Gifts With a Flavor of the Hill

Posted November 14, 2007 at 6:42pm

In the shuffle leading up to the Thanksgiving recess, the holidays may seem far away. But it’s not too early to start thinking about gifts. And if you’re interested in sharing a slice of your life on Capitol Hill with your family, friends or colleagues, you don’t have to look far.

A Piece of the Capitol — Literally

Many of the gifts offered by the U.S. Capitol Historical Society incorporate wood, sand and marble from the East Front steps of the Capitol itself. The society’s marble and sandstone bookends and paperweights, for instance, fit into that category and might come in handy as anchors for the hefty book collections and stacks of paper in many D.C. offices.

For those who don’t need an actual piece of the Capitol, Mary Hughes, director of marketing for the historical society, suggests the “We the People Calendar.” This item “brings its own uniqueness,” she says, with descriptions of important events that occurred within the halls of the Capitol and colorful photographs of Washington, D.C., monuments, statues, buildings and various historical sites. The 2008 calendar costs $8.95.

Also new this year are a large Capitol sculpture ($75), the 2007 Dome and Wreath Capitol Ornament ($22) and fine writing accessories ($28 to $148). On the more expensive end, the society is offering the 14-inch fine china Four Stage Presentation Bowl ($395). The bowl’s outer design depicts the Capitol’s four architectural stages and the inside features the seal of the United States in 24-karat gold.

Diana Wailes, vice president of merchandising for the historical society, notes that the small Capitol sculpture ($50), Eagle ballpoint pen ($48) or Statue of Freedom ($36) all are priced under the gift limit if you’re looking to give in a professional capacity.

More for the Historically Inclined

The Supreme Court Historical Society has a gift shop (shop.supremecourthistory.org) with everything from scales to books to ties, but for a special holiday gift, look to either the snow globe miniature model of the Supreme Court building ($11.95) or the 2007 Supreme Court Ornament ($26.95) depicting the West Plaza.

For a history of a different sort, turn to The Sewall-Belmont House (144 Constitution Ave. NE; sewallbelmont.org; 202-546-1210), which was the final headquarters of the National Woman’s Party, housing thousands of women’s rights activists. Now a museum and historical center commemorating those women, the stained glass window above the museum’s front entrance is a symbol of freedom. New for the holidays, a gorgeous replica pin ($15) is available.

The Sewall-Belmont House also is offering the Adopt-an-Allender program, which can make a very special gift in honor of someone. For $250 individuals can help underwrite the cost of conserving the political cartoons of Nina Allender — now on display at the museum — and you will receive a print of your cartoon to give as a gift.

Sprucing Up the Tree

A good place to start if you celebrate Christmas may be with an official Washington-themed ornament. Through a Web site — Whitehousechristmasornament.com — individuals can buy themed collections of the Capitol, Supreme Court, Mount Vernon and, of course, the executive residence itself.

“White House Christmas Ornaments was started in 1981, and has been going strong ever since,” says Edward Palmedo, warehouse manager for the Web site.

Every year new ornaments are added to the selection. The president and first lady have the opportunity to choose the design for the White House ornament.

This year’s collection includes an ornament marking the 275th anniversary of Mount Vernon, a Secret Service gift set, a depiction of the Jefferson Memorial and an ornament honoring the first administration of Grover Cleveland, from 1885 to 1889. Cleveland was elected to a second term in 1893 and is unique among U.S. presidents in that he was elected to two nonconsecutive terms.

The Cleveland ornament is among the top sellers so far for 2007. The keepsakes range from $14 to $50.

The ornaments also are available for groups to sell in fundraisers. Schools, churches and organizations such as the Boy and Girl Scouts have “done very well with the ornaments,” Palmedo says. “The public loves how we promote one-of-a-kind collectible ornaments that interpret the history of our American presidents and national government.”

The Hill, in Words and Pictures

Several books of local photographs could make a good addition to coffee-table collections. Trover Shop on the Hill recommends “The Majesty Of Capitol Hill” (Majesty Architecture) by Thomas Grooms and photographer Taylor Lednum, which shows the vibrancy and diverse architectural styles of Capitol Hill neighborhoods. Sites covered include Lincoln Park, Stanton Park, Barracks Row and Eastern Market. Significant landmarks such as Congressional Cemetery and the Marine Corps Commandant’s House — the oldest public residence in Washington after the White House — are included as well.

Trover also suggests: “Above Washington: A Collection of Nostalgic and Contemporary Aerial Photographs of the District of Columbia” (introduction by Alistair Cooke and photos by Robert Cameron), “Washington, D.C.: A Pictorial Celebration” (by Jeanne Fogle Lyons and photographer Elan Penn) and “Washington, D.C.: Then and Now” (by Alexander Mitchell IV).

An Early Start on Politics

There are a number of gifts that might help stimulate an early interest in the Hill. According to the Capitol Historical Society, one popular item is the new book “Vinnie and Abraham,” which tells the true story of Vinnie Ream, the sculptor of the Abraham Lincoln statue in the Capitol. The book also is available with a Lincoln action figure. The society offers a variety of other gifts for kids, from “The 50 States” book and magnetic puzzle map and “The Ultimate Presidents Sticker Book,” to card games and a “We the People” baseball.

Trover Shop recommends several Washington-oriented children’s books, including “Clifford goes to Washington,” by Norman Bridwell. This story follows the big red dog as he explores the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and the Washington Monument. Trover also suggests “Good Night Washington, DC,” written by Adam Gamble and illustrated by Joe Veno, which is part of a series on travels to locations across the country.

For Adult Political Buffs

“The 2008 Almanac of American Politics” by Michael Barone and Richard Cohen is among the books Trover recommends for true political junkies. The shop’s other suggestions perhaps would make for somewhat lighter reading. Among them is “Dear Mr. President: Letters to the Oval Office From the Files of the National Archives,” edited by Dwight Young with an introduction by Brian Williams. Trover also suggests former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s new book, “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World,” and Rep. David Obey’s (D-Wis.) recently released political memoir, “Raising Hell for Justice: The Washington Battles of a Heartland Progressive.”

Finally, for those interested in bringing politics and Hill history into their kitchen, the “Congressional Club Cookbook” features recipes from Members of Congress and Supreme Court justices. It is available through the Congressional Club (thecongressionalclub.com) and the Capitol Historical Society.

Andrea Cohen contributed to this report.