curious why (and how) this building got an exemption. * These three buildings have the distinction of being the only buildings to claim that they are (were) "the tallest buildings in Washington, DC." I don't understand how the Basilica is "one of the ten largest churches in the world," but the Cathedral is the "second-largest church in the U.S." Here's a list of the Largest Church Buildings in the World - it looks like the claim about the Basilica could be referring to the exterior, which would make everything consistent. Note also the incredible discrepancy between exterior and interior of The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Ivory Coast. It's extremely thought-provoking that a "times-have-changed" mentality can easily be envisioned (and justified) while reading about these two Acts; yet, they were both passed over 100 years *after* the 2nd Amendment became law. No, this post was not some grand, manipulative build-up to ram a private political agenda down your throats; this one, largely unrelated item is merely an interesting point to ponder in its own right. I am also going on-record, right here, right now, and predicting that the Height of Buildings Act of 1910 will be overturned within the next fifty years, and that height restrictions will be greatly lifted, if not essentially removed altogether. Washington, DC, circa 2300 - if it's not a pile of rubble - is going to look a lot like Manhattan. And I think it's *so cool* that someone is going to look back and examine this statement in 284 years. "What the hell does 'so cool' mean?" they'll ask.
Speaking of morbid sentimental songs, one of my very favorite morbid sentimental songs is "Danny Boy", and the late Irish tenor Frank Patterson sang it (below) as well as anyone ever could. I think a lot of people know the first chorus, with its pipes calling, but not so much the second, with the dying flowers and the singer anticipating his or her own death. ("And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be" plumbs the morbid depths, doesn't it?) This song always provokes a question as to the relationship between the singer and Danny. Many interpretations are possible, but I've always imagined the singer to be Danny's mother, saying good-bye as Danny emigrates to America during the Famine. Morbid, sentimental, and heart-breaking. Having just lost my own mother, this is even likelier to make me cry than otherwise. The up-beat big-band version of the tune used as the opening theme for the Danny Thomas sitcom "Make Room for Daddy" has always struck me as rather grotesque.
In 1910, Hugh Chalmers of Chalmers Motor Car Company came up with a promotion that awarded the American League and National League batting champions each a new Chalmers Model 30, which was considered a pretty sweet ride in its day. Well, needless to say, this meant something to players at the time - in fact, it meant a lot. How much? Ty Cobb sat out the final 2 games of the 1910 season because he was a few points ahead of Napoleon "Nap" Lajoie of the St. Louis Browns, and didn't want to lose his lead. (Contrast this to what Ted Williams did on the final day of the 1941 season when he batted .406 that year - coming into a double-header, Williams' average was .39955 which would have rounded up to .400. Williams could have sat out and officially hit .400, but elected to play both games - and he went 6 for 8!) But Cobb wanted the car (and the title), so he sat out, and Lajoie - like Williams, playing a double-header on the final day of the season - was purposely played deep by the Cleveland Indians, but he bunted 6 times for 6 hits (with a wink and a nod by the Indians, who wanted him to win the title - Ty Cobb had enemies). And, on top of that, he hit a triple and a single; his only official "out" was on an error by the Indians' shortstop, which made him 8 for 9 on the day. If he had gone 9 for 9, he would have absolutely won the batting title and the car; as it stood, Lajoie and Cobb were just about tied. The owner of Lajoie's team sent out the batboy with a note to the umpire - they tried to bribe him with a new set of clothes if he'd change the ruling from an error to a single, but the umpire honorably declined. Fans around the country were angry that Cobb sat out, but absolutely incensed that Lajoie was essentially being handed base hits, making a mockery of the game. Chalmers calmed things down by giving a car to both players. "1910 Chalmers Award" on baseball-reference.com "1910 Chalmers Award" on wikipedia.com "March 25, 1910: Chalmers Award Is Born" by Craig Muder on baseballhall.org "1910 - A Carload Of Trouble" on thisgreatgame.com