The earliest documented name for the tip of the peninsula that now constitutes the area known as Buzzard Point was Turkey Buzzard Point, in use by 1673 when it appeared on a map published that year by Augustine Herman, a Bohemian explorer and one of the early settlers of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. This name — often shortened to Buzzard Point — remained in use until the federal capital was laid out in the 1790s, at which time it became Young's Point, from one Notley Young, the then owner of the land. Very soon thereafter it was renamed Greenleaf's Point — or Greenleaf Point — after James Greenleaf, a land speculator and purchaser of numerous lots in the new city, many of which were located in the vicinity of the Point.
George Washington had envisioned the use of some of Greenleaf's lots at the Point by the military, including for defensive works. In 1791, he and Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant chose the site for the emplacement of a redoubt of some sort. They acquired approximately 28 acres (110,000 m2) by a deed of trust in that year and confirmed it in a July 25, 1798 executive order. Apparently, L'Enfant intended for a fortification to be placed there, according to his city plan, setting it aside as "Military District No. 5", because, as one author wrote, the "peninsula where the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers met was an obvious, natural military site." This site, sported a "one-gun battery mounted behind earth breastworks," possibly as early as 1791 but, at any rate, definitely by 1794. Within a few years, "The U.S. Arsenal at Greenleaf Point" grew from 28 to more than 89 acres (360,000 m2). By 1803, the "Fort" was first referred to as an "Arsenal" and Congress provided money for the construction of additional buildings.
During the American Civil War, experiments on new weaponry were carried out both at the nearby Washington Navy Yard and at the Washington Arsenal as the Army installation had come to be called. Breechloaders, the Spencer carbine, and the Gatling gun were among the weapons tested on the peninsula. In 1908, the tip of the peninsula bore the name of Arsenal Point because of its military use at the time. Washington Arsenal was renamed Fort Lesley J. McNair in 1948.
Buzzard Point today
The United States Geological Survey's (USGS) most recent topographic maps identify the tip of the peninsula that contains Fort McNair as "Greenleaf Point". The tip of that peninsula first bore the name of "Turkey Buzzard Point" in the 17th century. The USGS maps also identify a lesser point to the northeast of Greenleaf Point as "Buzzard Point". (James Creek, which was excavated in the 19th century to become a branch of the [now defunct] Washington City Canal, once separated these two points. Its name persists in the present day James Creek Marina. In early days, James Creek was also known as St. James Creek.)
Although officially the name of only the tip of the peninsula, the term "Buzzard Point" now serves to identify much or all of an urbanized area south of M Street SW and west of South Capitol Street SW, excluding Fort McNair. The area has long been known as a rather grim industrial backwater of the city. Buzzard Point is close to Nationals Park, and not far from the Waterfront and Navy Yard – Ballpark Metro stations. The Buzzard Point waterfront extends from the Fort along the west bank of the Anacostia River as far as South Capitol Street at the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. Moving west to east along it from the Fort are the James Creek Marina, the headquarters of the U.S. Coast Guard, Buzzard Point Marina and Buzzard Point Park.
References and notes
- "Buzzard Point" in Google Maps. Accessed 2009-11-17.
- Taggart, Hugh T. (1908), Georgetown (District of Columbia); Reprinted from Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Vol. 11, 1908; Lancaster, Pennsylvania: The New Era Printing Company, pages 9 & 11.
- L'Enfant identified himself as "Peter Charles L'Enfant" during most of his life, while residing in the United States. He wrote this name on his "Plan of the city intended for the permanent seat of the government of t(he) United States ...." (Washington, D.C.) and on other legal documents. However, during the early 1900s, a French ambassador to the U.S., Jean Jules Jusserand, popularized the use of L'Enfant's birth name, "Pierre Charles L'Enfant". (See: Bowling (2002).) The National Park Service identifies L'Enfant as Major Peter Charles L'Enfant and as Major Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant on its website. The United States Code states in 40 U.S.C. 3309: "(a) In General.—The purposes of this chapter shall be carried out in the District of Columbia as nearly as may be practicable in harmony with the plan of Peter Charles L'Enfant."
- United States Geological Survey topographic map with locations of Greenleaf Point and Buzzard Point in website of TopoQuest. Retrieved 2009-11-17.
- Pepco Holdings. (2007, February 28). Benning Road and Buzzard Point Units to be retired by 2012 [Press release]. 
- "Deal reached for new stadium". StadiaDirectory. July 25, 2013. Retrieved July 25, 2013.
- "Term Sheet: DC United Stadium Project". District of Columbia and DC Soccer LLC. District of Columbia Office of the City Administrator. July 25, 2013.