While Waterfront Reopens, Some Messes Still Need Cleaning Up

June 29, 2011

The Georgetown Waterfront continues to recover from its April 18 soaking, with both Tony and Joe’s and Nick’s outdoor dining reopening and the indoor restaurants continuing with renovations. Visitors to the area are trickling back, drawn in by events such as last weekend’s Dragon Boat Race and next Sunday’s Georgetown Waterfront Summer Celebration. The festival, hosted by the Georgetown BID and Washington Harbor, will feature a steel drum band, food catered by the area’s restaurants, face painting and a water balloon toss at 2 p.m. which is endorsed by the Washington Post’s “Going Out Guide.”

Despite all the revelry that is returning to the Georgetown Waterfront, it is difficult to ignore that fact that many windows are still boarded shut and employees who have been out of work since the flood are awaiting the outcome of a $5 million class action lawsuit against MRP Realty.

Why weren’t the floodwalls raised? This question appeared in almost all media coverage of the waterfront flooding which filled restaurants and businesses with as much as 12 feet of water. When the National Weather Service issues a flood warning, based on the water levels measured by a gauge at Harper’s Ferry, Washington Harbour and surrounding areas have about a day and a half to raise the floodwalls. This process takes about five hours to complete and costs approximately $15,000. The responsibility of this undertaking rests with the property owners.

MRP Realty bought the Washington Harbor from Prudential Real Estate Investors in June 2010 for about $240 million. MRP’s property management unit now oversees the waterfront area, a job previously managed for ten years by John Wilson until 1998, followed by Larry McCulley through Sept. 2010, neither of whom faced flooding problems of this scale. MRP has not provided explanation as to why the floodwalls were only partially raised or in some places, not raised at all.

A few days after the flood, Gary Mason of Mason LLP, a D.C. law firm, filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court on behalf of Charles Holcomb of Alexandria, a bartender at Farmers and Fishers. The federal court dismissed the initial complaint, but Mason filed a second complaint in the D.C. Superior Court on behalf of what is now 43 plaintiffs who are “persons and entities who have lost or will lose income as a result of the flooding.” The complaint alleges that MRP had sufficient time to raise the floodwalls and should have been aware of the risk posed to the Washington Harbour businesses, and was negligent in its failure to respond to that risk.

There have been no further developments in the case, but Mason hopes to settle with MRP and avoid a trial. A representative from MRP could not comment on the progression of the lawsuit.

The reconstruction of the affected establishments continues almost three months after the storm, but the National Flood Insurance generally covers property damage on the Washington Harbour. The claim could become complicated in light of the complaint filed against MRP, according to the Washington Business Journal, not to mention that the insurance does not account for the tens of thousands of dollars in revenue lost by those businesses each day or the loss of income for their employees.


Quaint shops, hotels and restaurants line the streets of downtown Lexington, which teems with local flavor and small-town charm.

Where to Stay

Many of the nearby hotels and inns offer good deals and are walking distance from the main drag, including the Hampton Inn Con Alto. For those looking to be right in the middle of everything, the Sheridan Livery Inn is located right on Main Street and offers quiet, spacious rooms for a reasonable price. Guests and non-guests can enjoy a nice lunch or dinner in the Livery’s restaurant, or head across the street to some of Lexington’s most popular restaurants.

Where to Eat

The menu at the Bistro on Main features creations made with local produce. One can enjoy pizza and pasta accompanied by atmospheric piano music at Tuscany, or for a more casual experience, hang out at Macado’s and choose from over 60 different sandwiches. A few blocks away, Blue Sky Bakery is another local lunch favorite for its sandwiches served on bread made fresh daily. The Red Hen is one of Lexington’s more upscale dining options serving dishes that are a bit pricier, but made with fresh, local ingredients. The menu at Brix also features local foods, but serves them tapas-style, perfect for small group dining whether inside the restaurant or out on the patio.

Visitors can also enjoy wine tasting and tours of the Rockbridge Vineyard and the Lexington Valley Vineyard.

What to Do

The shops downtown are a collective cache of local treasures, from the tchotchkes and home accents at Pumpkinseeds to paintings and jewelry created by residents of Lexington and the surrounding Rockbridge area sold in art shops throughout the city. If shopping isn’t your thing, take a horse-drawn ride with Lexington Carriage Company and learn more about local history. After dark, visitors can relive the past in the present on a candlelit ghost tour through the city in the company of Civil War heroes Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Lee’s horse Traveller.

Just a short drive away from the downtown area, Hull’s Drive-In offers double features in the evenings for only $6, which you can enjoy from the comfort of your own car. Also on the outskirts are the Natural Bridge, an all-natural rock formation and caverns, or Foamhendge, a man-made foam replica of Stonehendge – something fun and quirky you don’t see everyday. The nearby Boxerwood Gardens and Chessie Trail are perfect for relaxing nature strolls after an exciting day of shopping and sightseeing.

If the timing is right, visit the Virginia Horse Center for horse shows, dining, shopping and other events hosted throughout the summer season. The Lime Kiln offers a unique theater experience and hosts concerts and local theater productions in its outdoor amphitheater.

The Blue Ridge outdoors offers beautiful scenery and fun hiking trails for the outdoorsy and the first-time adventurers alike, just minutes outside of historic downtown Lexington. Whether you climb the boulders of Devils Marbleyard or swimming in Panther Falls, you’ll get in a great day hike and perfect photo opportunities.
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Maurine Littleton Gallery

June 15, 2011

The artists on exhibit at the Maurine Littleton Gallery bring to life an otherwise cold and transparent medium in their glass art, which flaunts dimensions and depth of color unmatched by other art media. Contemporary glass art by local artists, including the “Macchia” collection by the internationally renowned Dale Chihuly, has been displayed at the gallery since its opening in 1984, each work reflecting new interpretations and uses of a range of traditional craft media.

