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tv   St. Johns Church Church of the Presidents  CSPAN  January 14, 2017 9:55am-10:36am EST

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the film recently restored by the national archives -- by profiling several black american officials. the participation of blacks in the american process, brings a new sense of hope. not only a new sense of hope and optimism, but also a sense of economic" -- >> for our complete schedule go .o >> located across lafayette square church of the presidents located across lafayette square from the white house is st. john's episcopal church, known as the church of the presidents. built in 1816 and designed by u.s. capitol architect, every president since james madison has attended at least one
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service there. historian and church member richard grimmit gave american history tv a tour of the national historic landmark. mr. grimmett: this church was founded as a place for people to worship who had been forced to attend services on capitol hill near the navy yard and when they decided they had the means available, they came forward, put together a committee to form the church, and ultimately had the building built. the cornerstone was laid in september 1815, at the time that was done, it was done by the
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latrobe, when he built his church, did a wonderful sketch,
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which shows the white house in the distance across lafayette square, still in ruins from the british burning the capitol in the summer of 1814, and you can see the wall of the white house crumbled down. and at the side you have this nice, beautiful, finished building. the picture dates roughly from about the summer of 1816. church is still not completely finished inside, but you can see the location of the church and the white house, and the association with presidents begins from the moment of its inception. now, when the church was expanded, we're very fortunate that in 1822, the wife of the french minister of the united states was occupying the decater house, which is on another corner of lafayette square, and she was a very talented sketch artist. from the top floor of the house, she sketched st. john's church, and you can see at that point the extension that we have
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today. the one that was finished in 1822. a modern photograph that can be used in association with downtown washington and washington as a city, the photograph i took from the top of the cfio building, shows the steeple of st. john's with the weather vein facing lafayette square with the white house in the background and the washington monument in the distance. that steeple and weather vein have been there since 1822. once the church was finished, the last thing that went into it was a bell which was ordered from the revere works in boston, that's paul revere's son, joseph, who was the one responsible for providing that bell to the church. it weighs almost 1,000 pounds. it was installed in the bell tower in november of 1822, and
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it's been in continuous use ever since. that bell probably is one of maybe 500 left in the entire country. many of whom were not church bells, but nonetheless, that's one of the pride and joys of this church. it's difficult for anybody to see it on a tour, because of the narrowness of the access route to the bell tower itself, but we have pictures of it, and it says on the bell, "revere boston, 1822." one of the artifacts of st. john's which we're very proud of. i want to tell you something about the pews, because there's a connection between the pews and the presidency itself. from the time the church was built until the present, there's always been a pew set aside for the president of the united states whenever he might choose
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to attend a service at st. john's. in 1816 when the church was built, we had the box pews, the large box pews with the doors, and when the church fathers went over to meet with president james madison, he was offered a pew free of charge, no rent, for any time he would choose to attend services, and madison being a person who believed in the separation of church and state was not going to pick a pew. he said, "you ck one for me," and so they set it aside with a clear understanding that any president in the future who chose to attend would be able to use that pew free of charge. now, in 1816, that pew was located at the back of the original church of latrobe, the one shaped like a greek cross , and its number then was pew number 28, but in 1843, again, to try to find more space and more room, the church leaders found that the box pews just weren't efficient in terms of providing enough space for
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people. and so what they did was agreed to redesign the church pew structure and build in what today are the pews we have, the slip pews, with wrought iron armrests on the end and the wooden structure you see today. this is the original church pews that have been here since 1843. now, at that time, they had to renumber the pews, obviously, because they had more of them, so what was the president's pew, number 28. it now became pew number 54, which we know is the president's pew, and this is the pew that the president of the united states sits in when he attends services at st. john's. it's marked with a brass plaque so everybody knows this is the president's pew. anyone can sit in the pew. it's only reserved for the president when he chooses to
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attend a service. now, not always does a president sit in this particular pew. when you have a special occasion where protocol dictates, a special service of some kind or a funeral or a memorial service of some kind, the president will sit in the front pew on the left of the center section, pew 62. when president obama was inaugurated in 2009, he sat in the very front of the church in pew 62 and not in the regular president's pew, because of the nature of the occasion. but if you're talking about a regular church service, the president would come in through h street entrance most of the time and be part of the worship service with the rest of the church. one of the treasures of this church is this book of common prayer that was published in 1856 and as you'll notice has
