tv Washington D Cs Lafayette Square CSPAN August 18, 2018 4:55pm-6:01pm EDT
french men and revolutionary war figure marquis de lafayette. next on american history tv, gil book talks about his "trouble in lafayette square: , assassination, protest & murder at the white house." the national press club hosted this event. it is an hour and five minutes. >> hello, everyone, good evening. welcome to the national press club. i am an editor with bloomberg news and i am the 111th president of the national press club. i would like to take just a moment -- if you have not already, please silence your cell phones. we do not want them ringing during the taping of this event. we are going to be broadcast on c-span as well this evening, so please don't let it be your cell phone that interrupts our proceedings tonight. if you are tweeting, the hashtag is #npclive. pleasure that i
introduce to you this evening our celebrated author this evening. predecessor as a president of the national press club. 1994rved as president in when his two children were very young. i believe one of them is in the audience tonight. andrew? raise your hand. with his fiancée chloe, i understand. welcome, thank you for being here tonight. gil at the time was working as a national correspondent for media general, where he served 22 years. he also taught at american university, overseeing the washington semester program that sought to teach journalism to people coming from all over the world, and currently he is creating a new washington journalism program. taken a tour of
the club with gil, you are missing out. please do this. he tells the best stories, he knows the best stories about the national press club. he has been an avid historian for years and years. he authored, book, edited, and rewrote the national press club's history for our centennial a few years ago. my understanding is that there may be another book like that in the works. which is fantastic. but we are here tonight to talk about "trouble in lafayette square," this book right here. if you have not purchased a copy, you may do so after our program. gil will be signing copies just around the corner. gil, would you like to tell us a little bit about your book? gil: thank you very much, andrea.
after 30-plus years organizing events at the national press club, it is really strange to be on this side of them. so the idea for this book came -- i have always been interested in american history. i've always been interested in the history of wherever i am living. that's why i wrote the history of the club, because i live at the club. andrea: he does. gil: when i got to washington in 1985, since i had a great interest in american history as the white house and the presidents, i would get off the metro at farragut west and walk-through lafayette park to go to the national press building. over the years, i would start collecting stories about the unusual things that happened in lafayette square. all of you in this room know exactly where lafayette square is, but since we do have a television audience, i should tell you. it's across the street, across
pennsylvania avenue, from the front of the white house. it is seven acres of open parkland, and it is surrounded by buildings that go back to 1818 with the stephen decatur house. in the middle of the park is a statue of jackson. the unusual thing about the statue when it was built or sculpted or whatever they do to 1854, it is the first time in history that having a statue of a man on horseback with the horse on two legs. that was an engineering feat for 1854. people say, gil, it is andrew jackson. why do they call it lafayette square? the answer to that is, it
started out life when pierre l'enfant laid it out as the president's park. andrew -- the question was whether or not it would be part of the white house grounds or open to the public. it was not until thomas jefferson who said, we need a smaller government, we will put this outside the gates of the white house. it was still kind of a building zone for the white house and the federal office buildings. and then in the war of 1812, there were troops there, and after the white house was burned , there was some question about whether or not the capital would even stay here. but finally in 1818, the first house was built. you, it isuld tell the beautiful victorian era homes, 19th-century homes, all around it. during the kennedy administration, people wanted to
get rid of all of these old buildings, they wanted to knock them down and put up very ugly looking federal office buildings, courthouses. and it was jackie kennedy who said no, once you got rid of those buildings, they would be gone forever. she convinced her husband to stop that project. she brought a new architects and they kept the façades of the old buildings and put the new buildings behind them, so that is why it still looks like that. andrea: can we talk for a second about why it was named lafayette square? i do like that story. gil: so it is not president's park and not jackson's park, so why is it lafayette square? that is because in 1824, the marquis de lafayette, the great hero of the revolutionary war, the back to america to tour
entire country -- he toured the entire country, every state that was in existence at the time, and they had parties and parades and it was the greatest thing, went on for two years. everywhere he went, they named things after him. andrea: fayetteville? gil: fayetteville, north carolina, is one. andrea: there is a place in indiana named similarly. gil: it estate in france was called le grange, so if you see anything called that, that was also named after lafayette. in fayette legrange county in kentucky, so this guy got a lot of name recognition. he came to washington first to meet with president monro, who was a fellow revolutionary war officer. when he came back, he met with the new president, john quincy adams, whose father had been a
major part of the revolution, to say the least. so they said, we have to name something after him. we have this park. so that's how it got to be lafayette park. even though jackson is there. , wastatue was not created not built for lafayette until i think the 1880's, but it is still lafayette park. so, you want me to go on? andrea: let's see, what is the ? yes, let's talk about -- gil: most history books follow an event or a person's life from beginning to end. this book kind of follows a place through history. the point of the book is to give these great stories that will draw people in and then have them say, that is interesting, i would like to know more about that, or i did not know that.
