O’er the Ramparts They Watched
Some local luminaries share where they’ll check out fireworks this year:
Ryan Holladay’s band, Bluebrain, made a geo-sensitive musical iPhone app called The National Mall—which is exactly where he’s going. “I realize I’m in the minority of locals on this one, but my favorite place to be on July 4 is downtown to watch the fireworks,” Holladay says. “Yes, there are awful cover bands, yes, it’s crowded, and locating a bathroom is a pain...but you’re a part of it, this diverse sea of people, celebrating together. It’s a ‘We the people’ moment.”
There’ll be no “We the People” moment for We the Pizza (and Good Stuff Eatery) chef and owner Spike Mendelsohn. “I’ll be watching the fireworks from Costa Rica with binoculars,” he says.
Although she lives near Cardozo Senior High School, whose surrounding hills sport some of the city’s best views, Office of Planning Director Harriet Tregoning says she’ll be leaving the neighborhood this year. “I go to Cardozo normally and try not to be too near the cars that kids put the fireworks UNDER!,” she writes, “but this year we will be on a rooftop of some friends’ new condo in the West End.”
“I recently moved into a new building in Chinatown, and we plan to watch fireworks from the roof,” says Graffiato and Bandolero chef and owner Mike Isabella. “It’s nice living so close to the Capitol. We have a great view and don’t have to fight traffic or crowds.”
Ten years ago, developer Jim Abdo found the 100-year-old Bryan School at 13th Street and Independence Avenue SE. “There was a ladder that went up to the roof, and I had to go through an attic filled with hundreds of pigeons,” he says. “I was literally speechless. The view that I saw up there was unquestionably the best view of the nation’s capital. It’s the tallest building on one of the tallest pieces of land. All around it are two-story and three-story rowhouses. I went through a lot to get approvals to put rooftop penthouse projections on the top floor. Each one has a staircase that takes you up through to an all-glass penthouse.”
Ultimately, Abdo didn’t sell two of the units. He rented them out instead—one to the vice president of his company, who sometimes invites him back. “The view was so compelling that I couldn’t sell them. Just knowing that I still own them is good enough for me.”
This year, though, Vornado president Mitchell Schear invited Abdo to the roof of one of his buildings, which he declined to identify.
“I’m trying to decide,” says Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry. He tentatively plans to watch the fireworks from the rooftop of the W Hotel. His backup, which he says he’d like to avoid, is the Panorama Room. (Barry says it will be easier for his guests to relax and unwind on a hotel rooftop.) Barry says the Fourth is a special time for him because it’s the birthday of his late wife, Effi Barry.
“My plan is to watch the fireworks from the balcony of [NBC 4 reporter] Tom Sherwood’s apartment in Southwest Washington,” WAMU host Kojo Nnamdi says. “Tom Sherwood is not yet aware of my plans.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery