Tuesday, September 30, 2008


The Washington Hilton: Site of the White House Correspondents Dinner,
inaugural balls, fundraisers, and attempted assassinations.

Continuing on the theme of books, I can't recommend any of the books featured at this past weekend's festival. Not because they aren't good, but because I haven't read any of them. However, if you're interested in American history and you appreciate quirky perspectives, one book you'll want to read is Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation. Assassinations? And vacations? Together? Why would you want to read about that?!

Americans are fascinated by tragedy and assassinations rank right up. Especially when it involves an admired figure or handsome young politician like Abraham Lincoln or John F. Kennedy. Vowell's book is a series of essays that document her quirky roadtrip around the country to document the circumstances and players involved in the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. She does not, however, include Kennedy or the attempts on Ford, Reagan, and Bush Sr. (his came after he left office)--one of whom is the point of today's entry.

This garage now sits on the location where presidents use to emerge
from the Hilton and could be seen by gawkers and sightseekers.
They still emerge from the same location, but into this enclosed garage--
away from the eyes and guns of would-be assassins.

These pictures feature the Washington Hilton, the site of John Hinckley, Jr.'s failed attempt to kill President Ronald Reagan in a twisted bid to win the love of actress Jodie Foster. The top photo shows the hotel as you see it from the corner of Connecticut and T Streets NW. Note in the bottom right corner of the photo a garage. It is located on the spot where Hinckley stood in a crowd of reporters and photographers and is the point where President Reagan emerged on that fateful day. Originally, it was an open space. No garage. After the attempt on his life, this garage was added as a security feature. Now, when the president arrives at the Hilton for events--and there are several presidents attend here, including inaugural balls, the White House Correspondents Dinner, and fundraisers--his limousine pulls into this garage. The doors on both ends are closed and secured and only then does the president emerge from his car and proceed into the hotel.

Why more frequent public viewings of the president are a thing of the past:
assassination attempts and the uptick in security features.

And now, if you've ever wondered what that garage is at the Hilton or why you don't see the president as often in random crowd shots, you have the answer: the terrorists and assassins have won.

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 09/08


Virginia said...

Love the knee jerk mentality. Because someone tried it 30 years ago, we will build a garage around the spot. There are sure to be a steady stream of would be assassins all waiting to try it again right in the same exact place.

Lucy said...

That is so interesting! I'm staying with you next time I ever come out. The only thing about these kind of things is that they always do something after the fact when it will probably never be done again. If we could only think forward and not fix backward.

MigsCFLer said...

Great pics, thanks so much for sharing. I really enjoyed your blog as Washington DC is definately on my must visit list



marley said...

This is a really interesting post, and I really mean it (I'm not saying I don't mean it normally but this really interests me.)

This little garage, probably the most important in the world, is the result of several tragic days and a few failed attempts. Fascinating.

D.C. Confidential said...

Virginia: That's Washington for you. Always responding defensively. Never thinking offensively.

Lucy: Okay! I'll let up the basement to be all your own. It's snug and cozy and cool down there. Has it's own bathroom and everything. Then we'll traipse all over the city and see assassination prevention mechanisms and other oddities. P.S. Don't you think NG will be jealous, though?

Mig: Glad you're enjoying my crazy corner of the world! If you come for a visit, give a holler. We'll go photowalking.

Marley: I'm glad you liked this one. You should check out Vowell's book. It's a fun read chock full of interesting facts. Who knew an otherwise unassuming garage could be so interesting, eh?

Maya said...

Ah yes, we must all live in fear!

I remember the day Reagan was shot. I found out while sitting in my Jr. High classroom. I just can't remember if the subject was music or sex ed.

I suppose you can't blame Hinckley too much for wanting to win the love of Jodie Foster (maybe just his methods)!

D.C. Confidential said...

Maya: It had to be music. Reagan didn't believe in sex ed! (Remember, this is the president who ignored the AIDS crisis until it was too late.) As for Hinckley, one cannot blame him for loving Jodi Foster. Who doesn't?

Maya said...

Fortunately, the city was in control of the sex ed classes and we were some of the first to have them. I did have one that year, I just don't know if I was in it at the time I heard about the shooting.

D.C. Confidential said...

Maya: Well, if you had been, how ironic would that be? :-)