The Reading Room

Walking Tours of Old Washington and Alexandria

Paul Hogarth’s paintings of Old Washington and Alexandria….

First published in 1985, the artist Paul Hogarth continued his fascinating walking tour series of America which began in 1976 with his tour of Philadelphia and again in 1978 with Old Boston.

Seven routes and sixty one paintings make up this lovely volume which takes in The White House and its neighbourhood, Capitol Hill, Downtown, the Mansions of Massachusetts Avenue, Georgetown, Mount Vernon and Old Town Alexandria. Once again Hogarth includes his own maps and notes detailing distance, walking times, addresses, opening times and phone numbers. There are details of the metro bus, advice on the weather and duration of  one’s stay.  It is written in the same unique style as his paintings, creating a charming picture of fabulous colonial architecture, leafy avenues and fine churches.

Take the painting of the Friendship Fire Engine Company Firehouse opposite, Hogarth tells us this was home to the earliest group of volunteers established in 1774 which boasted members from Presidents to governors and local celebrities. It is a wonderful building which was built in 1855, Hogarth reveals George Washington himself was a volunteer and donated a hand-pump fire engine from his own money. The importance of the fire engine cannot be overstated, in the eighteenth century little was more feared than fire and by the early 1750s the town had ordered that all wooden buildings were to be replaced with brick and stone to prevent any further outbreaks. As a painting love the red brick colouring and the shadowing on the side of the building, Hogarth cannot  resist the addition of a dog walker on the cobbled street.

One of my favourite paintings in the book is of the Hauge Mansion (opposite) Built between 1906 and 1907 and paid for by the wealthy widow Louise Grundy Todd for her second husband the Norwegian diplomat Christian Hauge.

Their original residence proved too small for the parties she intended so she hired the architect George Oakley Totten Jr to create this Beaux-arts style palace. Whilst the building was being finished the couple spent three months in Europe buying furnishings for their new home but a month after their return Hauge suddenly died in Oslo. Louise remained in the house until her death in 1927, two years later it became the Czechoslovakian Embassy from1929 until 1969.  It was then sold to the Federal Republic of Cameroon in 1972. It’s a wonderful painting of a remarkable building.

My final choice (very difficult to choose!) is of St John’s Episcopal Church built between 1815 and 1816 on Lafayette Square contains the Presidents Pew on which every US President since Madison has sat.

This is a book for lovers of art as well as American history, it captures the America of yesteryear is a series of charming paintings. Hogarth was in his element here and it shows.

For more information and a bibliography of Paul Hogarth please click here

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