A new US capital city and my coronavirus experience

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A new US capital city and my coronavirus experience article

Historic US Election Review of Architectural Aspects: Architectural Column by Joel Solkoff, PA, USA

Feb 9, 2021


A new US capital city and my personal coronavirus experience

official residence of Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris - A new US capital city

This is the official residence of Vice Presudent of the United States Kamala Harris. The residence is known as the Naval Observatory or the Admiral’s House. It is located on the other side of town from the White House—deep into Northwest Washington along embassy row.

Embassy Row has rarely been where the political action is in the Distict of Columbia. Not until 1973 did any significant move take place toward providing the vice president with an official residence. It is entirely possible that Kamala Harris will not move into her official residence designed by Victorian architect Leon E. Dessez (1858-1918). The chimney is in need of repair plus she, her husband and family already have a house. in DC. Photo in the public domain.

Eisenhower Executive Office Building USA - A new US capital city

The official (“ceremonial”} office of the Vice President is next door to the White House at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building designed in a style locals refer to as Ulysses S. Grant Gothic. In reality Vice President Harris will rarely use her official office because she is provided an actual but unofficial office at the West Wing of the White House next to the Oval Office. Photo in the public domain.

President Joe Biden at the Resolute Desk in his Oval Office at the West Wing of the White House

President Joe Biden at the Resolute Desk in his Oval Office at the West Wing of the White House. Vice President Kamala Harris is a hop, skip and jump away. Just as the vice president of the United States does not live in her official home nor work in her official office, so the government’s work does not take place in the reality we regard as business as usual.


Department of Health and Human Services Building USA - HHS
Photo by Mathew G. Bisanz, courtesy Wikipedia

Consider the Department of Health and Human Services, (HHS) the most important government agency involved with the coronavirus pandemic in the US. The Department is not simply a building. This Washingon, D.C. building, the Hubert Humphrey Building, houses a Department with an annual budget of $1.4 trillion houses offices throughout the US. While the Secretary of HHS is based in DC, the Centers for Disease Control are based in suburban Atlanta, Georgia:
Hubert Humphrey Building Washingon, D.C.
Photo in the public domain

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services are based in Baltimore, Maryland:
Department of Health and Human Services' Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services are based in Baltimore, Maryland
Photo in the public domain


Feb. 8, 2021

US Architecture under President Biden Part V

Joel Solkoff’s Column Vol. VII, Number 2

“Video games exert a powerful pull in this age of the pandemic. Their fantasy urban landscapes provide us with a stage for travel; their mechanics exploit action and emotion to weave intricate stories that no other artform is capable of telling. They allow us to go deeper, to be cast adrift, to dive into texture. And under successive lockdowns, and with museums and galleries shuttered, ”

— “Unreal Cities” by En Liang Khong, Times Litrary Supplement, February 5, 2021 [Consider a subscription: Subscriptions | Subscribe to The TLS (the-tls.co.uk)]

##### “The cities and mansions that people dream of are those in which the finally live.”

–Lewis Mumford, my favorite architectre critic and author if The City in History.


“Let us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our great nation. If we do this, then when our days are through, our children and our children’s children will say of us: ‘They gave their best. They did their duty. They healed a broken land.”’

—President Joe Biden, Innaugural Address before the West Wing of the US Capitol January 20, 20001 #### “The Senate Banking Committee approved the nomination of Marcia Fudge to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development on a 17-7 vote Thursday [February 3rd].”

— Reported by Katy O’Donnell, Politico. “Appearing before the committee last week, Marcia Fudge called on Congress to dramatically increase funding for housing programs, alarming Republicans who fear an ‘activist HUD’.”

Film on YouTube
Testimony by Rep. Marcia Fudge at her confirmation hearing to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, February 3, 2001, on C-Span, government network


DATELINE – Monday, February 8,.2021.”

In my previous column, I wrote: “Increasingly complicated has become my flight from rural Lycoming County. (where I have lived for the past two years) to New York City” My flight is/was to save my 73 year old grandfather paraplegic life from the coronavirus. Complications continue.

Photo by me of my first roommate at this 320 bed nursing home and physical rehabilitation center:
Queens NY nursing home and physical rehabilitation center

The Lycoming County I escaped has become a major hot spot. By comparison the City of New York is considerably safer. Even so, the major development is three weeks ago I tested positive for coronavirus. I had a mild case of it. First, I had two IV sessions of antibiotic drips.

Yes, the virus is a virus and not directly responsive to antibiotics. However, the virus does attack the lungs and the antibiotics helped protect my lungs from pnemonia if it had developed. Then I had IV injections of vitamins. After two negative coronavirus tests, I was given the first Pfizer vaccine two weeks ago. A week from today, I am scheduled to receive my second vaccine shot. Then, I will return home–it is not home unless one misses it as I do–to the beautiful mountains of Lycoming County Pennsylvania.

On February 16th, I plan to take a taxi from the Maxicana Cab Company (next door to the NYC Regal Heights Nursing Home) to the new Moynihan Train Hall in Manhattan; then, a two and a half hour train ride to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s state capital. Finally to Williamsport (home) county center of Lycoming and location of 19th Century architectural treasures.

Vaccine screening form USA
Photo by me


President Biden’s inauguration plus

Less than a month ago, Donald Trump was President of the United States.

