Top historic sites in Washington D.C.

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon was the plantation house of George Washington, first President of the United States and his wife, Martha Dandridge Custis Washington. The Washington family had owned land in the area since the time of Washington's great-grandfather in 1674. In 1739 they embarked on an expansion of the estate that continued under George Washington, who came into possession of the estate in 1754, but did not become its sole own ...
Founded: 1758 | Location: Alexandria, United States

St. Matthew's Cathedral

The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington D.C., most commonly known as St. Matthew"s Cathedral, is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. St. Matthew"s is dedicated to the Apostle Matthew, who among other things is patron saint of civil servants, having himself been a tax collector. It was established in 1840. Originally located at 15th and H Streets, construction of the current ...
Founded: 1893-1913 | Location: Washington, D.C., United States

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) provides for the documentation, study, and interpretation of Holocaust history from 1933 to 1945. It is dedicated to helping leaders and citizens of the world confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity, and strengthen democracy. The USHMM’s collections contain more than 12,750 artifacts, 49 million pages of archival documents, 80,000 historical photo ...
Founded: 1993 | Location: Washington, D.C., United States

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Catholic church in the United States and North America, one of the ten largest churches in the world, and the tallest habitable building in Washington, D.C. Construction of this church, notable for its Neo-Byzantine architecture, began in 1920 under Philadelphia contractor John McShain. It opened unfinished in 1959. An estimated one million pi ...
Founded: 1920 | Location: Washington, D.C., United States

Dumbarton Oaks Museum

Dumbarton Oaks is a historic estate in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. It was the residence and gardens of Robert Woods Bliss (1875–1962) and his wife Mildred Barnes Bliss (1879–1969). Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss were enthusiastic collectors and judicious patrons of scholarship and the arts. A graduate of Harvard University, Robert Bliss pursued a distinguished career as an officer and dipl ...
Founded: | Location: Washington, D.C., United States

U.S. Navy Museum

The National Museum of the United States Navy is the flagship museum of the United States Navy located on the grounds of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Navy Museum collects, preserves, displays, and interprets historic naval artifacts and artwork to inform, educate, and inspire naval personnel and the general public. The U.S. Navy Museum was established in 1961 and opened to the public in 1963. Per ...
Founded: 1961 | Location: Washington, D.C., United States

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is one of the most famous cemeteries in the world. The United States military cemetery was established during the Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, which had been the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee"s wife Mary Anna Lee. On June 15, 1864, the Arlington House property and 200 acres of surrounding land were designated as a military cemetery as Quartermast ...
Founded: 1864 | Location: Washington, D.C., United States

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hagios Demetrios

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.