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tv   History of Union Station  CSPAN  April 15, 2017 8:00am-8:39am EDT

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they don't need a code of conduct. mr. speaker, we believe that we will get the proper market principles in place and we'll make sure these cane farmers are dealt with fairly and we will make sure the farmers are dealt with fairly and we stand beside these farmers still wondering what is the label party position on this. we'd like them to lead in the farmers being treated fairly. >> thank you for the latest wrap-up in parliament, will see you next each week, american artifacts takes you to historic places to learn about american history.
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union station opened in 1907. at the time, it was one of the largest train stations in the world. the facility to learn about its history. we also hear from historical architect john bowie about the original construction and recent restoration. beverley: hello. my name is beverley swaim-staley, and i would like to welcome you to washington union station. this is a magnificent building located here in washington, d.c., just a couple of blocks from the u.s. capitol building. my job as ceo and president of union station redevelopment corporation, nonprofit here in washington d c whose responsible , loyalty is stewardship of this building. this building was built in 1907. it was not only one of the largest buildings in the world, but it was certainly the most magnificent train station that had been built to date. this station has undergone many changes throughout the year.
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-- throughout the years. it was completed in 1912, and entered into a busy, busy time, during world war i when the uso took over part of the building. of course, through the 1920's and through the depression, and went through many changes from being an at the station, to a place where it was not so active, people may have been here sleeping on benches, using the building for shelter, and then finally with world war ii the station became the center of , the world again with the service then coming back here, and the station then serving 200,000 people a day. and significant alterations made in this magnificent hall to serve the men and women each and every day. of course, we went through the changes in the 1950's. rail travel was not friday as popular as it used to be -- no popularwas not quite as
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as it used to be. more people were using the automobile and the railroads began to decline financially. the station began to suffer and it became visible throughout the 1950's and 1960's. there was a plan implemented in the 1970's to make this -- this magnificent building a national visitor center. in the hall we are standing in, , there were significant alterations that took place. not alterations for the better and they were subsequently changed in the 1980's when congress and others decided this station deserved to be preserved , historic, and operated once again in the glory intended back in 1907. after the renovations in the the 1980's, station opened as a vital commercial facility as well as an intermodal transportation center here on capitol hill. it became very, very busy once again. and today the station serves , over 38 million people a year, busier than any of our regional airports. but, it also underwent another major renovation recently after
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an earthquake that we had here in washington d.c. the earthquake caused cracking and other problems in the ceiling of this magnificent hall as well as the adjacent , concourse. so the board of directors , decided to fully restore the magnificent ceiling in this main hall, and after three years probably opened the main hall last summer. it's true glory, as it looked in 1907, as intended. and legally welcomed and enjoy having people come through the station now to see the station as it was intended when it was first built at the turn of the 20th century. d.c. was00, washington as arating its centennial nation's capital. around the city, many of the cities were developing parklands such as central park in new york city and there was an interest
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in congress to do something here in washington d.c.. and senator james mcmillan was appointed senator of the part commission and the purpose was to look at the land and to attempt implement the plan and make washington d.c. a premier nation's capital and one , of the greatest cities in the country. of course, part of that plan involved the creation of a national mall of public buildings, monuments, and museums along a grassy area venture himself in the capital building. in order to accomplish the plan, the railroad stations which were located to close to the capital building, needed to be removed. if you can imagine, not only did you have two train stations, but you had a number of tracks and railroad crossings throughout the city in order to get to stations. all of that needed to be cleared out in order to make way for the national mall. center mcmillan selective daniel barden to lead the efforts to
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restore the mall. he was an architect in chicago, probably the premier architect in the country at the time. he had been the director of the chicago world's fair, so was -- so it was only appropriate that he be invited to prepare what was called the mcmillan plan at the time. a, he selected the site for new railroad station, and there were a couple of things he needed to accomplish. first, he had to get the owners of the railroad to agree to combine and work out of one station. no small feat. and then of course, there were facilities already here -- townhouses, a thriving blue-collar community, loons, a tavern, stores and a baseball field that was used by the community. they needed to be relocated. fortunately, he was able to convince the owners of the railroads to combine and form a union station. that is why we call this union
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station. there are many union stations drop the country. and it always means the union of two or more railroads agreed to operate out of a single building. few blockson, just a away from the u.s. capitol building, is a great spot and one of the other reasons it worked so well is because it was more than the capitol building, so all of the trains, tracks, and lines coming in good end here at union station before going underground. it allowed the whole area to be cleaned up and really to read this part of the city -- to really rid is part of the city, like the tracks that had been here up to this point in time. the plans began to build the station and the lead architect is really responsible for the architecture of the building, go quite s moved -- it did not go quite as smoothly as planned.
