Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Letter Perfect: Help Me Build a D.C. Alphabet

adoor2.jpgOn Second Street NE, not far from the Supreme Court, there is an apartment building called The Senate. It is in most respects rather unremarkable: beige brick, a few steps up to a small landing, wooden doors set with large panes of glass. But I find one aspect incredibly appealing.

Carved in stone above the entryway is a single six-letter word: "SENATE." And within that word -- four spaces from the left, three spaces from the right -- is the letter A.

When I first saw this A I stopped in my tracks. So sublime, so well-proportioned. Solid, as things carved in stone tend to be, but also playful. Look at that little fillip at the top, a tiny typographical cowlick. If there is a prettier A in Washington, I haven't seen it.


This A is the first letter in my Washington Alphabet. Now all I need are 25 more letters.

You see, what I want to do is assemble an alphabet from the streetscape of the Washington area. And for this, I need your help. When you spot a particularly handsome letter, take a photo and send it to me at Over time, I hope we can put together an A-Z of distinctive designs: an A here, a B there, here an M, there a W.

These letters can be in any style -- uppercase, lowercase, cursive, block. They can be from any source, whether that's a long sober quotation carved in a monument wall or a retailer's colorful neon sign. All they need to be is distinctive in some way.

What will we do with this? I have no idea. I think it will encourage us to get away from our desks at lunch, to look around, to appreciate eye-catching design. I suspect it will be perfect for writing ransom notes.

So, please snap away. Take a photo of the entire sign or inscription and, if you can, a close-up of the letter you're particularly enamored with. Or number. Type fonts also include 0 through 9, as well as such punctuation as ? and !. If you see any of those, send them too.

E-mail photos to me at with the subject heading "Alphabet -- [the character you are sending]" (ie: "Alphabet -- R"). Mention where you took the photo. I'm hoping we'll have lots of letters to choose from. Maybe we'll vote to select the single best example of each letter.

There's no prize, per se, but I will pick a reader at random to treat to lunch. TYVM. (That's "Thank you very much.")


By John Kelly  |  April 7, 2009; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Alphabet  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Where in Washington?
Next: I Am a Camera: Some Random Shots


This is brilliant, and just in time. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was soliciting ideas for a DC-centric alphabet poster for my son's room. I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with!

Posted by: tracenik | April 11, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company