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embossed upon it, "president's pew st. john's church." this book of common prayer was used by presidents probably from president buchanan forward until it was taken out of service when a new edition was published in the 1880s. in 1961, when a commemorative service was planned at st. john's to recognize the first attendants of abraham lincoln, the organist of st. john's found this in the archives and discussed it with church leaders at the time, and they thought it would be a good idea to have every president still living to sign it. for every president that would follow them to sign it as well, and so what we have inside this historic book are the signatures of herbert hoover, franklin roosevelt, which was signed by his wife, eleanor roosevelt, harry truman, dwight eisenhower, lyndon johnson, john kennedy, richard nixon, gerald ford, jimmy carter, ronald reagan,
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george bush, and so on. of course, more recently, george w. bush and barack obama. so, the tradition has been maintained. at some point when a new president's elected, st. john's makes an effort to contact them and have them sign this very historic book. it is a very dear item to the church. it clearly does not sit in the president's pew anymore, but it's one of those great pieces of history that has been long associated with this church from 1856 to the present. abraham lincoln has an association with st. john's as well. when he was elected in 1860, his first church service that he attended after he arrived in washington in february of 1861, was at st. john's. he came to st. john's on the 24th of february, on a sunday,
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for the 11:00 service with senator william seward of new york. they sat in the front of the church but hardly anybody recognized him including the rector, who was giving the sermon at the time and didn't even know he was speaking to the president-elect of the united states until after the service when senator seward introduced him. now, abraham lincoln didn't belong to any specific church during his life, but because his wife had a tendency towards presbyterianism, they attended on most sundays. they did go to church as a family, the new york avenue presbyterian church. however, lincoln did from time to time sit in the president's pew, number 54, with his secretaries, but most of the time he did not formally attend st. john's. however, during the civil war,
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he would, from time to time during the evening services of st. john's that were instituted, he would come in the very back door of the church on the south side and sit in the very last pew in the back of the church where he could have a quiet moment of contemplation and reflection without becoming the center of attention, which he would have been had he sat in the president's pew in the front and center of the church. so, this pew back here is the lincoln pew at st. john's, pew number 89. you can see it's right at the back door. someone could easily come in, slip in, and join the service and leave without being the center of attention. as you can see just the visuals from this, if you sit here and you look at the front of the church, it's a very private place. there really could be no better place for a person who wanted some privacy to deal with all
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the burdens of being president during a civil war and the issues he had to contend with, to sit back here, quietly contemplate whatever thoughts he might have on the issues of the day, look to the front of the church, and basically the only people who could see him would be the ministers who were conducting the service, because everybody would be facing forward. it was president lincoln's habit after he had come to one of these services to leave before the service ended and quietly slip out this back door from this pew and walk across lafayette square back to the white house. another small little tidbit about abraham lincoln is, when he was inaugurated as president, he had left the family bible in the luggage, and it was not available for him to take the
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growth of office. so, the clerk of the supreme court, who was also a member of st. john's, william carroll, lent him his bible, so you may recall that the library of congress lent that original carroll bible to barack obama for purposes of his swearing in. well, the carroll family was a long-standing family at st. john's, and here is a stained glass window that was prepared when these windows were installed in the church in honor of william carroll and his family, the library congress, of course, has that bible today, but st. john's has memorialized william carroll in this stained glass window. i've been mentioning some of the stained glass windows of st. john's. when the building was first built, there were not stained glass windows. they were clear windows, and some with shades to block out
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the sunlight when it was very, very bright. in the mid-1880s, a decision was made to introduce true stained glass windows which were made by the famous lorinne glass form in france. decisions were made that the windows would have a certain amount of uniformity to them, but that they would reflect scenes from the life of jesus or of st. john's, for whom the church was named. one of these windows that was installed was the montgomery blair, who was postmaster general during president lincoln's administration. prior to that time, he'd been mayor of st. louis, and he also was the counsel for dread scott during that famous supreme court decision. this montgomery blair window shows you the incredible beauty of the artwork that the lorinne firm was noted for, the blues, the reds, the details.
