Vintage landscape: the lagoon

Washington, D.C., in July 1942, by Marjory Collins, via Library of CongressThe Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in July 1942.  Two raised corridors crossed it and connected Department of War buildings. Photo by Marjory Collins, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Above, small boys were swimming in the pool. Collins called it a “lagoon” in her original photo caption — an allusion to Washington, D.C.’s tropical summer weather.

Washington, D.C., in July 1942, by Marjory Collins, via Library of Congress

Along the sides of the water, under the trees, government workers were eating lunch on the grass.

Washington, D.C., in July 1942, by Marjory Collins, via Library of Congress

These men took advantage of the additional shade cast by the structures.

Washington, D.C., in July 1942, by Marjory Collins, via Library of Congress

“Temporary” buildings for various military branches were constructed along the north side of the pool in 1918.  The offices on the south side — and the corridors — were added during World War II.

The walkways were removed in 1947.  The last of the buildings came down in 1970.

Vintage landscape: winter ice of ’22

Skating on the Reflecting Pool of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., January 1922, by Harris & Ewing, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

To scroll through larger versions of the images, click on any of the thumbnails in the gallery.

The Pool and its surroundings were actually still under construction when these skaters took to the ice. From 1922 to the 1980s, people skated on the Pool during very cold periods (it’s no longer allowed).

These photos may have been taken between January 23 and 27, when an Arctic airmass was keeping Washington’s temperatures down below freezing.  On the 28th, it began to snow, eventually accumulating to 28″ (71 cm.).*  

This was the infamous Knickerbocker Storm, so named because, about 9:00 p.m. that night, the flat roof of the Knickerbocker Theater collapsed during a movie, killing 98 people and injuring 133.


*It was D.C.’s deepest snow on record until 2010.

Vintage landscape: clear sailing

Children with sailboats on the Reflecting Pool, 1920s, Library of Congress/enclos*ure“Children with sailboats at Reflecting Pool, Lincoln Memorial in background, Washington, D.C.,” in the 1920s. Photographer unknown, part of the National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Unfortunately, these little boats would be swamped today, as Washington is in the grip of tropical storm Andrea.

Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads,
Great, hollow, bell-like flowers,
Rumbling in the wind,
Stretching clappers to strike our ears . . .
Full-lipped flowers
Bitten by the sun
Bleeding rain
Dripping rain like golden honey—
And the sweet earth flying from the thunder.

— Jean Toomer, “Storm Ending