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when construction began, they hoped to complete the building by 1905, in time for the inauguration. they did not make that. the building did not open until 1907 in the fall, and it was first served by the bno railroad. much later by the pennsylvania , railroad. construction on the building was not fully completed until 1912 with all the statuary and columbus plaza outside. but the railroad station did begin operation in 1907, and was open fully for the 1909 inauguration. daniel burnham made it clear when he was designing the structure that he really wanted something monumental. as i said, he wanted to make washington d.c. a city like paris, and wanted to make this train station, the most magnificent in the country, and he used the phrase "monumental" when talking about this plan. in the main hall, he truly achieved his goal. the ceilings are 96 the high and they are beautiful. the granite floor, although a restoration, does replicate the floor that was here.
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-- that was here in when people 1907. walk into this building, they really taken aback by the space, by the beauty, by the goldleaf the goal wasg, and truly achieved in terms of having a magnificent building that would really make people in walk into the building 1907 and today, really stop and gaze at the beauty of this magnificent structure. this hall looks very much like it looked over 100 years ago. there were a few significant differences however. there were a large number of mahogany benches here in the main hall. remembering of course, this was the waiting area, so if you came to pick up a train in 1908 through 1950, this was where you would sit in wait for your train. there were news stands and coffee shops. in one corner of the building, we had the men's lounge with the barbershop. they could get their boots
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cleaned and the clothes pressed. there was a smoking room for them. in the opposite corner of the building, gentlelady's lounge. -- you have the lady's lounge. not so many amenities. you would enter the train station via this main hall. if you needed to purchase a ticket or drop off your luggage, you kid do that in the west hall portion of the station. the ticket counters were to the south and the baggage counters were on the north side of the hallway. during world war ii, the station was so busy however, that they had at ticket counters, and basically fill up much of the main hall with the additional ticket counters. there were a number of patriotic banners to sell war bonds hanging beneath the legionnaires. and 200,000 people could be here during world war ii. sometimes the station had to be closed. some of the benches had to be
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removed to handle the ticket counters, but it was the largest waiting room in the city. the crossroads of the world it was once dubbed by members of the press. interesting to go through the history of this building, particularly in world war ii, and the changes that were made. for example, the announcer's voice was changed to a female voice under the theory a female voice would be sweeter and softer and more appropriate during wartime. also, to illustrate how busy the station was at that time, we have a quote from one of the porters from that day that says attempted to bribe people frequently to put people in a wheelchair to take them to the head of the line because the lines to the trains were so long that they extended quite a ways through the building. so now, we are going to go into
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the east hall. when the station first opened, the east hall was first used as a dining area. it was a white tablecloth dining area. it was one of the nicest restaurants in the washington, d.c. and served as a restaurant , until the 1950's. it was one of the fanciest restaurants in the district of colombia, and anyone who was anyone dined here, so i'm told. as you can see, this is a beautiful room. in 1940, it was turned into a canteen for the soldiers. prior to that, was a very elegant dining room. this dining room was also significant because remember, the trains not integrated south of washington d.c. until somewhere around the 1950's of the 1960's. so, people coming in from the trains on the north, the trains
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were integrated, but all trains stopped here at union station so that the changes could take place because the trades that because theted -- trains were segregated going into the south. very significant that you had a place in the station where everyone could come and eat together. if you could not afford to eat at the elegant restaurant that was here, there was a lunch counter room that was provided. we now call it the columbus club, but it was acting very elegant room as well with a very beautiful feeling, and you could watch the trains coming in and out from that lunch counter room. in the 1986 restoration, it was -- that room was turned into a two tiered room and we have the columbus room for special events there now. we have had many events and famous weddings and other things. it was used as a very essential event space. the dining room has been turned into retail space as a result of
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the 1986 restoration. but we do hope in the future that it will be returned to its original you someday. now, we are 20 take a look at the presidential sweet -- s uite.. this room was very important. remembering that this building was built in 1905, and in president mckinley had been 1901, assassinated. 20 years prior to that president , garfield had been assassinated just down the street in one of the railroad stations. it was very important to have a place where the president could be included and travel by train , which was the primary way of getting in and out of washington d.c. the president carriage could pull up and the president, his family or guests could get into the presidential suite and rest here. then privately be taken to the north side. the president of the united
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states at various times use this room for ceremonial gatherings. prince albert and queen elizabeth were greeted here in the 1930's by the roosevelts. so, during the war, the presidentialsu ite -- the presidential suite had a very different purpose. the red cross use this room to entertain the soldiers and administer to their many need during world war i and, and world war ii, the uso took over the facility and there are large -- and there are some marvelous pictures of servicemen and women enjoying themselves, dancing, playing records here in the presidential suite space. and as a result of that, president truman decided after world war ii that it would be a better use of this space, so he did not use the presidential himself, but turned it over to the uso to be used through the 1950's for the servicemen to use. this suite was used continually
