The Land of Contrasts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 289 pages of information about The Land of Contrasts.
to my untutored European taste the absurdity of their wearing low-necked evening gowns while their guests sported hat and jacket and fur.  The whole tone of Washington society from the President downward is one of the greatest hospitality and geniality towards strangers.  The city is beautifully laid out, and its plan may be described as that of a wheel laid on a gridiron, the rectangular arrangement of the streets having superimposed on it a system of radiating avenues, lined with trees and named for the different States of the Union.  The city is governed and kept admirably in order by a board of commissioners appointed by the President.  The sobriquet of “City of Magnificent Distances,” applied to Washington when its framework seemed unnecessarily large for its growth, is still deserved, perhaps, for the width of its streets and the spaciousness of its parks and squares.  The floating white dome of the Capitol dominates the entire city, and almost every street-vista ends in an imposing public building, a mass of luxuriant greenery, or at the least a memorial statue.  The little wooden houses of the coloured squatters that used to alternate freely with the statelier mansions of officialdom are now rapidly disappearing; and some, perhaps, will regret the obliteration of the element of picturesqueness suggested in the quaint contrast.  The absence of the wealth-suggesting but artistically somewhat sordid accompaniments of a busy industrialism also contributes to Washington’s position as one of the most singularly handsome cities on the globe.  Among the other striking features of the American capital is the Washington Memorial, a huge obelisk raising its metal-tipped apex to a height of five hundred and fifty-five feet.  There are those who consider this a meaningless pile of masonry; but the writer sympathises rather with the critics who find it, in its massive and heaven-reaching simplicity, a fit counterpart to the Capitol and one of the noblest monuments ever raised to mortal man.  When gleaming in the westering sun, like a slender, tapering, sky-pointing finger of gold, no finer index can be imagined to direct the gazer to the record of a glorious history.  Near the monument is the White House, a building which, in its modest yet adequate dimensions, embodies the democratic ideal more fitly, it may be feared, than certain other phases of the Great Republic.  Without cataloguing the other public buildings of Washington, we may quit it with a glow of patriotic fervour over the fact that the Smithsonian Institute here, one of the most important scientific institutions in the world, was founded by an Englishman, who, so far as is known, never even visited the United States, but left his large fortune for “the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men,” to the care of that country with whose generous and popular principles he was most in sympathy.


[24] This refers to 1893; things are much better now.

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The Land of Contrasts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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