Michael Janis, a D.C. native and a director at the Washington Glass School, experiments with dimension in his fused-glass art. He carefully crafts images on sheets of glass by funneling fine glass powder onto the sheets, which he then uses various tools to move and shape. The sheets are fused together in a kiln to create one panel of glass, but the layering adds an unexpected depth and sense of perspective to the images. A former architect, Janis explores buildings from different perspectives in his art, which has won him recognition and acclaim in recent years. The Florida Glass Art Alliance named him Outstanding Emerging Artist in 2009, and Janis recently received a Fulbright Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State.

Fables and fairytales are represented in the work of Allegra Marquart, who uses the images in her art to explore broader themes associated with the subject matter. Her process involves a different layering approach, in which she spreads a granulated glass material called “frit” over a smooth panel of glass. Placed in a kiln, the loose material melts and fuses with the panel to create a textured surface in which she carves images in relief. The result is like that of a print or stamp and uses dimension and color to create contrast. Marquart formerly taught printmaking at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and now enjoys retirement from her home in Baltimore.

An important element of glass art lies in the interaction between light and color in the work, an aspect embraced by Therman Statom in his constructed glasswork. Statom experiments with dimension, shape, color and light in his glass sculptures to tell a story or explore a school of thought. His ladders and miniature houses are on exhibit at the Maurine Littleton Gallery, but he is internationally recognized for his full installations such as those on exhibit at the Los Angeles International Airport, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and the Musée de Design et d’Arts Appliqués/Contemporain in Lausanne, Switzerland. Statum studied at the Pratt Institute of Art and Design and has been recognized by critics as one of the most influential and significant American experimental glass artists.

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of Harvey Littleton’s involvement in founding the Studio Glass Movement. Maurine is in the process of compiling his father’s biography with the intention of publishing it in honor of the anniversary. The Corning Museum of Glass in New York and the Chazen Museum of Art in Wisconsin will feature exhibitions showcasing the glasswork of Harvey Littleton in the next year. [gallery ids="99986,99987,99988,99989" nav="thumbs"]

Informative or speculative?

June 13, 2011

For the past few days I’ve been reading up on the indictment of John Edwards, which alleges that the former presidential candidate conspired with others to illegally channel campaign funds to cover up an affair – all to protect his presidential campaign.

I read articles and opinions from a range of newspapers and blogs all saying essentially the same thing, commenting on the scandal of it all, expressing sympathy for his children, proclaiming the demise of Edwards’s political and legal career. But even after reading for several hours, I realized I had gained no concrete understanding of the legal proceedings surrounding the John Edwards case. The press seems to have explored every personal and political angle surrounding the issue, distracted by the sensational from the fact that besides the development of a formal indictment there’s really nothing new to say about John Edwards.

So let’s look at the document itself. We can assume with the issuance of a formal indictment that the government does have probable cause to believe a crime was committed, and most likely believes it has evidence to support the allegations of conspiracy, illegal use of campaign funds and false statements about the use of those funds. The media neglects to explain that finding probable cause to formally charge a person with a crime is significantly easier than presenting sufficient evidence to convince a jury of those allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. Edwards has pled not guilty to committing a felony, so the challenge for the prosecution will be to prove that a contributor donated funds to cover up Edwards’s affair in order to protect his presidential campaign. The Government must further prove that Edwards knew that the payments were being made and that he knew it benefitted his campaign. However, until we know the government’s evidence we won’t know how it will prove its case.

This was supposed to be an opinion piece, but I’ve realized I can’t yet fairly form an opinion about the case, because the evidence is yet to be seen. I could speculate for pages about what will happen in court, who I think will testify, what the evidence will be, and what’s next for John Edwards, but I would only be guessing, which would be presumptuous on my part and misleading, confusing and unfair to anyone who might read this. We can say it will be interesting to see how the prosecution plans to prove Edwards’ intent, as this is a necessary element of proof the Government must establish. We can say it will be interesting to see how the conspiracy charges hold up with one alleged campaign contributor and would-be witness deceased and another 100 years old. And we can say it will be interesting to see how the press deals with the story and if they effectively cross examine, try, and convict Edwards while waiting for the jury’s official verdict.

Garrett’s Restaurant & Railroad Tavern Shuts It’s Doors

June 10, 2011

When Garrett’s Restaurant and Railroad Tavern shut its doors for the last time on Monday, it was not simply another restaurant closing but rather the loss of a popular community hangout loved and frequented by locals, students, employees and tourists since 1979.

Garrett’s has been noted for its casual, chill atmosphere, and the restaurant’s weekly game nights and holiday events have attracted neighborhood regulars.

Nick Hardt, a longtime employee at Garrett’s, said he would miss the camaraderie and personality of the restaurant.

“Everyone knows your name, and it’s one of those places that’s been here awhile and it’s just fun,” said Hardt. “It was a gathering place for the neighborhood.”

Staff and friends gathered at the Town Tavern in Adams Morgan to commemorate the end of an era and relive old memories. For the restaurant employees, the parting is sad but amicable.

Hardt believes the restaurant closing reflects an ongoing change in the Georgetown area and a shift in the social scene as rent increases and bigger businesses move in. He hopes to see Garrett’s reopen, but thinks it unlikely that it would reopen in Georgetown.

As for the restaurant’s old haunt? “Hopefully it’s not another Starbucks,” said Hardt.
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