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A Rite of Spring

Every spring, Washingtonians from around the metropolitan area and those visitors lucky enough to be in town for this ephemeral display flock to the Jefferson Memorial Tidal Basin for the annual blooming of the famous cherry trees.

Theodor Horydczak, photographer. "Washington Monument. Views of Washington Monument, Cherry Blossoms and Tidal Basin III," ca. 1920-1950. Theodor Horydczak, photographer. "Washington Monument. Horydczak on top of Washington Monument I."

On March 27, 1912, first lady Helen Herron Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted two Yoshino cherry trees on the northern bank of the Potomac River Tidal Basin. The event celebrated the Japanese government's gift of 3,020 trees to the United States. Trees were planted along the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial and on the White House grounds.

In 1965, the Japanese government made another gift of cherry trees. Lady Bird Johnson participated in the planting, which took place on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Theodor Horydczak, the photographer who shot this image of the cherry trees, also is responsible for what may be the most unusual photograph of the Washington Monument: an image of himself on a scaffold at the top of the obelisk, which was capped with a 9-inch pyramid of cast aluminum, completing construction of the 555-foot structure.

"Washington as It Was" features Theodor Horydczak's images of the architecture and social life of the Washington metropolitan area from the 1920s through the 1950s, including exteriors and interiors of commercial, residential and government buildings, as well as street scenes and views of neighborhoods. A number of Washington events and activities, such as the 1932 Bonus Army encampment, the 1933 World Series and World War II preparedness campaigns, are also depicted.

Horydczak took relatively few portraits or even candid photographs of people. Where people do appear in his work, they are often stiffly posed and appear to be awkwardly trying to ignore the photographer's presence, as in Horydczak's 1930 view of the meat counter in Fred Gouer's grocery store at 117 Hare St. in Baltimore.

For more images of the nation's capital, go to the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. and type "Washington DC" in the search box. You will get 500 hits, offering images as diverse as those of "Negro churches" and the "Oddfellows Hall" to the Folger Shakespeare Library and a classroom in the city's Anacostia neighborhood. When you get your search results, click on the purple "Preview Images" button to view the image thumbnails.

A. Theodor Horydczak, photographer. "Washington Monument. Views of Washington Monument, Cherry Blossoms and Tidal Basin III," ca. 1920-1950. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-H8-CT-M01-001 DLC (color corrected film copy slide); Call No.: LC-H8- M01-001

B. Theodor Horydczak, photographer. "Washington Monument. Horydczak on top of Washington Monument I." Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-H824-T01-2052-001 DLC (b&w film dup. neg.); Call No.: LC-H824- 2052-001

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