there is nothing in this book that an eighth-grader wouldn't want to read. maybe some of it they shouldn't read. [laughter] gil: but it teaches them about history. the first story is about stephen decatur, and he was one of the great heroes, especially after the revolutionary war, one of the first euros, military heroes, of the country. what people don't know is that we were fighting the barbary states along the mediterranean north coast starting in 1803. jefferson had to send the navy. and as a young ensign at 25, decatur made a name for himself on a brilliant raid. he was a hero already in 1803. then he got through the war of 1812 and he was an even greater hero. and then after the war of 1812,
tried tory states had slip back to their old ways of trying to stop commerce, stop american commerce, in the mediterranean. andrea: there were a lot of virus. -- pirates. gil: we have to be quickly correct maybe we should not call them the barbary pirates, but that's what they were called for a long time. he defeated all three barbary states in one sea battle. this raises the question, my goodness -- we were fighting muslims in 1803. after decatur who said his defeat, i got teased at the mouth of the canon. -- i got peace at the mouth of a cannon. to preserve it, we will always have to have a fleet in the mediterranean. to this day, the fleet is still there. he survived all this. with all the money he got -- back then, naval commanders got money for everything they sank. he built this gracious new house
right on the corner of 8th street and what is now known as jackson place. the decatur house. he built that in 1818. it was the first private residence on lafayette square after the big construction of -- first private residence on lafayette square. after the big construction of st. john's church, it was the first building except for the white house. and he wanted something that was very lavish, and it was. he had a lot of political appointments that made him go higher and higher in the navy. gave him a lot of power over who would get promotions, who would get ships to command. turmoil,ed a lot of and he was actually challenged to a duel by one of the commanders who was denied an appointment to a ship. they met in bladensburg at the dueling grounds, just to be
across the state lines, they say. decaturh were shot, but , unfortunately, his wound was mortal. he was rushed back to his house . he died in the parlor on the first floor. he told everybody, don't let my wife come down here. but he died in agony. after he died -- this was the biggest event in washington until this time, his funeral. they shut down the entire government. congress, the white house. everybody came to his funeral, and they had this long parade over to kalorama for his internment. and so, that is the first story, about weird things that happened in lafayette square. there's maybe some states there -- if you all want to -- there is one over here if you want to
-- we've got to get -- and there's some chairs coming in. quickly. , we can go on to our story about this fellow. do you want to do that? andrea: absolutely we could do that. this was a person who had a very interesting role in our american history as a chronicler of history. so what exactly -- if i recall correctly, he was the first person to write an insider's history of the white house. is that correct? gil: that's right. so the story is this is paul jennings. paul jennings as a 15-year-old was brought by president madison as a young slave to the white house, and he was there when the british came and he helped take down the portrait of george washington and helped dolley madison get everything out of
the house that was valuable. andrea: the house was burning? gil: it was not burning at, it was not quite that dramatic. but he had set the table for the returning the tory as american troops, which was used by the british for their last meal in the white house before they burned it. anyway, at the end of the madison administration, he was taken back to madison's home in virginia. he became madison's valet. he was there when madison died. still of course enslaved. family, five children, wife. dolley madison, after james madison died, sell on very hard times. i won't go into all of her problems. but madison had purchased a house on lafayette square, and she wanted to come back to it because she was such a socialite when she was first lady, so she
came back to live in lafayette square. she brought paul jennings with him, had to leave his family. she said, don't worry, on my death, you will get your freedom. her financial situation got worse and worse, and, you know, so she sold him. across the street lived senator daniel webster from massachusetts. and he was appalled. everything was very close, everybody knew everybody on the square. and so daniel webster bought paul jennings from the guy who had bought him. and after -- he made him work it off a little, but then he granted him his freedom. he went on -- there was a large free 6lack population in washington before the civil war. he helped organize some slave escapes. during the civil war, his sons fought for the union.
but in 1864, he published a memoir of his life in the white house. so he becomes the first tell all chronicler of the white house. now, we are going to go into the don rickles. no, not don rickles. dan sickles. andrea: they look a little similar. gil: the story here is that dan sickles was a man of great appetites, for women, for power, for money. -- he a great in-house knew how to work the political system.
he was part of new york city, he was part of tammany hall, a protége of martin van buren, who actually had lived in the decatur house when he was secretary of state. named thent, he was second in charge of the american embassy in london. james buchanan was the ambassador. i am missing a big point here. he married a 15-year-old -- at the age of 32, he married a 15-year-old, teresa. and he loved teresa, but he loved everybody else. so teresa was about to have her child. to gos this appointment to london. he says, you stay here with that baby, you go. he took his mistress, who was the madam of a bordello in new york, with him to london and introduced her to queen victoria.
he comes back and becomes a congressman. [laughter] gil: one thing follows another. and moved to washington they move into one of the nicest mansions on lafayette square. people are saying, how could this young guy afford this beautiful mansion, not to mention he had one of the nicest carriages inicest washington and all the trappings. but he continues his ways. and teresa is actually quite a socialite, even though she is very young. she is well accepted and she is a favorite of james buchanan, the president. she finally starts -- she would drive around in these carriages
-- she got to meet philip martin key. key was the son of francis scott key. he, like his father, was the district attorney for washington. he became enamored with her. let's see here. there she is. anotherone thing led to , and they got to go quite a torrid affair. he actually had a little house he rented right off lafayette square. his signal was he would go next to the jackson monument and wave a white handkerchief whenever he wanted to meet. she would -- everybody knew about this in washington except dan sickles. [laughter] gil: but he finally got a poison pen letter. and he was enraged. he was enraged. everybody thought, of course he knows about it, he has his own extracurricular activities.
he was totally enraged. he forced her to sign a confession. bad timing, he looks out the window -- [laughter] gil: and there is philip martin key. so he gets a couple of pistols, slips out the back, comes around and challenges -- challenges would be an awfully nice word for it. he shoots him four times. he dies in broad daylight in front of a men's club that was over there at the time. people saw it. andrea: bystanders, yeah. gil: sorry, i have to keep up. there's philip barton key. good-looking guy. there's the shooting. who knows -- [laughter] gil: another day in the park.
so he goes to trial and he gets off. among his attorneys was edward stanton, who would become president lincoln's secretary of war. he is the first person in history to get off on the grounds of temporary insanity. and he went on to be a general in the civil war. it is hotly debated to this day whether he nearly lost or won the battle of gettysburg because he didn't follow orders. his leg was shot off. he would -- it somehow ended up in the military medical museum. for every year, on the anniversary of it getting shot off, he would go and visit it. [laughter] gil: visit his leg. anyway, that is the dan sickles story. he did get back with teresa, who
unfortunately died at a very young age of tuberculosis. andrea: wow. that is a lot of blood and guts. lafayette square, in the trees and shade. i think there is more coming. gil: there is always more. now we get to the civil war. this is william stewart, secretary of state. the lincoln administration. when he became secretary of state, he wanted a grand house on lafayette square. he got one, which actually was the gentleman's club that had to close down after the very tragic -- after the shooting. he had that refashioned for his house. and lincoln would walk over there and they would sit down -- a sit around and trade stories and have a grand old time, talk strategy.
closen idea of how everything was in the civil war -- lincoln could walk over to stewart's house. three houses up was general george mcclellan's headquarters, the former dolly madison house. around the corner where the hay spy, as, there was a confederate spy, rose her -- se, had so within sight of each other, these people all operating. the story here is during the lincoln assassination -- everybody knows about the lincoln assassination -- some people don't now it was part of a much larger plot than killing lincoln. john wilkes booth wanted to kill the vice president, andrew t,hnson, and secretary stewar and that would decapitate the federal government. washe same time that booth
in ford's theatre, his confederate, william powell, was lurking in the shadows in lafayette square. this, seward had been in a terrible carriage accident. broken his job, almost died. he had casts all over him and he was in bed. -- knocked on the door and said, i have some medicine i have to deliver to the secretary. andrea: do we have a photo of powell? gil: we do. first we have to get to the assassination. andrea: i got you. [laughter] his way intoles the room, plunges the knife repeatedly into seward. assuming he was dead, he ran out, saying i'm mad, i am mad,
ran out into the street. he even got away. the only thing that saved seward was all these casts. there was a lot of blood he was very badly disfigured. i visited the seward house in auburn, new york. the sewards kept everything, and they actually still have the bloody sheets. anyway seward did live. , powell, after he was arrested hung.of course he was so that was right there, right within 10 steps of where dan sickles shot philip barton key. a nice little piece of ground there. andrea: mm-hmm. >> [inaudible] -- a high crime neighborhood? gil: we will get to that, i
think. now we get to -- andrea: this is important. sts: the women's suffragi invented the white house protest. still going on today. before they launched their campaign, nobody thought of protesting in front of the white house. alice paul, a famous suffragist, her goal was the passage of the 19th amendment. she thought the only way to do that was to somehow shame or convince president wilson that he had to support it. wilson was a real southerner, a democrat seven base -- the democrats southern race was ironclad. the south did not want this. so they launched a series of protests that went on for a year and a half. andrea: what year is this roughly? gil: this was 1917 or so.
the suffragists would stream out of this house, which happens to be next-door to where seward lived, and go across the park and they would have banners that denounced wilson for not supporting women's suffrage. especially at the beginning of the first world war. they would have banners that called him kaiser wilson. this was not a good idea. that caused a lot of turmoil, a lot of fighting. people think of the women's suffrage movement as a lot of ladies walking around in long dresses. and sashes. but there was a lot of turmoil. there were arrests, there was fighting, people tried to storm their way into this house. every timecoming out
the anti-protesters would rip down the banners. they would come back with more banners. they were burning wilson's words in urns in front of the white house. they were arrested, they had hunger strikes. this was a very difficult time. but they did prevail. and wilson did kind of endorse it. he was afraid the republicans would push it through and that they would get the credit. but that was the beginning of the white house protest, which goes on to this day. two years, there were 115, 116 protests in front of the white house that required a permit, meaning they had more than 25 people. and if you go down there now, there is always somebody. andrea: i think that is an
excellent start to a time-honored tradition. gil: yes. now we are going to leap forward to 1950. this is a photograph that really caught my attention back in 1986. it was in a book, history of the white house. this is the interior of the white house in 1950. the problem was, the white house had been so badly abused that it was falling apart. it was dangerously falling apart. wasaret truman's piano falling through from the second floor to the first floor. this was a place that they had to actually get the dream and family out right away. they moved them across the street to the blair house. his idea of a bulldozer, front end loader, in the middle of the white house, just fascinated me. i am weird that way.
we also have to go all the way back to 1898. the united states in the spanish-american war acquired puerto rico. they never were quite sure what to do with it. they didn't want to give it its independence, but they didn't want to be seen as some kind of empire, colonial. so they gave the puerto ricans american citizenship in 1917. , i believe. in 1950, they were all set to have a commonwealth, create the commonwealth that we have now. there was a separate test or a nationalist group that didn't want this to happen. they thought they could rise up, throw out the americans, and return puerto rico to some idyllic place in the caribbean. which it probably never was. so they were organizing -- the leader of this down in puerto rico realizes he glances uprising for october 31, 1950. he wanted something very dramatic happen in washington
because nobody cared what happened in puerto rico. but if they could have something dramatic in washington, like an assassination attempt on the president, that would draw people's attention. there's two guys living in new york at the time, and they came down to washington on the train. they had never been to washington. one of them really didn't know how to shoot the gun he had been given. he had to have lessons. they didn't know where anything was. the only way they knew where anything was was the map in the phone book. they didn't even know that truman was not in the white house. so they got in a cab and went saidthere, and the cabbie no, the president is over in the blair house. oh, that's interesting. they cased out the place and said, we can bulldoze our way right through this door. here is all the guards. so they came back at 2:00 in the afternoon. at this time, truman was there and he was taking a nap.
