- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

For people visiting the District’s most famous monuments, yesterday wasn’t just a day off from work: It was a day of pilgrimage, a day of remembrance and a day of inspiration.

“Every time I’m here, I learn something more,” said teacher Bill Bower, 55, of Valley Forge, Pa., as he toured Mount Vernon on Presidents Day. “I spend about a month teaching my fourth-graders about George Washington.”

Many visitors at the home of the first president came with trivia to share.

“Yes, he probably had false teeth,” said Gary Mason, 50, who came with his wife, Sara Leach, 45.

The Arlington couple is interested in presidential history and knew that Washington’s hair was red and that he was 6 feet, 2 inches tall.

They’ve even been to the house in Barbados where Washington lived when he was 19.

“It’s the only house on foreign soil that our National Trust supports,” Mrs. Leach said.

Many who wanted to pay their respects closer to home visited the Washington Monument downtown. The only problem was that the free tickets were gone by 11 a.m.

“I guess the only way to get tickets is to show up at a very early hour,” said a disappointed Doug Wright of Morris City, N.J.

Mr. Wright, 31, and Kathy Koza, 30, came to the District for a Valentine’s getaway weekend and had hoped to at least walk up to the monument.

Instead, they found the entire lawn around the obelisk walled off to pedestrians.

“We didn’t need tickets last time,” Mr. Wright said.

The monument has been closed for several months while a security wall is being built, said Mike Balis, a park ranger.

For now, about 15,000 tickets are distributed each day, starting at 8 a.m.

At the Lincoln Memorial, second-grader Gregory Allspaugh came face-to-face with a hero.

“Enormous,” said 8-year-old Gregory, while looking at the 19-foot-tall statue. “He looked like a big giant sitting there.”

Gregory said he is learning about Lincoln at Grace and Saint Peters School in Baltimore.

“He wrote the Emancipation Proclamation,” he said. “It helped free slaves from slavery.”

Zach Splitt, in town from Illinois with the Quincy University volleyball team to play George Mason University, also admired the size of the statue.

“This was one man, and it’s so huge.” said Mr. Splitt, who seemed indifferent to the cold wind yesterday.

His teammates from California were another matter, Assistant Coach Ryan Dean, 25, said.

Although it was Presidents Day, few in the District knew that Woodrow Wilson was the only commander in chief buried within the city limits.

His grave is in one of sanctuary walls of the National Cathedral, but there is little to alert visitors to his presence.

“I think I learned that a couple of times, but I don’t think I could have reproduced that fact,” said Nate Hultman, a Georgetown University professor of science, technology and international relations, who was walking through the sanctuary with his wife, Ellen, and their 10-month-old daughter, Linnea.

The Cathedral directs inquiries about Presidents Day to the George Washington bay, an alcove to the right of the visitors desk. There, a solemn statue of Washington looms over visitors. The statue’s eyes look toward the pulpit and Wilson’s tomb.

Special prayers that reference Washington traditionally are said on Presidents Day.

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