DC Walks: Chris Wallace's Ideal Sunday Stroll
As told to sharon king hoge
The Plum Walk at Dumbarton Oaks, the “jewel” at the end of Chris Wallace’s walks
After the show on Sunday, I get home around 11 for the Sunday papers, soup, and a nap. Then in the afternoon, I walk for an hour or so in nearby Rock Creek Park with my yellow Lab, Winston. If we are very lucky, my wife, Lorraine, comes along. I live in Kalorama, a beautiful neighborhood with elegant homes and great old trees—and yet it is only 10 minutes from downtown. To get to the park, I like to walk up Massachusetts Avenue and take a left on Whitehaven Street, which is one long block. There is the Italian Embassy on the left, like a modern, stark medieval fortress, and farther along are some beautiful private homes, including the stately redbrick mansion where Paul Mellon lived. At the end is Bill and Hillary Clinton’s home, which always has a security detail on the few days they are there.
Then you take a left into Dumbarton Oaks Park. For someone who grew up in New York City, this park is just a marvel. There are streams and hills and woods and rocks; you get all the sights and sounds of the country, although you are really in the heart of town. There are a lot of folks out for walks, many with their dogs. Winston and I have good ‘conversations’—I talk about politics and personal issues, and he is grateful to listen. I find we are almost always in agreement.
When I am alone (dogs aren’t allowed ), there is a jewel at the end of the walk: Dumbarton Oaks, in the heart of Georgetown. More than 50 acres, it’s divided into a bunch of gardens—with different flowers, plants, shrubbery, and a rose garden. If Lorraine is along, she knows all the different flowers and can tell me what is what. To me it is like Justice Potter Stewart’s description of pornography: ‘I know it when I see it.’ I think it takes you out of yourself.
Farther along is beautiful, quiet Oak Hill Cemetery, with extraordinary Greek temples and mausoleums. Built in the 1840s, it commemorates great figures from the Civil War, and my stepfather, former CBS president Bill Leonard, is buried there. Before my father and I got together when I was a teenager, Bill taught me about news, politics, food, and women. He showed me how a son and a husband and a father should act. At the end of the circuit, I visit him and place flowers on his grave site, and it gives me a great sense of satisfaction and serenity that he is buried in such a lovely place.
I also love walking up Pennsylvania Avenue, with all the history and museums, the FBI Building, the Justice Department—you can even see the Washington Monument and, of course, the White House. Last Christmas, while attending the president’s holiday party, I was thinking back to the first time I came to Washington, in 1958, to visit my art teacher, Miss Prothro, who had come down to work as a social secretary in Mamie Eisenhower’s office. She took us on a private tour, and I still retain some of the feelings I had as a young boy about going to see the White House. It still strikes me as one of the most exciting and glamorous places on earth, and I genuinely feel that way about the whole city of Washington. It’s a very special place to me."
photography © dumbarton oaks research library and collection, washington, dc
Celebrating the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner at Carnegie Library.