Dumbarton Bridge (Washington, D.C.)

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Dumbarton Bridge
Southeast Elevation from Parkway, Looking Northwest - Q Street Bridge, Spanning Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, Washington, DC.tiff
LocationQ Street, Northwest
over Rock Creek Park
Washington, D.C.
Coordinates38°54′39″N 77°3′4″W / 38.91083°N 77.05111°W / 38.91083; -77.05111Coordinates: 38°54′39″N 77°3′4″W / 38.91083°N 77.05111°W / 38.91083; -77.05111
ArchitectGlenn Brown
Alexander Proctor
Architectural styleRomanesque Revival
NRHP reference #73002080[1]
Added to NRHPJuly 16, 1973

The Dumbarton Bridge, also known as the Q Street Bridge and the Buffalo Bridge, is a historic masonry arch bridge in Washington, D.C.

Dumbarton Bridge was built between 1914[3] and 1915[2] to convey Q Street Northwest across Rock Creek Park between the city's Dupont Circle and Georgetown neighborhoods.



Around 1905, the residents of Georgetown wanted to reduce traffic to Washington along M Street.[4] One frequently proposed idea was to divert the water of Rock Creek through a tunnel under current-day 27th Street NW, then fill in Rock Creek's beds, and extend Georgetown's streets to Washington.[4] Many Georgetown residents disliked Rock Creek because it was filled with stagnant water and trash.[5] The cost of diverting and filling in the creek was estimated to be $4.5 million.[6] Estimates to build the bridge ranged from $150,000 to $200,000,[6] while the estimate to divert and fill in the creek and extend streets $1,300,000.[7]

Another idea was to move the Woodley Lane Bridge to the Q Street location rather than build a new bridge altogether.[8] Engineers determined that the cost to move the Woodley Lane bridge would be too great[9] and the Woodley Lane Bridge would not be available to be moved until its replacement, the Connecticut Avenue Bridge, was completed.[10]

Legislation to fund the bridge's construction was introduced to Congress in December 1910,[11] and Congress approved it two months later.[12] Congress appropriated $275,000 to build the bridge and $75,000 to condemn property,[12] including a land west of Rock Creek being used as a street car yard, in order to extend Q Street to the bridge.[13][14]


The bridge's design was by Glenn Brown, and the engineering design was by Daniel B. Luten.[3]

The bridge is significant as showing the impact of the City Beautiful movement in Washington and the association of architects, engineers and sculptors with the city's new Commission of Fine Arts. The architects studied photographs of bridges around the world choosing as models a Roman aqueduct and a mountain bridge in Italy with intent to set a precedent for further city bridges. The color of the bridge's stone was intended to evoke the warm tones of Spain and Italy. Along with the buffalo theme the arches are decorated by Indian head designs[15] by Glenn Brown based on a life mask of the Sioux Chief Kicking Bear in the Smithsonian Institution.[16]

The curved design is due to need to match the section of Q Street NW in Dupont Circle that is slightly north of the section in Georgetown.[17] In order to accommodate the bridge's approach and to keep the street continuous within Georgetown the Dumbarton House, then known as Bellevue, was moved about 100 feet northward from its original site in the middle of the current Q Street to its present position on the north side of the Street.[18]

The District requested bids to construct the bridge in June 1913,[19] but none of the four bids were within the appropriated budget.[20]

The plans were modified so that there would only be five spans rather than seven in order to save costs.[21] The project went out to bid again in November.[22] A.L. Guidone won the construction bid.[23]

Its four buffalo sculptures, the largest cast in a single piece of bronze, are by Alexander Phimister Proctor,[24][16] who also designed the lions on the Sixteenth Street Bridge.[25] The budget to build the bridge was set at $275,000.[26]

Construction of the bridge began on March 14, 1914.[3] Construction of the bridge was completed by October 1915, although it took two more months to grade and pave the roads leading up to the bridge.[2]


The bridge was officially opened at 4 p.m. on December 24, 1915.[3] It was then known as the Q Street Bridge.[3] The bridge was lit by incandescent lamps.[3]

