The most-senior of senators are awarded what are called “hideaway” offices in the Capitol. Each senator is assigned a personal office in one of the three Senate office buildings. But depending on your seniority, senators also score some sweet digs not far from the Senate floor.
The hideaways are not a satellite office with space for staff. They’re a sanctum for senators. A retreat to study. Read. Think. Write. Meet guests. Return calls. Catch a catnap. Or just relax. Maybe with Scotch or a glass of wine.
Senators can decorate the hideaways any way they want. They stock the bookshelves with very personal volumes. The artwork and mementos adorning the walls are often a tribute to that senator’s political legacy. There are framed copies of bills they authored signed into law. Pictures of family and presidents. Bats from baseball sluggers. Autographed footballs. Musical instruments. They’re repositories for the icons that define these men and women of the world’s most exclusive club.
The locations of the hideaways aren’t advertised. There’s no sign on the non-descript doors. Just a room number. And unless you spy a senator coming or going, chances are, you’ll never know who toils behind these otherwise innocuous-looking passageways.
And without question, Ted Kennedy boasted one of the grandest hideaways in the entire Capitol.
I often point out that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has a hideaway not far from Kennedy’s on the third floor of the Capitol. Boxer’s hideaway is nice. A lot better than the bandbox hideaways freshmen senators are relegated to in the basement. But Boxer’s quarters is barely a third the size of Kennedy’s and windowless. Then again, voters only sent Boxer to Washington in 1992. Meantime, Kennedy was first elected in 1962.
And his hideaway shows it.
Kennedy’s chancel is gigantic with a postcard view of the National Mall, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The view is staggering. And it’s filled with political memorabilia worthy of a museum.
From above the transom of the double-door entrance, you can see the suite’s green walls from the corridor. An Irish roadside sign protrudes from near a fireplace. A nod to Kennedy’s Irish heritage, it reads “Lough Gur” from County Limerick. Pictures of Kennedy grandfather Honey Fitz and JFK also adorn the space…
When Kennedy got sick, the doors to his hideaway shuttered. The lights were dimmed above the transom. I’d pass by those doors each day. And each day that they were sealed shut served as a reminder that Senator Kennedy was gravely ill. And he had abandoned his special cloister.
If I were a photo editor, I’d comission an essay on Kennedy’s hideaway. It’d be amazing to explore the room where, around a table made from a ship’s rudder, Kennedy plotted and negotiated and forged his incomparable legislative legacy.
Knight School, “Meathead Hurricane” (2009). From the Revenger LP, forthcoming on Make A Mess. In the next week the band plays in Philadelphia; Baltimore; Washington, D. C.; Durham; Decatur; Athens; Richmond; and Brooklyn.