Since then, Trump (while still sitting President of the United States) urged a mob to march on the Capitol of the United States and interrupt the Constitutionally mandated formal selection of Joe Biden to be President. Never before has the phrase “I weep for the fate of my Republic” had more meaning.

President Biden inauguration - Washington DC riot 2021 USA
Screen shot by me of the Capitol where I lived from 1973 to 1990 six blocks from this spot.

Increasing it is clear that you and I (no matter where we happen to be) are no longer merely in one place. Here in a nursing home in Queens, New York the multiple televisions are constantly turned on showing to my fellow residents Washington and London, Yemen and Uganda–here there and everywhere.

The somewhere else that pursues me is Washington DC.

I may be looking out my nursing room window and seeing the skyline of Manhattan….

skyline of Manhattan
Photo by Joel

…but I am simultaneously in my mind’s eye looking at the Capitol City of the United States. Indeed, frequently, I take out my virtual drawng pad and redesign Washington DC. because, as I will be arguing in this and (perhaps more clearly in future columns) that we need a new capital. Perhaps given the seeming omnipotence of the Internet we already have one.

President Reagan inauguration:
President Reagan inauguration
Photo courtesy Wikipedia

President Ronald Reagan’s Inauguration on January 20, 1981 from the west side of the Capitol of the United States marked a distinct physical change from all previous Presidents since the Capitol of the United States formally moved to Washington DC from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1800.

When the US’ third President Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated on March 4, 1801, Jefferson faced east as was intended by Pierre Charles L-Enfant, who in 1792 designed the city.

At noon, January 20, 2021 President Joe Biden facing west swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States and “defend it against all enemies foreign and domestic.


Four years before Reagan broke the mold designed by L’Enfant and codified by Jefferson, I walked six blocks from my apartment on East Capitol Street to attend the Inauguration of Jimmy Carter. I walked [I could walk then] past the Library of Congress to my left, past the Supreme Court on my right into the glorious grounds designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (who also designed New York City’s Central Park) then into the massive parking lot in front of the Capitol of the United States.

US Capitol buildings layout map:
US Capitol buildings layout map
Map courtesy US Capitol Visitors Center. The west is to the left; east right.

Often late at night, I walked that walk from 1973 when I arrived in DC as a permanent resident until 1990 when I left to take a job as a technical writer for a telecommunications company in Durham, North Carolina.

For noon on January 20, 1976, this was my destination:

President Jimmy Carter oath of office:
President Jimmy Carter oath of office
Photo in the public domain

President Jimmy Carter takes the oath of office, the last President to do so from the east side of the Capitol looking across from the top of Capitol Hill to the city of L”Enfant’s design. Instead, four years later President Reagan established a precedent which continued on January 20th when President Biden swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States looking down the hill in the direction of the White House.

Pierre Charles L’Enfant layout:
Pierre Charles L’Enfant plan of Washington DC

In 1789, Pierre Charles L’Enfant (then a military engineer in the Continental Army) wrote to President Washington asking him to design a federal city.

Washington told L’Enfant to chill. The Constitution had just been ratified. There was no agreement regarding regarding a location for a permanent capital.

Wikipedia notes, “When Jefferson ran into Hamilton at President Washington’s residence in New York City in late June 1790, Jefferson offered to host a dinner to bring Madison and Hamilton together. Subsequently, a compromise was reached, in which the northern delegates would agree to the southerly Potomac River site, and in return, the federal government would assume debts accumulated by the states during the American Revolutionary War.”

In 1791, Washington gave L’Enfant a commission to design DC. L’Enfant’s Plan, not clearly legible here, contains two buildings: Congress Hose and The White House (then before the British burnt it in the War of 1812 and it was repainted white) known as The President’s House.


Film on YouTube

Publishable in accordance with YouTube guidelines. Think of this now dated video as a necessary part of the preparation planning process for architects who must get involved with President Biden’s First 100 Days plans for housing the most vulnerable of our people.

Please start thinking of President Joe as your client.

Global architects. Strut your stuff!


My editors beckon: “All right, stop writing, Joel.”

Isabelle Lomholt and Adrian Welch, Editors at e-architect:
Isabelle Lomholt and Adrian Welch e-architect editors

“Good night and good luck,” as Greensboro, North Carolina born Edward R. Morrow, my hero, used to say.

Film on YouTube

My hero Edward R.Murrow broadcast this 1960 example of classic investigative reporting. This documentary was broadcast on Thanksgiving Day where I watched it at my maternal grandmother’s apartment in Brooklyn. I was 12 years old at the time.Murrow’s documentary shaped my future career in measurable ways.

Note the hideous conditions of farm worker housing. Little effort would find in Florida and Canada- where inadequate housing for migrant workers in danger of spreading the Corona virus have been reported. Think Black Lives Matter when you hear the words of a grower Murrow quoted: “We used to own our slaves. Now we just rent them.”

My parents idolized Frank Sinatra known affectionately as chairman of the board. Sinatra introduces the song with this: “We will now due the national anthem. But you do not need to rise.”

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2019: East Third Street Williamsport, PA, US 17701

Please feel free to phone me at US 570-772-4909

Copyright © 2021 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

— Joel Solkoff, US Editor, e-architect, New York City, New York, USA

Please feel free to phone me at US 570-772-4909 or send an e-mail [email protected] Copyright © 2021 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

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