Reference Point

April 26, 2009

Very Washington DC

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $15.95

Diana Hollingsworth Gessler has forged a fascinating career out of illustrating and writing the text about fascinating American cities or states. Thus far, she has published books on New Orleans, Charleston, S.C., and California - and now Washington, D.C.

Her work consists of handsome watercolors and oil paintings of prominent sites, and quirky descriptions of places, people and things. Often she emphasizes the lesser known or underappreciated figures of history, such as Pierre-Charles L'Enfant, who laid the blueprint for what would become Washington, but she also highlights some of the finest museums in the District of Columbia, from the Smithsonian to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and mentions such uniquely Washington events as the National Cherry Blossom Festival, held in spring.

The White House gets its own section, in which Gessler describes and illustrates the china collection of the building's China Room and even discusses some of the First Pets, including Thomas Jefferson's magpie and Caroline Kennedy's pony.

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