these guys come in from opposite sides. the blair house is right on the corner of lafayette square and pennsylvania avenue. tried to storm in through the front door. unfortunately, his first shot misfired. there was a click, which alerted all the police officers. and there was this gun battle that happened. despite all the bullets, this guy was still alive because of all the iron grating, ironwork around the door. when he ran out of bullets, he sat down and tried to figure out how to reload it. the other guy was coming in from the other side. and he was actually a very good marksman. he was shot by the police officers. he was going to try to get in. the first guy finally gets the gun reloaded, stands up and
realizes he has been shot in the chest. he falls down debt -- not dead, he was still alive. at this moment, harry truman, a veteran of world war i, sticks his head out the window to see what was going on. it is the contention of the people who wrote the history of this that i read that the guy who knew what he was doing with the pistol, all he had to have done -- if he had looked up from where he was at the time -- here is the diagram, the whole diagram of this event, should have had that up doubletime -- if he had looked out and seen truman, he would have had a clear shot. and it would have been the beginning of the berkeley administration. but he didn't and he was killed, and that was the end of that
attack. and also, the uprising in puerto rico was over within 24 hours. there wasn't a big popular push for it. although puerto rican nationalists came back and shot of the house of representatives in 1957. but anyway, that is that story. andrea: that is the last time a house on resided in a lafayette square? gil: the president-elect has always live there before they come over. it was the last time -- certainly not for any long period of time that i'm aware of. do you want to go on or do you have any other questions? andrea: at some point we should also open it up to the audience for questions, but we can go on. gil: this was a story that i really didn't know about. this is not lafayette square.
this is senator lester hunt. mr. hunt was a democrat from wyoming. he was elected right at the time joe mccarthy was at his height. mr. hunt hated joe mccarthy. so joe mccarthy hated lester hunt. everybody knows that mccarthy was anti-communist and all that. there was also a certain anti-gay movement, part of mccarthyism. at the time, lafayette square, lafayette park was a meeting place for gay men. lester hunt's son, who was in his early 20's, i think, was over there. the police, undercover police
were out there trying to spare people looking for a good time. he was arrested. normally, this wouldn't lead to anything. but mccarthy and his henchmen found out about it. they said, here is how we are going to get rid of lester hunt. democrat in a a republican-leaning state. him, that weaten were going to expose this throughout wyoming, that his son had been arrested. at first, lester hunt said -- fought that off. he was running for reelection and they said we are really going to smear this all over the state. he was so distraught that he
went into his office in the senate and shot himself with a rifle, committed suicide. so that was a story i had not heard. about thettle bit story of gay rights in america before things changed. >> yes. here we are getting up to guy, georgews this h.w. bush. at the beginning of his administration, crack cocaine epidemic was sweeping the country. one of the first things he wanted to do was come up with federal policy to try to stop crack cocaine. he wanted to give an oval office speech. oval office speeches are very rare.