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it's amazingly beautiful to see these on sundays when the sun is up, and you can see the intricacy and the carving and the color scheme. it is just a wonder to behold. if you'll come and look at the main altar, you'll notice a particularly unique window in the center. this is a rendition of the last supper, but you'll notice it's nothing like you've seen if you have ever seen the pictures of leonardo da vinci's last supper. with the table is sideways from left to right, and jesus and john are in the middle. view, jesusrticular is at the far end of the table and you're looking at one end to the other. this is a particularly beautiful
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window. there's none like it, to our knowledge, any place in the world. there's no church that has a specific window quite like that. this window was installed during the renovations of st. john's in 1883 to 1885 in which the choir and altar were pushed back about 30 or 40 feet to the property line so there would be more space available. you can see the window is signed by madam lorinne, and, if you look at the far bottom right corner of it, you can see her name etched into the glass with a notation that she was from chartres, france, and that was the label that you will find on a lot of these windows. they designed the windows in france, cut the glass into the various components, shipped it
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to new york where james renwick, who was the architect responsible for the expansion of the church at the time, had them assembled and sent to st. john's for installation. the family of admiral charles member of st. john's for a number of years, his family wanted to have an anchor made as part of his window, but to do that, there was concern they'd have to come up with some kind of a matching design or something to offset it on the other side of this three-part window above the altar. so, there was a lot of correspondence back and forth about how they were going to do this, but the end result was that the wilkes family got their anchor. if you'll take a look at the label at the very bottom of the side light on the right where it
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says "erected to the glory of god and in memory of rear admiral charles wilkes, u.s. navy, died february 8, 1877." and then the next line you'll see a little anchor. so he got his anchor. the family was happy, and we have a beautiful side light to accompany the large last supper window. charles wilkes was actually a very, very noted explorer. when he was a lieutenant in the navy, he led an exploring expedition that circumnavigated the globe, and there's an entire section of antarctica that's named after him. it's called wilkes land, because he's deemed to have discovered that section when he was on this trip. so, in a strange sort of way, admiral wilkes has got one of those colorful personal histories that most people don't know about today. but in this small little corner of st. john's, he's remembered and his family got their anchor.
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we're going to go up now to the gallery, the upper level of st. john's. as i mentioned before, the bell in st. john's was made in 182 and this wrote -- rope was the rope that was used to ring that though. over time, you know, the rope was changed and there was many times when the bell was rung on famous occasions, you know, like the end of the second world war or after kennedy's assassination to the point the rope would break. with modern technology today, the church has an electronic system to ring the bell without having to use the old method of having somebody ring it by hand, but we've kept the rope in place as sort of a momento of times past.
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ringing] i wanted you to see two particular windows up here. this window here, especially the one on the top, many times in the past was made into a postcard by the church. the two parts of the window were both collectively a memorial for senator william seward, and as the legend says at the bottom, erected by his friends who worshipped in this church for 20 years while senator from new york and while secretary of state. these are two particularly beautiful segments of lorin stained glass windows, but the sword at the top half was particularly beautiful in the detailing. as i said, it was made into a
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postcard 30 or 40 years ago. and, of course, the other half of the window at the bottom is the presentation of jesus in the temple. the vestry also dedicated an 1885 window to a couple of the presidents who had attended st. john's, and this is the window here starting to show some wear, but basically it says it was erected in 1885 by the vestry in memory of james madison, james monroe, and martin van buren, eighth president, who worshipped in this church while in office. so, i would just mention here is an example of, again, stained glass window beauty, but also the historical connection. martin van buren was not an episcopalian. james monroe and james madison
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were. but presidents who attended st. john's did not have to be adherents to the episcopalian faith. they could be anything. john quincy adams was one of the most noted religious presidents. of all the presidents, he probably attended church services more than anybody. he was essentially a unitarian for most of his life, but he would attend afternoon services at st. john's when he was president and afterwards. presidents came to attend this church, because, yes, it was it was just a small trip across convenient. it was just a small trip across -- yes, it was convenient. it was just a small trip across the square to the church. you can see even here from the gallery looking down, this was part of the expansion of the church from latrobe's original