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through president truman who turned it over to the uso, and although other presidents through president kennedy did use the station to greet dignitaries and for special events, they no longer use the presidential suite for that purpose. we're standing in the area now that is the train concourse. you see behind me the waiting room where people waited for their train and they came to the , stores to greet the train. you can see the spaces quite different than what it was in 1907, but you can so see a portion of the magnificent feeling that they had here as well. we had the skylights of course, but unfortunately, they did not work very well and were removed in passengers came from the 1920. waiting area and got onto the train in this part of the station. today, this is now a retail facility, but it is important to
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wasmber this iconic phase so large that you could delay the washington monument end to end and would still have room left over. they were left to build the washington metro system and it still a large space. today, it serves as a primary commercial retail part of the station. in 1953, we had a small disaster here at the station. we had a runaway train. i guess run rate trains -- i guess runaway trains were not terribly uncommon during those days. fortunately, there was only one five days before president eisenhower's inauguration. and a train carrying about 400 people was coming in from the northeast. the operator of the train lost control. the brakes failed and the train came barreling into the station. fortunately, the weight of the locomotive when it reached the
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floor of the station, the floor gave way, forcing the train to stop. and so, as a result, no one was killed. there were a few dozen people taken to the hospital, but the magnificent of that event was that about 400 workers came in, worked around the clock, and 36 hours later the station was , functional in time for president eisenhower's inauguration. this is a one story train concourse. although today, you see the staircases that take you down to the food court. that was not here. those were working areas previously, but remember, the station was extremely busy, and really did serve as a gateway to the nation's capital. for example, this concourse also served during the suffragette movement when the women would come to march in washington in 1910, and then in 1963 with the civil rights march. they were major offense across
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history -- there were major events across history were people would use the station. the beatles arrive here for their first american tour, and many diplomatic events took place, creating quite a bit of traffic through this portion of the station. we are back in the main hall and by the 1950's, unfortunately the , main hall had suffered quite a bit of use and was in fairly bad condition. in fact, the floor here was taken out and removed. , this humanstually were covered with gold paint in some places. there was blue paint put on some of the walls. congress and others began to debate the future of washington union station. around the country, many others train stations were being shuttered and torn down. fortunately, he did not happen here, but it took about 20 years of conversation for congress and others to decide what the next best use for this facility should be. finally, they decided to turn it into a national visitor's center. finally, the main hall was
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visitor's center, and the floor was removed so that any thousand square foot display area could be built here. 8000 square foot display area could be built here. it was referred to by one of the critics as the pit. the floor was removed and there was literally a large hole where there were two movie theaters and visual displays than. you could want government in this area where you can see pictures of the capital, and learn about what you needed to know to visit washington d.c. as one newspaper critic reported, however, after it soon opened, one, he referred to it as the pit a name that still had in that year, and second, a comment was made why would anyone come here and come down to the pit and watch films about the u.s. capitol when they could just walk a few feet outside and actually see the capital building for themselves. needless to say, after the
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bicentennial, this facility did not stay open for very long. they had president reagan's inauguration in 1981, then the entire building was closed. from then on, if you wanted to go to the amtrak station, you needed to walk around the building, or walk on wooden planks to portions of this building to actually get to your train. i talked to many people who made that trek, and it was not something that we could be proud of in terms of what happened to it. fortunately, an effort was made in congress to decide what to do with the station. other train stations had been destroyed around the country. the preservation movement was strong. people really began to understand that these buildings are magnificent and they really needed the preserved, not torn down. so in 1981, congress passed legislation that said this building should be turned into an intermodal transportation
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center, once again, as it had been in 1907, but that it should have a commercial interest that would allow it to continue for the next century. so they developed a public/private partnership, with the leadership of secretary from the united states department transportation, the union station redevelopment corporation was born. in the corporation's responsibility is to be steward of this magnificent facility. mid-1980's, a major renovation took place. the pit was covered in this -- was covered and this floor was put back. everything from book -- everything from the clocks to the ceilings were restored. the legionnaires were cleaned. and the building was reopened in 1988. it was quite an event. there was a great celebration. many speeches were made. the rest of the building was also restored much as you see it
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today. so, the west hall area that had once been ticket counters were opened as a retail space. the columbus plaza opened as an event space. the east hall was fully restored, and then the train concourse became a significant retail space. and it was a significant public/ private partnership of its time, and although not everything that was done was great acclaim, everyone understood that it was a very creative way to save the station, and in fact, it worked, and here we are 30 years later, and the station is still going very strong. so the building after its restoration in 1988 was very well used for the past many years, and then a few years ago, we had the earthquake here in washington d.c. a very unusual event. some of the other monuments were harmed by the earthquakes.