but he knew that the only way he could convince people outside of the inner cities that this was a problem was to try to show that this crack cocaine was everywhere. so his staff with his approval asked the dea to do a crack cocaine buy in lafayette square. now they pulled it off. they found somebody they had been trailing for a while and yaid, we want to do a bu and you have to come to lafayette square. where is that? it's at the white house. where ronald reagan lives? no, no -- so, they make the buy. bush uses this as his prop for this oval office speech. that is all well and good. the washington post was saying,
wait a minute -- usually, crack cocaine in open markets, there's gunbattles. it's nowhere near the white house. the white house has more police per square inch than anywhere else in the world. how could that be? the great investigative reporter went into it and they unraveled the whole thing that this was all set up. it was a black eye for bush. coming down to the end here, everybody who lives in washington knows conception -- she and a fellow by the name of thomas started an antiwar protest in 1981. they were they were there around the clock from 1981, and she
died in 2016. snow andeat and pictures of her with ice all over her, she died. she kept it going. she really married someone else. thei there was three of them there. this protest went on. it is so famous that became a it became a civics lesson for eighth-graders. here's how free speech is exercised in the united states. everybody knew this thing so much that a washington post columnist said you could take lafayette out of lafayette park, you could remove his statue and no one would notice, but if you took this down, everybody would notice because it was such a fixture. when she died, this guy kept it
alive. i talked to him and he said, you know, there are 168 hours in a week. i have only got two helpers. they do 68 hours and i do 100. but it is still going on. so that is kind of the end of the book. other stories in the book as well. these are the ones to highlight. i would like to open it up to the audience for questions. i have more questions, of course. i want to give an opportunity as well. there's a mic coming around. now i don't see -- you know what, i will pass my mic. very worried about being asked a question by hurricane donna. >> i will try to be gentle. >> the catastrophe reporter for
usa today. >> what i wanted to ask you about is how you did the research for this book. where did you find all of these archival pictures? is there any -- you know, there are history organizations for everything, but i haven't heard of one for lafayette square. >> that's right. >> how did you get started and how did you go about the whole thing? >> this was a 30 year project. this was not something that happened overnight. i have no intention of writing a book in 1986 when i started collecting things. as i would go to the decatur house, i took several tours of the decatur house, there were stories there. i would read a history of civil war, i would read about seward. there was a whole book on sickles.
i read the whole book on sickles. each one of these stories were is part of huge books. i have saved you the necessity of buying and reading 500 pages of wonderful historians but i made sure you know which stories so you can find those history books. the illustrations, a lot of them are from the library of congress. you just type in the name you want and up pops all these wonderful little illustrations. a wonderful thing. some of them i had to purchase the rights to, such as the george bush -- i had to go through his library to get that. everything else was copywritten. paul jennings, his descendents
have control of that picture. i had to purchase the rights from them. so, and the senator from wyoming, i had to go to the wyoming archives. they were glad to send it to me. it was no trouble finding the illustrations. there were plenty of illustrations out there, and most of them were in the public domain. >> i have a question about demonstrations. >> yes. >> where and how they are permitted. the reason i am prompted to ask this is i was once in lafayette park once with a cameraman and we were stopped by the police. they said you can't take a picture here in the park. but if you go over here, it's ok. >> right. >> so i learned that there were many jurisdictions that cover all this area. >> did you have a tripod?
>> we might have had one. >> yes, there is a restriction on using a tripod to set up a camera in lafayette square. you can't do it at the lincoln memorial, either. i learned that just yesterday. we were going to do something there. it is hard to get those things. you need a permit for a demonstration more than people. 2016,e are 115 permits in 2017. then there's always something going on. does that answer your question? >> it is a national park? >> it is a national park. during the gulf war, george h.w. this guy here said he was one of them. they had a tom-tom. they would beat him 24 hours a day.
it drove bush to distraction inside the white house. he tried to -- i want to get rid of that nigh guy. andent all the way to court he said, what is the point of the first amendment? to get the attention of your leaders. he was so proud of the fact that he was pounding on the drum. i remember the pounding when i was going over there to cover the white house. who else? >> you remember that chapter of history that is a bit forgotten in 2011 when people were camping out in farragut square? do you think knowing the irony 1% throughoutst the city lived in lafayette square. >> at the time, the 1% weren't
living there anymore. it is all office now and hotels. there's no more private houses. >> if it is a national park, does it have anything in terms of rangers or historians? >> occasionally, you will see a ranger over there. i bet that if you set up a camera, you will find one very quickly, i am told. [laughter] >> i have gone to look for them and have never been able to find them. i've never seen a tour of the park going on by the national park service. that is for enterprising people to have their own tours. who else? anybody else? yes. elizabeth. >> how are you going to promote your book? are you going to go on a tour? are you going to speak to kids around the country? it's a wonderful way to entreat
intrigue them about history. what is your plan? >> here i am at c-span. what more do you want? [laughter] i've done some book talks already. i've been on three radio shows -- two national radio shows on sirius xm. i have been on the llewellyn king show. i'm doing wamu on the ninth. i've been invited to talk to the 92nd street y in new york city in october. >> a lot of it is r-rated. >> that's right. any eighth-grader could get into this. [laughter] it should be -- i have talked
about other ways of getting it out. >> fantastic. do we have anyone else? yes. >> what about, are you going to mention anything about the building of the chamber of commerce? it is related somehow? is it new or old? >> the chamber of commerce was built in the mid to late 1920's. it took the place of corcoran's mansion. and it has beautiful things inside. it is a beautiful building. i just took a tour a couple of weeks ago. it is an amazingly beautiful piece of 1920's architecture. they have a great big mural of lafayette square, which i thought was from the 1850's -- and i said, no, no, no, you guys missed it.
