DC at Night

DC at Night

Sunday, October 27, 2013

White House Visits Back On for Now

The Kitchen Garden
The White House is open to the public again, at least temporarily. This weekend, for the first time since the sequester began seven months ago, tourists were able to take a garden tour of the White House grounds.

Visitors began lining up at the Ellipse Visitors Center on both days at 7:30 a.m. to get timed tickets distributed on a first-come, first-served basis for the tours, which began at 9 a.m and ended at 3 p.m. Tours of the White House itself will resume on Nov. 5 on a limited basis.

Serenaded by a military band, thousands of visitors used the two-day window to get the first up-close glimpse of the White House (except for the annual Easter Egg Roll which was underwritten by corporate donors and the sale of souvenir eggs) since March.

Usually, the public is able to view the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, the Rose Garden, and the South Lawn of the White House, as well as the White House Kitchen Garden planted under the direction of First Lady Michelle Obama, during two seasonal touring times.

The garden tours were begun by First Lady Patricia Nixon 40 years ago. However, President John Quincy Adams developed the first flower garden at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue in 1825.

Jefferson portion of the garden
While the gardens have always been popular, interest grew after Mrs. Obama joined DC-area school children to plant the special kitchen garden - the first vegetable garden on the property since Eleanor Roosevelt's Victory Garden during World War II. One particular bed in the garden is named after President Thomas Jefferson and the plants in that area are from seeds that have been passed down from those Jefferson planted at his Monticello home.

During the 16-day federal government shutdown earlier this month, the Washington Post ran a story about the garden being gangly and weedy.

The grounds are under the direction of the National Park Service and employees and White House volunteers were on hand to guide visitors and answer their questions. As expected, those attending (including us) snapped photos from just about every angle possible.

According to a booklet handed out to all visitors, the White House Grounds are the oldest continually maintained landscape in the country.

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