Day 4 - New York to Washington DC  
    Union Station, Washington DC    
Minolta X-570 with 17mm f/4 MC W.Rokkor Film: Kodak Portra 400UC

After three full days in New York it was all too soon time to leave. I packed my bags and got a cab to Grand Central Station for my train to Washington DC.

Travelling on the East coast of the USA is easy and relatively inexpensive with Amtrak. The journey from New York to Washington DC took about three hours and twenty minutes, and cost US$72. Along the way I got to see some interesting (and not so interesting) parts of the country, but in all it is a very civilised way to travel.

My plans were to spend 6 nights in Washington, the first three of which were to be with an Australian ex-pat named Phil, the brother of a close friend. Phil had gone to the USA to study and ended up completing a doctorate in economics at Georgetown. He now works at the Pentagon, helping the US Army work out how much to pay people (or something like that).


Union Station, Interior


Minolta X-570 with 35mm f/1.8 MD Rokkor-X Film: Kodak Portra 400UC


The gateway to Washington DC is Union Station. At its completion in 1908 it was the largest railway station in the world, and covered the greatest area of any building in the United States. It was designed by architect Daniel Burnham to be monumental in every respect, and to act as a suitably impressive introduction to the capital. Naturally, at the time of its construction most visitors arrived by train, and accordingly this building was the first sight many people had of DC.

The building and its approaches cost over $125 million to build, and over seventy pounds of gold leaf adorn the 96 foot ceilings. It served the public faithfully for many years, but by the 1960s the advent of inexpensive commercial air travel had resulted in the building becoming virtually disused. In 1968 the concept was developed to turn the building into the "National Visitor Centre" in time for the bicentennial in 1976, however by 1978 poor attendances forced the closure of the centre, and rain damage that was unrepaired resulted in the entire building being closed in 1981.

At this time Congress debated the future of the station, and eventually enacted the Union Station Redevelopment Act. A public/private development group worked to faithfully restore the station to its original glory, and by 1984 at a cost of $160 million the centre was completed.

Union Station is now the most visited building in the Capitol with over $25 million visitors to its station and shops per annum.

Union Station, Washington DC
Minolta X-570 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X. Film: Fuji Superia Reala

It was raining heavily on the day I arrived, and so an external shot of the station was impractical. As a result, when passing it a few days later I took the above shot. I Included it here so that you could see the Station in all its glory.

I caught a cab up to Columbia Heights, the area of DC where Phil had his property, and met him and settled in for the afternoon with a cold beer - after all it had been a long day.

Columbia Heights is situated in Northwest Washington DC, and has had a poor reputation as an area with problems. In fact, in 1968 the suburb was the location of some major race riots that resulted in stores being looted and burned. Even as recently as the late 1990's the neighbourhood had major problems with violent crime, and while many houses were renovated and attractive, they existed alongside houses that were boarded up, attracting squatters.

In 1999 the situation changed somewhat, with the opening of the Columbia Heights subway station. The station and the economic development that followed it have seen the area improve and it is now seeing redevelopment and becoming a more sought after locale.

After a couple of beers at home, Phil and I went out and had a nice dinner, and then a few drinks at a local DC bar.


Time for a drink!


Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

Day four was a day of travel and so I had not a lot of photographs to show for it, however that was soon to be remedied. Phil and I spent the night discussing what I might choose to see on day five (Wednesday 3rd September 2003), and I was certain that the cameras would get a workout the following day. I hope you will join me again next week when day five unfolds.
Washington - Day 5
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