these two mansions here that were built in 1987. >> i know there's some history written about the blair house. it is not complete. >> the blair house goes way back. i don't think it was built by s.e blair' he was part of andrew jackson's kitchen cabinet. montgomery blair was postmaster general in the lincoln administration. it stays in the blair family. from time to time during world war ii, it was used -- it was given to the white house to use because every the post head of state in europe was coming to live in washington. eventually, the white house purchased it. the general services administration purchased it. they have expanded it so much, it is 120 rooms are something.
but i am not an expert on it. >> i have got another one. in my washington lifetime, lafayette square has always been a high-security zone. it's only gotten more secure every year. >> that's right. >> can you give us a little flavor of what it might have been like 100 years ago? 150 years ago? >> sure. this is all new, as you and i have lived through the same age . after the oklahoma city bombing, they closed pennsylvania avenue. up to my son to go skateboarding. it was a wholly different place. the white house, you could walk right into the white house. yeah. for a long time, you could just walk in.
in lincoln's time, you could just walk in and look around the rooms on the first level at your leisure. and right up through hoover, i think, on new year's day, anyone who wanted to could lineup and walk in and shake the president's hand. the book starts out where i'm sitting on a bench in lafayette square, where bernard bernaruke used to sit. he was a financier who was an adviser to president's from wilson to truman. he would have this bench near the jackson statue. and anybody who wanted to come talk to him could sit on this bench. he called it his bench of inspiration. the book starts with a picture of he and the secretary of state dean attkisson sitting there. can you imagine?
the secretary of state sitting on a park bench in lafayette square right now. the entourage would be incredible. what worries me is more and more , for some reason, i don't know why security closes the entire park. just a couple of weeks ago, i was going to walk through it and there were people there with full, big, big rifles. big rifles. the type we used to see when we thought terrorists were going to take over the capital building. they would close off the entire park. as more and more crazies leap over the fence, they've had to push the perimeter back and push it back. i do worry about the future that this can remain open to the public. >> hi. glenn marcus, national press club. great to see you. great tours.
just a point of clarification, i a volunteer in the park. am and is part of the overall national park service, all of the circles are also national park service properties. it is a separate entity from the portion of the park that takes care of the mall. however, i hope it is not the same bench, but do you have anything there about hush money being paid in lafayette park? since thetest fear book has come out is someone will come up and say, you mean, you didn't know about the hush money? [laughter] i don't know the hush money story. i do know that they found wires on bernard's bench. that led to some speculation that he was being wiretapped. other people thought it was part of the anti-gay thing to collect evidence. ok, tell me.
that apparently cash was paid off during the watergate scandal in lafayette park. >> oh. shew. the next book, next edition -- >> you sure you weren't paid off to not put that in there? [laughter] >> i wish i had known that. that would have been front and center. and if anybody else has something, just don't tell me. i spent 36 years. [laughter] well, the forward to this book is written by john kelly, the great washington post local columnist, metro columnist. he has a thing about squirrels. he spends a lot of time in the forward to the book talking about the squirrels in the park. it is fabulous.
