How many of these facts do you know?
*Originally published on April 9, 2018:
Do you feel like you know our nation’s capital inside and out? If you’re already familiar with these fun facts, then perhaps you’ve taken one too many tours! Here are some fun facts you can use to impress your friends living outside the D.C. area:
George Washington Never Lived in the White House
Believe it or not, our first president never even lived in D.C.! Washington concluded his role as chief executive in 1797 and later died in 1799, just one year before the federal government moved from Philadelphia to its current home in our nation’s capital. While he did approve of the house’s architectural design and where it’d be placed, the White House wasn’t completed until 1800, after Washington had passed.
2 Presidents Kept Alligators at the White House
Before PETA was around to protest, both John Adams and Herbert Hoover casually owned pet alligators; and, yes, they somehow rationalized lodging them in the White House. Adams received his as a gift from Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette and kept it nestled in the unfinished East Room bathtub. Fast-forward a century and the reptile reappeared in the White House in the midst of the Great Depression during Hoover’s term -- this time as a pet for his son. Frankly, alligators are hardly the most shocking pet to be housed in the White House. Many of our nation’s leaders have kept a plethora of peculiar pets during their presidency, including a hyena, a bear, a hippo, and a bobcat!
Darth Vader Lives Atop the National Cathedral
You can spot the nefarious villain from a galaxy far, far away around the northwest tower of the National Cathedral, though you may need to bring some binoculars to see him clearly. The grotesque came to be when the Cathedral held a design-a-carving contest in the 1980s. The friendly competition wound up "going viral" (or, in this case, garnered nationwide attention through an issue of National Geographic World magazine), and a drawing of Darth was submitted by Christopher Rader, winning third place. If you’re having trouble finding the evildoer during your next trip, the Cathedral’s official website provides helpful instructions for finding him!
Over 1,000 Items are Found on the Metro Every Month
Well, to be fair, it is the second busiest subway system in the U.S. And everyone traveling always seems to be in a rush, so it makes sense a few loose items are accidentally left behind in the chaos. You’ll want to mark your personal items with a special symbol the next time you venture onto the Metro, because somewhere between 300 to 350 keys, 275 to 300 cellphones, about 300 pairs of sunglasses, and 200 wallets are turned in every month. Among the mountains of miscellaneous items, some of the weirdest things to turn up are prosthetic limbs and specimen cases full of dead sea creatures!
Supposedly, the Capitol Is Haunted by a Ghost Cat ...
The last known sighting of the "Demon Cat" falls around the final days leading up to the end of World War II. However, the legend itself goes back hundreds of years. Cats were left to roam free in the basement tunnels of the Capitol building to hunt rats and mice. Allegedly, the Demon Cat was chosen to stick around the crypt (originally intended as a burial chamber for George Washington) even after death. Witnesses have described the cat as fully black and, normally, of average size. However, it’s been reported to suddenly grow up to 10 feet before suddenly lunging at its victim, or exploding. While it seems exciting to experience a potential ghost sighting, you may be better off never spotting the Demon Cat. According to legend, the apparition only appears prior to presidential elections, or just before tragedy befalls D.C.
What's the most interesting D.C. fun fact you've heard? Let us know in the comments!