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tv   American Artifacts Washington DC Tidal Basin Cherry Blossoms  CSPAN  July 9, 2021 11:41pm-12:04am EDT

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every spring thousands of people visit the washington dc tidal basin to see the cherry blossoms memorials to thomas jefferson franklin d roosevelt and martin luther king jr. stand on its banks the tidal basin started as an engineering project but is also served as a swimming hole a prote stthe tidal basin started as an engineering project, but also served as a swimming hole. protest grounds. and scene of a political spat scandal. memorial parks communication chief, mattis onsite to talk about the history and the famous japanese cherry trees. >> we are at the edge of the basin, home to the world famous cherry trees. they blossom every spring. well known to washingtonians, and people across the world. but as you've been here before
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1890 or so, we would be in the middle of the potomac river. this area has evolved over the years, there's been an element of recreation, but with the passing of time recreation has become much more important than it was initially. as early as 1890, there was an established swimming area, around what we call today the tidal basin. with the planting of the cherry trees in 1912, that really created interest and tourism and visitation around the title basin. and throughout the years as more and more memorials have been designed and built along the tidal basin we have seen to the numbers today where millions of visitors a year, make a trip for recreational purposes to this area. >> this area was reclaimed and dredged by the army engineers, starting about 1991, to create a pond and a basin of sorts
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that would operate off of the tides, hence the name the title title basin. they were looking as something to act as a visual centerpiece for the city, like the mall and they were looking for something they could harness with tides to help flush the channel settlement and debris. the washington channel is a narrow waterway sediment pedant silt builds up and to keep it navigable, they developed this title basin, where 250 million gallons of water are released from the title basin, and flushes the settlement away. there are two bridges, with access to the title basin. there is the outlet bridge, where the water goes out. and the inlet bridge were goes in. each of those bridges has gates
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on the other side of them. they closed the inlet gates in the morning, when it's full. and at the same time, the title action opens the outlet gates, and as they change each day the tides, taken in day out, the title action opens and closes the gates, to let the water in and let the water out. the cherry trees were the inspiration of washington writer, by the name of the's skin more. she had visited japan in -- to see the cherry trees there. to see what a lovely creation they are every spring. and a big part of japanese culture. when she returned to washington, she wanted to get a similar program underway here. and her efforts fell on deaf ears for quarter of a century,
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until she was able to get helen taft to agree with the cause, and the first cherry trees were planted in 20 in 1912. it was a gift from the japanese people. the landscape designers, who planted the trees did not leave behind a record and subsequent planning over the years has been other trees mixed in with the originals, so today is not known if any of the original ones still are there, but there's very old very gnarled cherry trees which can go back to the 1912. the life of a cherry tree, is only about 40 or 50 years, so out of the original shipment, there would be more than a handful that are still living. each year the national park service, replaces 90 trees
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around the tidal basin, in the east potomac park and around the grounds of the washington monument. cherry blossom festival, it originated out of the cherry trees themselves. coming down to visit the trees, and see the trees the festival elements were added in the 1930s. today as many as 1 million and a half people visit washington d.c. for the cherry blossom festival to not only see the trees, but take part in the event of the kite festival, the princess and her court, and capital parade. swimming was actually a popular recreational activity in the title basin. the first public swing here was established in 1890. the most famous of them, comes about in the early part of the
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20th century. there was an attempt by congress, as early as 1914, to build a swimming area a large swimming area, in the title basin. they studied it and the 1915 report shows that the water in the tidal basin was much of it was waste water and sewage, and they decided it was far too unsafe to swim in and they will continue to move forward however, in attempts to get that swimming area but plans to mitigate the unhealthy water and in 1917 construction begins on what would become the title basin bathing areas. that will be on the southeast side of the title basin. between the jefferson memorial and the outlet bridge. that area was chosen, because it was mostly where the fresh
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water passed through between the bridges. so there were some cleaner water there. they will attempt to mitigate the wastewater, but putting for large chlorine dispensers, on the other side of the inlet bridge. these are people putting out as much as 12 and a half pounds of chlorine every hour to clean the water, and to make it safe to bathe. the title basin bathing area, it opened in 1918 to the public, and became the place to be seen in washington d.c.. there were bathing pageants, aquatic festivals, crowds far beyond the capacity of the bathing area. there are accounts in 1919, of lines to get in which stretched as far as three blocks. and sometimes there were 20,000 people a day the pastor the
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bathing area. it did have its issues however, being the 1920s there was there was a loosening of morality in the country. and that extended here to the title basin. the length of women's bathing suits started to get shorter and shorter, to the point there was an employee, whose jobs it was to go around and measure the bathing suit making sure they were six inches more not more than six inches above the knee. segregation also came up at the tidal basin. when opened the tidal basin swimming area, was permitted for whites only. congress at one point, attempted to make a separate but equal situation, but drawing up plans for a bathing area for black patrons that would've been on the north side. however a number of southern senators, was worried about
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black swimming in the title basin, and they put down the proposal. as a result, congress stopped all swimming in the title basin, other than face questions about unequal facilities. by 1925, the tidal basin bathing area was no more. went back to what it was before. swimming taking place, but not in a regulated or establish area. while the decision to not desegregate the area, was one of the most unfortunate chapters of the tidal basin history, it provided an opportunity to mitigate some of that segregationist hit three. the construct of the bridge, was awarded to a construction firm out of iowa. they were college classmates at the university of ohio, and he played together on the
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university of ohio football team. alexander, was an african american, and the second black to play on the football team. he was a leading partner of the firm, and a specialized in the construction of bridges around the united states. including here in washington d.c.. the cuts bridge, and the white hirsch freeway. during the construction of the bridge, and the connection of the seawall, they employed a fully integrated work crew, that helped build those features. the south shore of the title basin, had been the division of a possible memorial.