i recommend it. it is worth buying the book alone just to read john kelly's forward to it. >> i still have more questions. so once i went on a really bad date and the guy told me there were bodies buried in lafayette square. is that true? >> well, i hope not. [laughter] > were there bodies buried? before it was a square, it was an orchard -- i don't know whether there had ever been a graveyard there in pre-colonial or colonial times. >> may be just rotten apples. >> or maybe someone to try and scare a sweet, young girl into cuddling closer. i know how this works. i was there. [laughter]
i'm a member of the press club. i'm sorry i came a few minutes late. did you talk about the statute in the northeast corner of the square? >> i did not. and remind me -- there are four statues. each one is a revolutionary war hero. >> there is one from belarus, i believe. steuben?nt fawn i think von steuben might be in the northeast corner. he was a prussian general who whipped the revolutionary troops into shape at valley forge. i was afraid somebody would get me on those statues. i should have written down exactly --
>> we have one more question. >> yes. >> do you have any idea about any of the secret basements or belowground spaces from the white house? how many floors and how extensive it is? >> i've heard a lot about them. i do not have any information that i could give you without off. knocked off sheare you hear rumors -- people who know the white house better than me. i have once, when i was covering the white house, there was a johning pool back in kennedy's time, there wasn't much going on. my buddy who is a press aide said, "you want to see the pool? the pool is still there. the deep end is where the podium is. this is where john kennedy was
swimming with who knows. >> >> >> >> jackie. >> jackie. [laughter] that's as close to underground as i've ever gotten. there is now. is on the southeast corner, correct? >> southeast, that is right. >> it shows lafayette with a sword and a partially clad woman at the bottom. she is saying i will give you my cloak if you give me your sword. >> that may be. the women's suffragists used that statue. you said the northeast corner. i was thinking the northwest
corner with von steuben. yes, that is exactly who is there. i got the wrong corner. i couldn't pronounce his name anyway. i'm a print reporter. i don't pronounce names. [laughter] >> the anti-nuclear peace vigil , and i am not sure if it was anti-nuclear. in this slide before it looked like it was anti-israel or anti-palestine. what is that woman's intersection with fame? did she ever make it onto any news clips? was she in textbooks? >> i don't know about textbooks. >> people would walk by and see her. did she have any notoriety? >> there were several articles about her. there was a cover story about her in the washington post magazine, where a got a lot of my information. she was a very strange woman.
she wore a helmet over her wig because she said they are out there. people would stop and talk to her all the time. there's a couple of stories in the book about people making fun of her and she would say, well, you know, if you would get active and stop all these wars, i wouldn't have to be here. so get to work. don't mock me. but, yeah. vince? >> i used to work at in peace corps in the early 1970's right on the corner of the park. there used to be an older gentleman. he wore a motorcycle helmet. we used to call him tight end. he pretty much was part of the
park for many years. you remember seeing him and all of a sudden, you don't see him. you don't really think about not seeing him and years later it hits you. what happened to tight end? >> there are a lot of people. we don't want to make fun of people suffering from mental disabilities. sometimes they end up in the park. >> a lot of people lived in the park. we to go over and have lunch. this was 1971-1972. madam president, do you think we should wrap it up here? anyone who wants to talk later, i will be here. >> well, i think, i think -- first of all, i would like to thank you and everybody here for coming. if you haven't purchased this book, it is such a lovely read, . you really should get it.
have gil sign it for you. right? thank you all for being here. thank you so much for spending your time with us today. [applause] >> thank you. >> before everybody leaves, gil, i know as former press club president, you probably have some of these already. you don't have one of them for this, for speaking here today about your lafayette square book. so thank you so much for being here with us. thank you for being a wonderful fixture of the club, and being the club's official historian. and sharing all these great stories with us. thank you so much. >> i just want to say, as president, bill bennett, secretary of education was speaking, and i noted this was time speaking of the club. when i presented him with the mug, i said you can use this for
brunch. [laughter] >> i bet you could invite some of us to brunch. >> thank you. >> thank you so much. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] >> this sunday, former democratic congresswoman eva clayton. my interest and service and resistance to me, but finally their acceptance of me. and they did. i wasn't on that drafting committee only because i was a ranking member.
i also made contribution. also, the acceptance of me as an equal, and others as their superior, allowed me to know that i can negotiate with the best of them. >> we will hear from helen bentley, barbara cannoli, nancy johnson, and lynn woolsey. at 10:00 a.m. eastern on american history tv on c-span3. a talk about mourning during the victorian era. she describes the rituals for men, women, and children when a family member died and how the civil war impacted radius norms. the gettysburg heritage center hosted this talk. any further od