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we also discovered here that we suffered some cracks in our ceilings as a result of that earthquake. to seee again, we looked what could be done the best preserved the station. wasthis magnificent ceiling determined really needed to be fully restored, not only to repair the cracks that will caused by the earthquake, but it really provided an opportunity to do a full restoration. 1985, while an much of the scene when you see was restored, there was a great deal of work to be done above the coffers in order to preserve the ceiling for the next 100 years. to talk about some of the changes that were made in the particulars of that restoration, i would like to introduce the historic architect, john bowie. john: i have been working here both with amtrak and a union station redevelopment corporation since 2003. and i was heavily involved in the restoration work that took
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place after the 2011 earthquake. we are here right now on the mezzanine level, directly over top and looking out onto the main hall space. as you can see off to the side is the concourse area, which in the 1980's, was converted into commercial space. when union station was designed, it was designed in the beaux -art style. english, it is the school of art. aux he and pierce anderson had been classically trained in paris and this was the style that was the magnificent, monumental style of all the big, public buildings in the latter part of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century. as an architectural style, it
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was a natural for a train station just like it was for , courthouses and big school buildings, and become a public buildings. it provided a sense of structure, organization, from the grand monumental spaces such as the main hall that we see here to the more subordinate spaces like the east hall, which is where the restaurant was, or the west hall, which is where the ticket area was in the place where you would drop off your baggage. there were number of contractors who were involved in the construction here union station. because it was such a massive undertaking it elite firm out of new york was affirmed that the pennsylvania railroad had used on a number of its big projects, so they were a natural to come here and provide the overall guidance, the overall construction, manpower, and control over the construction. american bridge company out of new york was responsible for all the steel framing in the
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building. in spite of the fact that this is a beautiful stone building with granite on the outside and marble on the inside, in essence, it is a steel structure with a steel roof, and the vaulted ceiling that you see up there with all of the octagonal coffers is actually hung from a steel structure. american bridge provided all of that. they were one of the leading steel contractors. one of the leading steel bridge builders in the country at the time. they were located in pittsburgh, but they were also located with their headquarters in new york. they were brought in to provide all of the steelwork. the marble on the floors was provided by the vermont marble ,ompany from proctor vermont and was brought down from england by train. the beautiful plasterwork, the beautiful blaster castings in the ceilings, and all the plasterwork around the roman
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windows was provided by mcnulty brothers from chicago. there were a number of different firms from different large cities throughout the country that had the size, manpower, and the skill that was needed to construct the station, particularly on its timetable. was such a short timetable to work on the station. one of the high points of the around ons you look the interior of the station here, you see a series of statues. these are roman legionnaires. there are 46 of them. because that was a number of states in the union at the time the station was being constructed. they sort of guard the station, the car the exterior of it as you come in. they guard the station as you are in it. this is consistent with the design. this is entirely consistent with the way public monumental buildings like this at the turn-of-the-century were
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constructed. to have the soldiers standing guard. as you look carefully, the statue itself is actually cast plasterwork. and on top of that, there is a finish that is painted, and it has small flakes of crushed granite put in it so that it looks like stone. so when you are standing off at a distance in the main hall looking up at the legionnaire, it looks like it is cut stone, but in reality, it is cast blaster with a finish on it and make it look like granite. they make it look like cut stone. hallmark of the interior of the station, the thing people really notice when they come into the station, is the coffered ceiling with its octagonal goldleaf coffers. after the earthquake in 2011, we had an opportunity to not only
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look at the cracks in the ceiling itself, but we went behind the ceiling to look at the structure to look at how it was attached to the roof structure itself. this gave us an opportunity to do restoration work that did not happen in the 1980's. it gave us an opportunity to put a steel frame behind the coffers to support them in the event of another earthquake in the future, there would not be any failure or any cracking. but the best part is that it enabled us to get up close to the coffers to see what the history of the station was. as part of the restoration, paint analysis was performed. that is where samples of the
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plaster with the painted surface would come off and was put under a microscope and looked at carefully to see the number of layers of paint. what was discovered was that all of the eggs and darts surrounding the coffers were painted the same way you see today. in the 1980's restoration, when the goldleaf was put onto the coffers, the gold that was used had a 30 year life span. after the earthquake in 2011, we had the opportunity to get up close, and what we were able to discover was its weight and what we also saw is the gold was beginning to flake. although it still had its luster, the base had come loose and was approaching the end of its life.