The Commissioners of the District of Columbia officially gave it the name of Dumbarton Bridge on June 5, 1916.[27] According to the Commissioners' written statement, "Dumbarton bridge commemorates the name of the tract of land upon which was laid out the easterly part of Georgetown, and to which Ninian Beall received letters patent from the British crown."[27]

The Dumbarton Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 16, 1973.[1]

One of four buffalo sculptures on the Dumbarton Bridge, created by Alexander Phimister Proctor
Sculpture from life mask of Kicking Bear by Alexander Phimister Proctor, on Dumbarton Bridge

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c "City News in Brief". The Washington Post. October 30, 1915. p. 11.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "New Q Street Bridge Opened". The Washington Post. December 25, 1915. p. 12.
  4. ^ a b "Favor Rock Creek Tunnel: Georgetown Citizen's Association Looks Askance at Q Street Bridge". The Washington Post. January 10, 1905. p. 9.
  5. ^ "Rock Creek Drive". The Washington Post. October 24, 1910. p. 1.
  6. ^ a b "Spanning Rock Creek: Residents Are Divided Between Bridge and Culvert". The Washington Post. January 26, 1905. p. 11.
  7. ^ "Rock Creek Conduit". The Washington Post. May 11, 1906. p. 14.
  8. ^ "Another Bridge Plan: Woodley Lane Structure for Q Street Crossing". The Washington Post. February 10, 1905. p. 10.
  9. ^ "Bridge Plan Vetoed: Cost of Moving Woodley Lane Structure Too Great". The Washington Post. February 11, 1905. p. 10.
  10. ^ "Hopes for Bridge Fading: Difficulties in Way of Providing a Structure at Q Street: Some Fatal Fault in Every Plan Thus Far Suggested, Col. Biddle Says in Report". The Washington Post. February 14, 1905. p. 10.
  11. ^ "Needs of District Show By Report". The Washington Post. December 6, 1910. p. 1.
  12. ^ a b "City's Budget Raised". The Washington Post. February 11, 1911. p. 4.
  13. ^ "Bridge Plan Unwise: Expert Reports Against Removal to Q Street". The Washington Post. February 9, 1905. p. 10.
  14. ^ "Delays Rock Creek Bridge". The Washington Post. June 23, 1912. p. F4.
  15. ^ Boucher, Jack E. (1993), 6. Southeast Elevation, Looking West — Q Street Bridge, Spanning Rock Creek & Potomac Parkway, Washington, District of Columbia, DC (photograph), Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
  16. ^ a b National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. "Historic American Engineering Record—Q Street Bridge (Dumbarton Bridge)—HAER No. DC-38" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  17. ^ "Tells of Bridge Here". The Washington Post. November 7, 1915. p. R6.
  18. ^ The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America (2012). "Dumbarton House: Chronology". Dumbarton House. The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  19. ^ "All Bridge Bids Too High: Only Four Contractors Make Offer to Span Rock Creek at Q Street". The Washington Post. June 26, 1913. p. 14.
  20. ^ "Will Scale Plans to Start Bridge". The Washington Post. June 29, 1913. p. ES8.
  21. ^ "New Plans for Bridge: Not Enough Money to Build Q Street Spans as First Intended". The Washington Post. August 24, 1913. p. FRC3.
  22. ^ "Pushing Bridge Work". The Washington Post. November 3, 1913. p. 14.
  23. ^ "City News in Brief". The Washington Post. January 13, 1914. p. 14.
  24. ^ "Awarded Prizes for Art: Several Capital Residents Win Medals at the Panama Exposition". The Washington Post. July 29, 1915. p. 4.
  25. ^ "City News in Brief". The Washington Post. July 15, 1915. p. 4.
  26. ^ "City News in Brief". The Washington Post. June 15, 1915. p. 5.
  27. ^ a b "Bridge Named "Dumbarton" Commissioners Recall Georgetown History in Q St. Structure's Title". The Washington Post. June 6, 1916. p. 7.

External links[edit]