This crumbling sidewalk has become a very hip tradition in Washington

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when things like this happen on Washington’s sidewalks, as people say.

It has happened to me five times over the past week, as a resident of downtown, where I imagine walking to our sometimes blind places is more of a struggle than most.

“Help.” I suddenly recall. “There’s no sidewalk down there.”

I walk down these streets not just once, or two times. But sometimes, on several occasions, I would walk down something like the marble staircase in front of Union Station, just down the hill. As I turn, suddenly, there it is. On that staircase: a four-foot-high black and white vertical wall inscribed with the words “Wall of Distinction.”

More than 40 years ago, the Washington Post did a story about the National Theatre Project and its sidewalk to the highest point. They considered it “one of the finest examples of Washington’s colonial architecture.” The story painted a pleasing portrait: A bronze hand holds a door closed behind it, to keep pedestrians from wandering onto property they could cross to avoid the shaded, bitingly cold heights, and do so at their own risk, in case they ended up in the midst of Washington’s beer and grit.

Well, maybe it should be a “Wall of Distinction” for something like that, too. (Another jumble of black cement, in front of the Missouri Valley Federal Credit Union at Second and K streets.)

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