Tag Archives: fort circle

Local

McMillan Commission Park Plan

It’s been a while since I looked at Tenleytown’s history, but I came across this map on Wikipedia. It shows the changes proposed in 1902 by the McMillan Commission to the Permanent Highway Plan. Meant to make DC more befitting a national capital, it generated several key ideas that would change Tenleytown, beyond its integration into the suburbs:

  1. A park on the site of Fort Reno / Reno Town. The circular parkland shown in the upper left-hand corner radiates out a quarter of a mile from the original point of greatest natural elevation. This is now obliterated by the water tanks. Reno Town certainly still existed at this time, but the political maneuvering that erased the black community from Tenleytown hadn’t begun. It’s possible that Sen. McMillan was collaborating with Sen. Newlands, the founder of Chevy Chase, to suggest this, but I have no proof. 
  2. The Fort Circle Parks system appears here for the first time. The country was beset by nostalgia for the Civil War at the time, so it’s not surprising that the planners decided to commemorate those events with a set of parks that incorporated the former sites of the forts that protected Washington during the war. This plan would undergo many revisions, slowly becoming more of a highway until it died in the early 1960s.
  3. Yuma street is depicted as a parkway, running from the daylight of Murdock Mill Creek, into Soapstone Valley. Very little evidence for this idea remains. Principally, Yuma’s right of way is slightly wider than the surrounding streets.

I have seen this map in person at the Washington Historical Society, and there are lots of fascinating details. I will try to get a larger upload, but enjoy this for now.

Architecture Local

Washington’s Fort Circle, now in studios.

The Van Alen Institute and the National Park Service have announced a program that would create new designs for several national parks, Parks for the People. The program is a competition limited to entire studios of architecture students, who will propose designs as part of their education. In the program’s words:

Participating schools will work with park administrators to create model solutions for seven park sites in each geographic region of the U.S., and use these design paradigms to create a stronger national identity for our open space ideals. Throughout the competition, schools will have an opportunity to engage with the Park Service and its rich cultural and historic assets, including access to park leadership, in-depth encounters with park sites, and the chance to build long-term relationships with park staff and resources.

They have selected seven interesting sites, one of which is the Civil War Defenses of Washington, presumably including Fort Reno. It is the only site in a major city and the only site that is used for day-to-day recreational purposes.

Students will have to consider these uses in addition to the interpretive and conservational missions of the NPS. These parks are back yards for some people, and not just precious destinations. There hasn’t been a lot of work in terms of creating commemorative spaces that are also great places to spend time, since memorials shifted from illustrative work to psychologically engaging complexes (even as they got bigger.)

Another program related to DC that I would love to publish is Leon Krier’s Spring 2010 studio at Yale, which asked students to design a monumental replacement for the MLK library on the CityCenter site.