Hi! My name is Grace and I am a student in the Illinois in Washington program for the Summer of 2017! I am currently a research, policy, and advocacy intern at Scenic America. Scenic America is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and promoting scenic beauty in America, particularly when it comes to scenic byways and community character. One of their bigger fights is stopping the construction of new billboards across America and my project is to research state billboard laws that dictate what a municipality or local government can or cannot do within their jurisdiction. Because I work Monday through Friday at the office, I am tasked with sorting mail, updating our donor base, and going through a process of archiving Scenic America’s older documents. Scenic America has its roots in the Lady Bird Johnson era and the creation of the Federal Highway Beautification Act, they have been an organization for 35 years! Some of the documents I come across are dated back to the 1970s and 80s!
Scenic America is located in Dupont Circle at the Historical Heurich House, also known as the Brewmaster’s Castle. It is pretty cool going to work at a mansion every day! Christian Heurich was a German immigrant that came to America and learned the trade of brewing from his father who was an innkeeper. Heurich had built and decorated the mansion with his second wife who unfortunately died shortly after the house was completed. Christian Heurich Brewing Company was the second largest brewing company in DC and had his brewing factory where the Kennedy Center sits today. The house was one of the first to have electricity and be completely fireproof which is very unusual in the late 1800s. Christian would marry a third time and then die in 1945 at the age of 102. He lived quite a prosperous life and left a great legacy to tell!
Working in this office is quite a treat because it succinctly lines up with Scenic America’s mission to preserve community character. It is also fun because the house has a garden in the back where I go to eat lunch every day! It’s a great little green area in the city to relax for my lunch hour and eat some awesome food truck food! It is little historical moments like Heurich House that gives Dupont Circle a little bit more character — not like it already has great livelihood with its restaurants, bars, and shops!
Outside of work, I have come to love this city more than I did before! It’s awesome to be so close to the zoo, a 10 minute Metro ride away from the Smithsonian museums, and a few minute stroll away from virtually anything to do in the city! I have come across some of the coolest places like Chinatown, the National Cathedral, and a national barbeque contest! Washington DC is like no other place because you can find high traffic, metropolitan areas but right nearby are some great walking trails and cute neighborhoods. One of the best weekends was the Fourth of July! Where else would you want to spend the nation’s Independence Day than the nation’s Capital? The coolest, but in my opinion, underrated museums is the Portrait Gallery! I also have captured a few good sunsets in DC. All in all, I don’t think you can ever be bored in a city quite like Washington DC! There’s still so much exploring to be done!
Last weekend I had to pleasure of visiting relatives in Richmond, Virginia! Richmond is about a 2 hour drive out from the city, but because I was visiting family, it felt like a breeze! We had so much to catch up on. It was a great experience visiting a more suburban city and made me miss home a little bit more! If you ever go to Richmond, visit their Edgar Allen Poe museum! It is a small museum dedicated to the creepy crawler author with some of his belongings he left behind before his mysterious death — I even saw a piece of his hair!
And finally, the Illinois in Washington program has given me so many awesome opportunities! Aside from hanging out with some of the other program participants and making new friends, we get to explore the city as a program! One of the best examples was touring the Capitol with Congressman Rodney Davis. It is quite different seeing the Rotunda empty and not full of tour groups! It was quite the awesome experience seeing the Capitol at night and watching the sunset from the Capitol balcony.
There have been a multitude of moments where I have appreciated the scenic beauty of the East Coast. Only increasing my motivation and passion to work for an organization like Scenic America. I thoroughly enjoy how my whole internship experience and time in Washington DC are interconnected. I will bring back to the Midwest some more appreciation for all that Illinois landscapes have to offer me!