5 Crazy Secrets Of Famous Places Around The World
Whenever you visit a historic landmark, you can't help but think about all the historic ... things that happened to make it ... uh, a landmark. And if you're anything like us, you also try to imagine all the sheer stupidity that the tour guide chooses to skip over. If that's the case, then we've got you covered for your next field trip. Check out how ...
The Golden Gate Bridge Almost Looked Ridiculous
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is an iconic piece of architecture, in part because of its striking red-orange color. There's an alternate universe out there, however, where the bridge got torn down after a week for being such an eyesore. Because it was originally intended to look like a goddamn candy cane.
See, the military never wanted a bridge constructed there at all, out of the fear that their fleet would be trapped in the bay if it ever collapsed. They soon agreed to drop their histrionics and weird-shaped war boner, but only on the condition that the bridge be painted in dazzle camouflage -- a pattern which, despite resembling Ziggy Stardust after getting run over by a steamroller, was pretty effective at hiding ships and military equipment from enemy bombers.
On its own, dazzle camouflage wouldn't have been the worst thing possible. But that wasn't all. In its infinite wisdom, the War Department asked the Navy and the Army Air Corp for their opinions. The Air Corp wanted the dazzle to be made of alternating red and white stripes (that'll be the candy cane), while the Navy wanted alternating black and yellow stripes (like a bumblebee).
It was only by sheer luck that the bridge didn't wind up looking like either of these suggestions. When the beams were delivered to the construction site, they were found to have been painted with an orange primer -- a shade which, according to the architectural firm in charge, didn't just look great, but would also help prevent ships from crashing into it when conditions got foggy. Because that's what happens if you paint bridges in camouflage.
The Congressional Office Building Used To Have Its Own Bootlegger
You might think that Congress is made up of a bunch of wild, unproductive, law-ignoring yahoos right now, but we guarantee that they're nothing compared to how things used to be. You need an example? Well, how about the fact that the country's lawmakers spent the best (worst?) years of Prohibition getting liquored up, not just on the taxpayer dime, but via their own in-house bootlegger?
In 1920, George Cassiday was an unemployed veteran trying to make an honest living. That is, until a friend asked if he wouldn't mind doing a little favor by smuggling a consignment of booze into the House of Representatives -- which had to be delivered with the upmost discretion, considering it was destined for two members who'd voted for Prohibition.
This gave Cassiday an idea to set up his own little operation, and soon enough, he was running a bootlegging business from a basement office situated in the Old House Office Building. And business was good. According to Cassiday, he would open up shop in the morning and make upwards of 25 deliveries a day to the drunkenest, hypocriticalist politicians on the Hill, hiding the bottles in a leather briefcase that never left his side.
Cassiday was never given any problems by security, despite arriving for "work" every morning pulling two suitcases containing "35 to 40 quarts" of the hard stuff -- that is, until 1925, when he was busted for possession of alcohol and banned from the House. His newfound notoriety, however, meant that he immediately found work as bootlegger-in-chief for the Senate. One senator, Cassiday later recalled, would come to refer to him as "the librarian" -- a nickname borne from the fact that this particular senator hid his liquor on the top of a bookshelf. ("He never mentioned liquor to me, but occasionally he would say he could use some 'new reading matter.'")
Cassiday worked diligently in this role until 1930, when he was nabbed and jailed for 18 months. In an interview with The Washington Post, he estimated that he'd catered to 80 percent of the members of the House and Senate, although he never named names. Well, kinda. He kept a client list (as all good criminals do), but this was never made public (despite having been confiscated by the feds upon his arrest), and following his death in 1967, it was incinerated by his wife. Unless she was releasing the trapped souls of alcoholic political ghosts, that seems a tad like overkill to us.
Independence Hall Was Nearly Bulldozed
Considering the way that society at large idolizes the Founding Fathers and the birth of this great nation, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Independence Hall -- the place in Philadelphia where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S Constitution were debated and finalized -- has spent its years since being revered for all time.