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the decision was made that we would re-guild all the coffers and re-guild them with a heavier weight gold that would give us a 100 year life span instead of 30 years. we started on the west end of the main hall and it took an average of about six months per section of the main hall to do the repair work, to do the steel installation on the backside, to restore the ventilation duct work and the gilding and paintwork. once that was completed and we completed the inspections, we rolled the scaffold to the next bay and we started over. it took us over two and half years to do all this because we needed to keep the station operational and keep the main hall fully functional so people could go through every morning and every afternoon.
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one of the most interesting things about doing restoration here at union station is working here all these years, and every time we start something new, we learn something we did not know before. for example, all the decorative, pendant light fixtures that go through the colonnade, we discovered recently that although they look similar, they are two different sizes. the glass globes on some of the fixtures are 16 inches in diameter and some of the others are 14 inches in diameter. why did they do that? this is a question we could not figure until we sat down and put it into the context of the
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design. the smaller light fixtures were in the secondary spaces. the larger fixtures were in the primary spaces, completely in consistent with the design from the early part of the 20th century. if you look at these fixtures now, you see the subtle differences in the design to the casual person looking at it, they would never know. we still keep coming up with new things put into the design that are just waiting to be discovered. >> i think we can be very appreciative to the people who had the foresight to build washington union station. theodore roosevelt was president at the time and really, it's a privilege to be standing here 100 years later in this
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magnificent hall and have it look very much as they envisioned it. one of my pleasures is coming here in the evening now that it the ceilings have been fully restored and other obstructions in the main hall have been removed. it is magnificent at sunset. when you come in here in the evenings, you can see the blue and gold hues and it is really breathtaking. to come here and watch people literally just stop, you understand the details of this building and what daniel burnham was trying to achieve. people -- it is great fun to come here throughout the day. you have to watch where you are walking. people will be laying on the floor so they can get the best picture of the ceiling and i've walked in here to see schoolchildren laying on the floor with their crayons, drawing pictures of the ceiling. it is wonderful to know we have
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preserved this grand space and is still being used today. it's one of the busiest places in the world. we have almost 40 million people a year walk through this train station, and we are the number one station here in the area and the second busiest amtrak station. we serve many other modes of transportation. it really is a mecca not only for national transportation, but for our region. i think daniel burnham and others who built the station over 100 years ago would be very proud of what we have been able to preserve here. you can watch this and other american artifacts programs by visiting her website, www.c-span.org/history. >> this weekend on american
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history tv, tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on lectures in history, providence college professor jeffrey johnson on the 1916 in san francisco, the worst act of terrorism in san francisco history. >> what happened about half an hour into the break, the local press would deem one of the most pathetic results of the explosion. at 10:00 on railamerica, 1915 film on the firing line of the germans. >> you see his loading film in his camera. i think that is what he is doing. watch the guy. he just got hit. >> sunday, american artifacts, we visit the portrait gallery of the second bank of united states in philadelphia. >> inside we have the fine arts exhibit where we include portraits from the early 19th century to tell the story of
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what it was like to live in early 18th century america, the world as people knew. >> at 8:00 on the presidency, historians discuss the relationship between alexander hamilton and george washington. is ashington has -- he person of volcanic temperament. he learns early on to control himself. he learns self-mastery. whos this horse whisperer calls the very skittish and fast alexander hamilton. when washington isn't around, hamilton gets himself into trouble. >> for our complete schedule, go to www.c-span.org. centerre at the miller on the campus of the university of virginia. we take you inside to speak with three prid

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