Arguably the best view of Washington DC is from a rather unexpected place. DC is very unique in its topography. While there are some hills, DC is a relatively low city with a very low skyline. The tallest building is the Washington Monument, and there are laws preventing new buildings from being built over 150 feet tall. The top of the Washington Monument does have a great view, but it’s right in the middle of the city. From here you can see snapshots of the city from the middle, but can’t see the total skyline. So the best view of the entire city comes from a high vantage point right across the Potomac River in Virginia – from Arlington Cemetery. A cemetery is an unusually place to see “a view”. But with DC directly behind you, as you cross Memorial Bridge you come to this regal entrance, with Arlington House sitting majestically on top of the hill – and from here you can see the whole city. A view like this makes you forget this could be a cemetery. With early fall setting in, the lush trees have taken on vibrant colors, only adding to the stunning beauty of this place.
There is a very rich history associated with Arlington Cemetery that will take a lot more posts to cover. For now, here is a short overview of its origins…..This was once a planation owned by Martha Washington, and in turn part of George Washington’s legacy. By marriage to Martha Washington’s grand daughter this property and Arlington House became Confederate Army General, Robert E. Lee’s, home for 30 years before the Civil War broke out. Since this was the highest point surrounding DC, this was a strategic military point that was captured by the Union Army, requiring the Lee family to flea their home shortly after the war was declared and were never able to return. When the Civil War ended, it proved to be the bloodiest war in US history with an overwhelming number of soldiers to bury. Partly out of necessity, but mostly to server as punishment for being a traitor to his country, Robert E. Lee’s home and this estate was taken over by the government to be used as a burial ground for soldiers, creating Arlington Cemetery.
The long walk to the of the hill where Arlington House is located is totally worth it. Tours are available to see the house which is filled with the rich history of the Washington and Lee families. But the best part is the breathtaking view of Washington DC right outside the house. At the edge of the hill is Pierre L’Enfant’s tomb. Pierre L’Enfant was a French born solider and engineer that fought in the American Revolution and made America his home. Though the city wasn’t built to his design until after his death, he is credited with being the architect of Washington DC. As a symbol of respect for his work, in 1909 L’Enfant’s remains were moved to Arlington Cemetery and he was given the best view of the city that he has designed. Standing here you can’t help but imagine that people lived here and saw this view everyday. Even without the buildings this must have been an amazing sight.
The sight from the top of the Arlington House has always been my favorite view of DC. From here you can see the whole panoramic view of Washington DC. On the right with all the historic buildings of the city. Some of the more popular ones are the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Capitol Building, and the Jefferson Memorial all in one glance. This was the first time I saw it in the autumn, and I’ve just fallen in love with this spot even more. The trees still so full and the leaves still changing colors, makes the city comes alive with color. It looks so different than any another time of the year.
Arlington Cemetery and its paradoxical existence. The home of the founding father transferred to the leader of the rebellion in the country. An unbeatable view of the cityscape seen in very few places around the world. Yet it can’t be fully enjoyed, due to the somberness as the final resting place of so many brave soldiers, presidents, and officials. A place that could have been a place for gathering and celebration is a place for solemnness and remembering – with a view that will give you something to remember.