You'd be wrong, though. In 1812, a campaign began among the state legislators to tear down the place and turn it into real estate lots for the benefit of would-be gentrifiers and whomever the old-timey equivalent of Starbucks was. (The bottom of Boston Harbor?)
It wasn't like these guys had a raging hard-on for pissing off Ben Franklin or anything. Understand that before Independence Hall became Independence Hall, it was nothing but a run-of-the-mill statehouse ... or rather, a run-of-the-mill abandoned statehouse. By 1812, the state legislature had moved a couple of miles down the road to Harrisburg, meaning that the old statehouse was playing host to rats and hobo orgies. It had a neat claim to fame, sure, but arguing for its continued upkeep on these grounds (especially considering the post-Revolutionary-War economy being what it was) is like if the local high school argued that no one could tear down their decrepit gym because McGruff the Crime Dog once gave a speech there.
And they would've gotten away with too, if it wasn't for the city's municipal leaders. After plans to raze the site went public, these 1800s Leslie Knopes retorted that not only was the site unsuitable for development, but also that its value to the public outweighed any financial value, and so they offered to buy it for $70,000. The state passed on this kind offer and responded with their own: $150,000 or go scratch.
After a long, protracted legal battle between the state (which represented Big Bulldozer) and city (which represented Big Civic Pride), the city eventually won, and in 1818 it took possession of the building as a place for the people to treasure, and later for despondent Phillies fans to grief-vomit cheesesteak all over.
Stonehenge Was An Old-Timey Tourist Trap
When you're visiting a landmark, it's always stressful choosing what souvenirs to pick up for the folks back home. But what if there was a better keepsake than a magnet or an ill-fitting tee or a kitschy mug? What if you could take home an actual piece of the landmark itself? That ... isn't really achievable today, unless you're planning on delaying coming back home by several years (depending on good behavior). But it wasn't always this way.
From the 1700s onward, it was common for tourists visiting Stonehenge to hack off pieces of the stones. The strangest part, though? This was totally supported by the site's owners, to the point where they'd hand out chisels to any scatterbrained visitors who forgot theirs. Although the smash-happy vandals were frequently the target of vicious op-eds in The Times (which, by law, is the only way through which British people are allowed to drag each other), it wasn't until 1900 that the landowner, Sir Edmund Antrobus, worried about the possibility of the stones collapsing, introduced a visitor's charge, and banned people from taking home pieces of the stones.
The Berlin Wall Was Home To A Massive Colony Of Rabbits
Between 1961 and 1989, the Berlin Wall was a potent reminder of the stark segregation of the city. And anyone who looked even slightly escape-y near a checkpoint risked being shot. Meanwhile, anyone who dared try to go over the wall found themselves in a no man's land known as the "death strip" -- a hellscape of landmines, machine gun nests, anti-vehicle trenches, barbed wire, and, um, fluffy wuffy bunny rabbits.
Just like how penguins in the Falklands turned a minefield into their home, the relative peace and calm of the "death strip" meant that it became the site of a rabbit bangathon -- a paradise of unlimited food and absolutely no predators. Unless any soldier wanted to cause a diplomatic or military incident, they had to take ideas of wabbit season out of their Fudd-ing minds.
OK, and now for the sad part. After the wall came down, the rabbit population of the death strip wasn't used to dealing with people and noise and bustle again, and so they froze up ... forever. As Bartosz Konopka, a filmmaker who produced a documentary about the colony tells it: "It was such a stress. They'd go through one street, look for the nearest bush and stay there. But they were so frightened that they stayed there for many days and died from hunger. It was such a stress that they wouldn't think about what to eat. They'd just stand in one position and die."
The rabbits weren't forgotten, however. In 1999, a local artist, Karla Sachse, unveiled Kaninchenfeld (basically "rabbit field"), an art project that resulted in dozens of brass rabbit-shaped plaques being installed into the pavement near where a checkpoint once stood, in honor of the rabbits who "were observed and loved by the people of both sides."
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