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Tom Sherwood's Notebook: The Past and the Future

Historical Society gets Kiplinger family's collection

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Sherwood: The Past and the Future

You have an opportunity to look both back and ahead this week.

First, here’s a cool look back: One of the best undereported stories of the recent week involved the old-line Kiplinger family.

Three generations of Kiplingers amassed a stunning collection of more than 4,000 paintings, maps, photographs and other materials that capture the history of our nation’s capital.

It’s being touted as the largest private collection ever assembled.

“This rich trove of graphics depicting our city’s history should be in a place where it can be seen by our citizens and visitors to Washington,” Knight Kiplinger told the Notebook this week, “and also be accessible to researchers.”

That goal made the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., “the logical choice to be its new home,” he said, noting that the facility has “fine exhibition spaces and the Kiplinger Research Library.”

“It will take a while for the Kiplinger Collection to be incorporated into HSW’s current holdings, but we expect that, later in 2012, there will be an opening exhibit featuring some of the most notable works,” Kiplinger continued.

It’s truly great news for lovers of the city’s local history. And the donation can be a distinctive draw in the continuing efforts to bring the Carnegie Library to life.

• The future is now.

(With apologies to those who remember the late Redskins coach George Allen.) Several blocks from the Carnegie Library is another sign of the robust forces shaping downtown Washington.

The Clyde’s Restaurant Group this past weekend opened The Hamilton, a 1,000-seat restaurant at the corner of 14th and F streets. The site most recently housed a Borders bookstore, but older Washingtonians will remember it as the home of Garfinckel’s Department Store, which went out of business in 1990.

What makes The Hamilton different from the 13 other restaurants in the Clyde’s group is that it is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week (though it will be closed on Christmas). And it has a huge performance space in the bottom level that will officially open Jan. 19 with famed gospel/blues singer Mavis Staples.

“We felt it was time,” said Clyde’s President Tom Meyer, who showed News4 the space last Friday as the waitstaff and kitchen went through last-minute drills before opening Sunday night.

Meyer said the redeveloping downtown is coming alive, with thousands of new people living in the area. Adding to that, he said, are legions of late-night government workers, tourists in hotels looking for something more than room service, and even employees of other restaurants that close after midnight.

Many of those people (and yours truly) are looking for more than a greasy diner or burger joint.

Clyde’s said the opening night on Sunday drew a large crowd that packed the Hamilton’s bars and tables. The overnight business was light, but word of mouth will fix that soon.

The menu and appeal are typical of a Clyde’s restaurant, with moderate prices in an upscale environment -- a truly welcome idea.

If the restaurant and performance space are not enough, there’s also a second-floor lounge area set off from the rest of restaurant. It looked perfect for a hideaway lunch or private party. Maybe one of my sources will be comfortable there spilling the beans, so to speak.

• Taxi battle, round two.

It’s hard to recall that it was just 2008 when this city dumped the antiquated zone system and switched to no-brainer meters. Finally, cab customers could really know how much they owed and not depend on a driver just citing a figure.

On Monday, Mayor Vincent Gray and Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh unveiled a sweeping plan to overhaul the taxi industry.

The proposed bill would for the first time allow the Taxi Commission to limit the number of licensed taxi drivers in the city. There are more than 8,000 now. It also would go a lot further in forcing drivers to disclose all of their income. Cabs would be required to accept credit cards or other digital payments. A new meter system would deliver real-time information to the Taxi Commission about the fares collected.

And Global Positioning Systems would track taxis to see if they’re serving the entire city (a big issue in Far Southeast and Northeast neighborhoods.)

Cheh, chair of the public works committee that oversees the industry, says she’ll hold a hearing in January. You can expect a lot of anguished cries from the taxi community. One driver disrupted Monday’s news conference, declaring that the city is driving drivers toward a minimum-wage existence.

Mayor Gray, who got strong support from taxi drivers in his election last year, said the industry needs reform. He said he has helped drivers by eliminating the old $19 cap on fares for any one ride. And he said he’s taken other steps to help drivers, too.

More accountability seems like a good idea. But it could be a rough ride getting there.

• A final word.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.

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