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from the lincoln memorial, to the white house. franklin donor roosevelt, was interested in creating a monument to thomas jefferson. and talk about using the title basin for that memorial. putting the process through design and construction, the memorial was dedicated 1943, and construction had to continue through world war ii. the jefferson memorial, was not without controversy in terms of its location. the construction of the memorial, would require the removal of a number of cherry trees. despite the protest, known as the cherry tree rebellion, a number of women editor of the washington times herald, went down to the tidal basin one day, and chained themselves to the cherry trees, walking construction vehicles from coming in and removing the trees. they ultimately receive the
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concession, that any tree removed, would be replanted along the title basin. for more than 100 years, the cherry trees have been a beloved institution in washington d.c.. symbolizing the friendship between the people of united states and the people of japan. in the wake of the attack on pearl harbor, 1941, the love of the cherry trees was put to the test. washingtonians, for the duration of world war ii, would refer to them as the japanese flowering cherry trees, instead of referring to them as the oriental cherry trees. in fact in february of 1942, there was damage done to a number of the trees, and markings left behind, indicating that it was in retaliation for the attack on pearl harbor. following the dedication of the jefferson memorial, in 1943, the tidal basin would continue
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to come home, to some of d.c.'s most treasured landmarks. the jefferson memorial, was honored in -- . as the only president, to serve more than two terms, the memorial is divided into four rooms. one for each of roosevelts for terms. and its location next to the title basin, signifies the importance of water in roosevelts life. roosevelt spent much of his life, in soothing waters of springs and baths to ease his pain. the martin luther king jr. memorial, dedicated in 2001, sits on the northwest corner of the tidal basin. it was designed, among the cherry trees, which are generally in blue each year, on the anniversary of dr. king's death. the memorial design, is drawn
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from passages, which he says out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope. dr. king himself, is depicted as that stone of hope, emerging from the mountain of despair. which sits behind him at the memorial. and there are a number of quotations from his famous speeches. one of the most famous, or perhaps infamous incidents in the history of the tidal basin, -- wilbur mills, one time a car being driven down radically driven down the avenue, they had mills and ate an exotic dancer name fanny fox. fox and her panic, jumped out of the limousine, and went into the tidal basin. for meals, the scandal cost him
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his chairman ship. >> the gift of the cherry trees, from the people of japan has not been a one way street. the united states intern, has gifted the people of japan, with dog wood trees, and we've helped to repopulate some of the cherry trees that were lost in japan after world war ii. cuttings from, historic trees in japan, are given to the united states, to keep the population thriving and alive year, and likewise we have some cuttings from those original trees back to japan, for their use as well. the national park service, employs a full-time tree crew, to take care of the cherry trees, all year long and not just during the peak season. using modern or horticulture practices, we care for more than 3700 trees, which graze the title basin, and the
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grounds of the washington monument. the species of cherry trees planted, are flowered cherry trees. they don't produce the fruit, as many people expect to find among the cherry trees. every year during the first week of march, national park service has a projection of when the cherry trees are expected to blossom. since they were planted in 1912, the average bloom is the first week of april. around april 3rd, or april 4th. once the blossoms merge, they will stay on the trees for only seven to ten days, depending on weather conditions. the beauty of the japanese flowering cherry trees is pleading, a strong wind or heavy rain around the trees, can bring the blossoms down early, and bring an end to the cherry blossom season. the tidal basin, is now over
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125 years old. and time is taking a toll on the tidal basin and the sea walls around it. -- has occurred over the last century, as the sea walls continue to seep somewhat, and climate change is bringing the tides up higher and higher every day. portions go plays underwater every day, due to the rising tides. and the park service, some of our partners are also looking at options to revamp the tidal basin for the next 100 years. the trust for the national mall, are having and a title basin ideas lab. about what the tidal basin will look like in the next century. i moved to washington d.c. in 1970, for nearly as long as i can remember, the tidal basin and the cherry trees, have been an important part of my springtime ritual. my earliest memories with my
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family, are coming down and seeing the trees, i volunteered for the national cherry blossom vessel prayed when i was in high school, and continue to look forward to cherry blossom season, unlike any other time of the year. spring in washington dc's grandes springtime tradition when the cherry trees are out. there is no blue. there is no red in washington. everyone is pink.
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