Temperance Tour

Garrett Peck, author of Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren’t, leads the Temperance Tour, a fun, three-hour walking tour of Prohibition-related sites in the nation’s capital. It visits many quirky and unusual sites that even most Washingtonians never see (did you know we have a Temperance Fountain?).

The tour involves 1-1/2 miles of walking and a few staircases, so bring good walking shoes, a Metro card to take the subway, sunscreen, and water. But no worries: there are 5 Starbucks (!) and numerous museum restrooms en route, should you need a break.

Since first given in May 2006 to a group of high school civics teachers with the Closeup Foundation, the Temperance Tour has proved to be a popular and unusual tour. You can read interviews with tour guide Garrett Peck in the Washington Post and on DCist, and the Temperance Tour has been featured on C-SPAN Book TV.

Cogswell Temperance Fountain

7th Street & Pennsylvania Avenue, NW (Archives-Navy Memorial Metro station)

The Temperance Tour starts at one of the ugliest statues in Washington, DC -- the Cogswell Temperance Fountain -- funded by a California dentist who protested alcohol in our nation's capital (he built about 50 of these statues nationwide). We discuss the temperance movement and its religious origins. For years, the statue stood across from the Apex Liquor Store, but the statue was later moved north a half-block. It's now in front of a Starbucks.

Smithsonian American Art Museum / National Portrait Gallery

7th Street & F Street, NW 

Next we walk a quarter mile (and past three Starbucks!) up busy 7th Street to the Old Patent Office, built in 1836. This Greek Revival building now houses two museums and was gracefully restored in 2006. It was once the largest public space in DC, and thus Abraham Lincoln had his Second Inaugural Ball there in March 1865. We talk about Lincoln's views on temperance (he was a teetotaler), then briefly enter the building to see the stunning Norman Foster-designed wavy roof. Lincoln was assassinated a few blocks away at Ford's Theater just six weeks later.

Calvary Baptist Church

777 8th Street, NW at H Street

We walk one block north through the bustling Chinatown neighborhood to this historic church designed by Adolf Cluss (the "Red Architect") in 1866. The Anti-Saloon League had its first national convention in the church in 1895. Led by Wayne Wheeler -- the Karl Rove of his day -- the ASL was the advocacy group that pushed for national Prohibition, and was ultimately successful. We discuss how the ASL used World War I as the catalyst for the 18th Amendment.

Woodrow Wilson House

2340 S Street, NW near Massachusetts Ave

Next we take the Metro (subway) three stops from Gallery Place/Chinatown to Dupont Circle, then walk about 1/3 mile through the Kalorama embassy district to the Woodrow Wilson House. President Wilson retired to this house after leaving the Oval Office in 1921, and there he died three years later. Wilson was the president when the nation passed the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) and the 19th Amendment (establishing the vote for women). When Wilson left the White House, Congress passed a special law allowing him to transport his wine to his new home, and the wine cellar still has many original bottles. This is one of the few Prohibition-era wine cellars still in existence. There is an entrance fee for the house, which is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Spanish Steps

2340 S Street, NW near Massachusetts Ave

From the Woodrow Wilson House, we walk a quarter-mile and take a seat on the miniature Spanish Steps - and far less crowded than in Rome. Here we discuss how Prohibition unraveled, and the lasting outcome from the temperance movement. Dupont Circle and the Metro are close by; after finishing the tour, we often have a happy hour, usually at the Darlington House’s downstairs cantina or the Bier Baron.

All color photos by Garrett Peck

The next guided tour date is TBD.