More Oddities in Washington, DC

On November 22, 2010 · 7 Comments

It was great to be offered an opportunity to submit a guest post on Google Sightseeing, following in the footsteps of Kyle Kusch of The Basement Geographer. Google Sightseeing is one of my all-time favorite blogs and it was a pleasure working with its principal authors, Alex and James Turnbull.

I titled my guest post "Oddities in Washington, DC."

For those of you visiting here for the very first time following the link from that guest post, I offer my sincere welcome. For the regular readers of the Twelve Mile Circle, you’ll find the content similar to what you’ve come to expect here although maybe in smaller snippets.

I had way too much material. A bunch of examples hit the cutting room floor as I squeezed the article to keep the word count reasonable. Originally I had three ideas for each of the headings but I reduced it to two. The slashing was pretty severe. I know you’re thirsting for the rest of the material so I’ll gladly present the content that didn’t make it into Google Sightseeing.

We have Exclaves



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Travelers along the George Washington Parkway between Interstate 395 and Interstate 66 get to clip a little corner of the District of Columbia which owns the Potomac River up to the opposing riverbank. Visitors will not see a sign or any evidence notifying them as they enter the District nor when they leave it more than a mile further down the road.

Reason Cut: It’s not really an exclave. It’s an interesting anomaly especially for Virginia drivers who are aware of the situation but it’s also connected to the rest of the District by the Memorial Bridge.


We have Lines



I’m not featuring the U.S. Capitol because of its inherent iconography but because a visitor can stand beneath the dome and be in all four quadrants of the city (NE, SE, NW, SW) simultaneously!

Reason Cut: I was going to tie it in with the Original Capitol Columns entry. Ultimately I felt it strayed the furthest from the non-touristy angle I was taking, even if the oddity had less to do with the building and more to do with the invisible lines that run through it.


We have History



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What other location includes the ruins of an antebellum plantation tucked between two urban parking garages? One will find Abingdon Plantation, ancestral home to the Custis family, at Arlington’s National Airport.

Reason Cut: I could probably make a case that because Arlington and much of Alexandria in Virginia were once part of the original District of Columbia (prior to the 1847 retrocession), that they could fit within the subject matter of an article on Washington, DC oddities. I used that justification when I mentioned the boundary stones and it seemed to work because they were tied directly to the District’s territorial formation and adjustment. That’s not the case with other "former DC" locations so they were the first that I cut.


We have Conundrums



Again in Arlington, heads swivel when encountering the paradoxical church with a gasoline station beneath it. Some call this unusual combination Our Lady of the Gas Pump and others the Exxon United Methodist. I call it unique. Save your soul and fill your tank at the same time.

Reason Cut: Another "former DC" location now in Virginia. Cut.


We have Contradictions



Imagine an Air Force Base without a runway or airplanes. Fixed-wing airplanes haven’t landed at Bolling Air Force Base since the 1960’s although helicopters still use it. It still has the old control tower, though.

Reason Cut: This one seemed to fit the theme but it fell within in a tough category. One of them had to go and this was it. I’ve done some additional research on this topic and I expect to post an in-depth article someday in the future.

On November 22, 2010 · 7 Comments

7 Responses to “More Oddities in Washington, DC”

  1. When I logged into GSS to upload my second entry a few days ago and saw ‘Guest Post: Twelve Mile Circle’ in the queue, I knew it was going to be good (so good, it took two websites to contain it!). Meridians, exclaves, borders – for this geo-wonk, it’s just like Christmas, only I can’t collect Christmas in an RSS feed.

  2. Craig says:

    Speaking of the boundary stones, my friend Billy and I have made a goal of walking the stones. We started a few years ago taking a few of them at a time. We do it twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, and we’ve completed all of the stones from the southern to western to northern points with the exception of the less accessible stone on the reservoir land. This spring we’ll start working our way down the northeast side.

  3. David says:

    I knew about the first eliminated one this summer and it (almost) got me in trouble at my summer job!

    I drove a pedicab–lots of fun to drive, great exercise–and one of the very few conditions of employment was that we wouldn’t take the pedicab out of The District. No Problem, I told my boss. But people kept asking me to take them to Arlington Cemetery. I thought my only recourse was to turn them down or to offer to drop them at the Lincoln Memorial. At some point, I checked the actual district boundaries (which as we’ve learned, Nicaragua, aren’t always right on The Google) and decided it would be okay to take them to the DC side of Boundary Channel there. Which garnered me tons (!!) of rides and eventually the attention of my boss… but I showed him google maps and he said that I was right and could continue to ride over there!

    So, thanks for the great stories, keep it up!

  4. Cape May says:

    I was once in an accident on the westbound side of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge just as it crosses the D.C. exclave. The drivers couldn’t pull over until we got off the bridge. The Virginia State Police responded, once we got to a gas station on the Alexandria side, but the cops couldn’t figure out which jurisdiction had the accident – VA, DC, or MD, because no one could really say where the collision occurred. As it turned out, the cops didn’t issue anyone a citation because they could not determine whether they had the legal authority to do so, so they just issued accident exchange forms and left. Weird!

  5. Thias says:

    Hey, Thias here reporting from the hospital.
    In the global boredom lying here, I was watching a stupid tv game. The final question to the last candidate was the most interesting one of all the show. That was:
    “A plane is leaving Paris straightly northward. Which country (actual territory) is it flying over first?”
    Foreign country, of course.
    The answers given were ‘belgium, england, or an other one’

    And the answer is…

    Russia. Yep.

  6. Mr Burns says:

    Congrats on your post being named to Google Sightseeing Awards 2010 in the category “Best Local’s Guide”!

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