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building. it's very intimate. if you look above the chandelier into the coopala, you can see stained glass windows there. they were put in in 1895 in memory of peter hagner, one of the original founders of this church, by his family. it's kind of hard to see those from the ground floor. that used to be nothing but clear glass, but from here you get a bit of an idea of how this church has been adorned over time in various ways. another window up here i wanted to have you see was installed in memory of lieutenant general winfield scott, who was a vestry member of st. john's, and he was also the commanding general of the united states army at the outbreak of the civil war. this window was dedicated in his behalf by hamilton fish, who was secretary of state during president grant's administration and was also a member of st. john's. again, another example of the
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beautiful, lorin glasswork and the detailing which we hope to maintain and preserve for as long as this building exists. throughout the history of this church, people can talk about famous people that have been here. most of the famous members were famous at all. they were ordinary people that just wish to go to a church service in their neighborhood. almost one year to the day, after that famous summer, the cornerstone was laid. time, the editor of the national intelligence newspaper wrote an editorial that sort of summed up with the feeling was at the time. what st. john, in its own way, symbols to the people at large. i will now quote that statement.
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"in reflecting on that same day " -- that ishs ago referring to august of 1813 when the capital was burned. " upon which, this solemn ceremony was performed. the laying of the cornerstone at st. john. the heart must have been callous indeed they did not feel more sensibly on any other occasion enormous latitude to that being whose prominence is open to the whole nation and more especially to the inhabitants of this district. the most cheering prospects for the future. prospects which provide additional satisfaction from the recollection of our past distresses and are almost hopeless humiliations. the church of st. john's is located on a beautiful rich. a situation that surpasses
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scenery in which the site of washington abounds. it is built under the direction of mr. latrobe who has endeavored to instant wish it -- distinguish it with singular beauty of its disposition. " the view of the people at that time was that this represented a new beginning for the people of washington. subsequent to that time, st. john's had any number of special services. funerals, weddings, and the like. one of the most famous is that of dolly madison. she was one of the first first ladies to attend st. john's. died in 1836,nd she decided to move back to washington.
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she moved back to the house which is on one corner of lafayette square very close to st. john's. she lived there until her death in 1849. when she came back to washington, she was baptized at st. john's and confirmed by the bishop of maryland in this church. when she died, her funeral was conducted from this church. it was attended by everyone. the entire cabinet, the president of the united states, all the city fathers, and at one -- at that service, one of the pallbearers whose name has been lost to history -- he was an original member of st. john's cursed. he was a clerk in the safety department of 1813. when the fires of washington had yet to take place him a james monroe, who was his boss, was to see theg
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disposition of the british military forces. he concluded that there was a strong probability that washington would the attack and burned. he sent a writer back to the state department who contacted the man, and he said you should secure all of the important documents of the united states. he had backs made at of course been in, and he secured all of the major records of the united states at that time that were in the possession of the state department. that includes the declaration of independence in the constitution of the united states and other records of the senate that had not been released. washington's resignation document. importantly,st with the decoration of -- the declaration of independence. he took these documents, and he
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concluded that because the british believed a foundry close by would be too handy in providing munitions, he had the documents taken to leesburg, virginia where they could be stored in a secure place. he went to bed exhausted. that night, all the citizens of washington saw the city in flames. hadecalled in exchange he when taking the documents out of the state department into safekeeping. he ran into the secretary of war at the time who saw what he was doing and asked him why he was doing it. he felt he was being extremely alarmist. that washington was not going to be invaded by the british. he said that he felt it was a point of prudence to do it, and he carried on. if he had not secured those
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documents, today you would not be able to go to the national archive and see the declaration of independence or the constitution of the united states in its original form. all those other precious documents of american history that were kept at the state department at that time. dolly madison passed away, and held at st.was john. there was one person at the funeral that most people would not normally recognize when they looked at that pallbearers list. that was steven fletcher said -- plesserson. lost to time,s but everyone back then it in the unitedle states.
