The Two Fates of the Old East Portico

If you were present for any of the presidential inaugurations, from Andrew Jackson to Dwight D. Eisenhower, you saw the solemn oath of office taken between twenty-two smooth sandstone columns at the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol Building. The slabs that made up the columns were considered so important that when they were transported from a barge on the Potomac River to Capitol Hill in 1824, they were pulled by man power alone, because lowly mules were deemed unfit to move such sacred objects.

The columns did not have the same standing in 1958. During the renovation of the East Portico, the columns were removed, crated and stored, until a couple of women fought to put them back on their feet in the National Arboretum. Other parts of the façade were also carted away in the renovation, but they didn’t get quite the same treatment. Those pieces of the old U.S. Capitol were brought to their final resting place in a little known, unmarked spot in the woods in Rock Creek Park, miles away from the gloriously presented columns.

The episode was produced by Sam Greenspan and Jess Schreibstien, with help from Melissa Lee and John Asante. The four of them have their own fledgling podcast called Whisper Cities. It presents stories of overheard and out-of-site places. I’m expecting big things!

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  1. The Whisper Cities website is almost completely empty. There are a couple of graphics, nothing to click on. If you’re still in touch with them, which I’m sure you are, it would be well appreciated if you asked them about it. I really like their premise, and it is unfortunate that they didn’t go anywhere with it.

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