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clearly, to the people of washington at that time, they saw the connection between the two, and the nature he had an honored place as a pallbearer. the funeral service left st. john's, and it went all the way to the8 street southeast congressional cemetery where dolly madison was interred until her remains to be taken to orange, virginia to be buried with her husband. everyone knew that she represented a major period in american history. are an of them together element of u.s. history at st. john's church that is worth remembering. one of the little-known facts about presidential inaugurations is that it's been a custom in modern times to have a church service, a worship service of some kind, before the president takes the oath of office.
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now, a lot of people feel that's something of long-standing tradition, and it's not. it actually began with franklin roosevelt on march 4, 1933 when he wished to have a worship service take place before he took the oath of office in the depths of the great depression, so he contacted the church, and he organized a special service with his former headmaster at school, who participated with the church in coming up with a special service. they had that service at st. john's that morning, and he felt that that was the way to start. he wrote letters later on saying that he thought that he got his administration off to the right footing by having that service at st. john's in march of 1933. now, what that did was it
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planted in the minds of people that this was a good thing to do. so when roosevelt died, harry truman became president. when harry truman was inaugurated in 1949, after his election in 1948, he came to st. john's and had a pre-inaugurational worship service here before he was sworn in for his full term as president. subsequent to that time, other presidents have had pre-inaugural services in churches or elsewhere. not necessarily in st. john's, but the tradition began here, and it began with franklin roosevelt. that's one more example of the association of st. john's with presidents and part of the heritage of this building. it's always been available as a place, and an intimate place, for services that people might wish to have. for example, when president
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kennedy was assassinated on november 22, 1963, reverend john harper, the rector of st. john's at the time, was contacted by president lyndon johnson and asked if the following day, the saturday, on november 23rd around noon, if st. john's would have a brief memorial service on behalf of president kennedy. of course, the church was quite happy to comply. on that day, president johnson, his wife ladybird, and some of the staff came over, they had a private memorial service here, and there is an iconic picture of president johnson coming out of the church with his wife and the rector of st. john's and the look on johnson's face says it
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all. if ever was a pained expression that captured the mood of the moment, that was the picture that did it. i would say not to forget st. john's is a church. i've been giving you a lot of examples of historic artifacts in this building, it's not a museum. although people may feel that that's why they note it for, the fact it's been here so long, the fact it's been associated with presidents, but one thing that is absolutely the case is that this church has been an integral part of washington from its very beginning as a worship place. when st. john's held its 100th anniversary service, the centennial service was held in 1917, in january, the keynote speaker was henry cabot lodge of massachusetts, and on that occasion he summed up what was true then and is still true today about the nature of this place and its role in washington history. he said, "to describe all that has happened within sight of this spot, all that this church
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has seen looking across the square would be to tell, in large part, the history of the united states." that was a true statement then, and it's a true statement today. st. john's is still an integral part of washington, d.c. it continues to serve the needs of its congregation and visitors alike. it is a welcoming place for anyone who wishes to join us for a worship service. >> richard grimmat is the author of "a history of st. john's church." you can also learn about the church of the presidents at their website, followan continues to president-elect donald trump in his new administration on the road to the white house. sunday, at 6:35 p.m. eastern
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time from trump tower, a conversation with two, key trump administration staffers. kellyanne conway and sean spicer talk about their new white house positions. the talk about their life and career in politics, and what we can expect from president trump. first, we sat down with kellyanne conway. transformed the republican party and the conservative movement into one that values the worker. that is liberating. >> then, sean spicer on his new role of incoming white house indications director and press secretary. andommunications director press secretary. >> everybody who has held this job has reached out and offered their advice and counsel. it is a very humbling experience. you realize you are in a club of 30 people that have held this position.
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>> watch that sunday beginning at 6:35 p.m. on c-span and on you can also listen on the free c-span radio app. >> december 7, 1941, warplanes from japanese aircraft carriers attacked hawaii. the surprise attack led to the u.s. entry into world war ii. craig simons talks about events that occurred leading up to pearl harbor, including the second china and japanese war and embargoes on u.s. oil shipments to the isle of japan. this took place at national defense university and was organized by the friends of the national world war ii memorial. >> my name


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