East Potomac Park

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East Potomac Park
East Potomac Park is located in Washington, D.C.
East Potomac Park
Location 14th Street, Washington Channel, Potomac River, S.W.
Coordinates 38°52′12″N 77°1′33.6″W / 38.87000°N 77.026000°W / 38.87000; -77.026000Coordinates: 38°52′12″N 77°1′33.6″W / 38.87000°N 77.026000°W / 38.87000; -77.026000
Area 394.9 acres (159.8 ha)
Built 1917
Governing body General Services Administration
NRHP Reference # 73000217[1]
Added to NRHP November 30, 1973[2]

East Potomac Park is a section of Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., located south of the Jefferson Memorial and the 14th Street Bridge. Located between the Washington Channel and the Potomac River, the park is home to the East Potomac Park Golf Course, a miniature golf course, a public swimming pool (the East Potomac Park Aquatic Center), and tennis courts. The roads and paths of East Potomac Park are very popular with bicyclists, walkers, inline skaters, and runners. Ohio Drive, which runs the perimeter of East Potomac Park, is part of the Marine Corps Marathon course.

The park also contains a lot of Washington's famous cherry trees (or sakura). Many of the trees in the park are of the cultivar Prunus serrulata 'Kanzan', as opposed to the Yoshino which is around the Tidal Basin and celebrated during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The Kanzan cherries have a different appearance and bloom about two weeks after the Yoshino cherry, which means they are only beginning to bloom when the Festival ends. These trees are located along Ohio Drive on the Potomac River side of the park.

East Potomac Park is accessible by road or Washington Metro. Parking is available all around Ohio Drive and at the parking lots south of the Jefferson Memorial. There is no Metro stop very close to the park but with a brief walk riders can access the park via the L'Enfant Plaza Station at the 9th and D SW Metro exit, going through (or above) the Promenade to L'Enfant Plaza SW to the footpath from Benjamin Banneker Circle that runs alongside the Francis Case Memorial Bridge (I-395), or the Smithsonian Station and the East Basin Dr Bridge.


Aerial view of Hains Point and East Potomac Park, circa 1935. Arsenal Point is at right

The southern part of the Pennsylvania Avenue district was flooded many times in the last three decades of the 19th century. Major floods occurred in October 1870 (during which Chain Bridge was destroyed), February 1881, November 1887, and June 1889 (the same storm which caused the Johnstown Flood).[3] Floodwaters were high enough that rowboats were used on the avenue, and horse-drawn streetcars saw water reach the bottom of the trams.[3] After a disastrous flood in 1881, the United States Army Corps of Engineers dredged a deep channel in the Potomac and used the material to fill in the Potomac (creating the current banks of the river) and raise much of the land near the White House and along Pennsylvania Avenue NW by nearly 6 feet (1.8 m).[4] [5] Much of the dredged material was used to build up existing mudflats in the Potomac River as well as sandbars which had been created by silting around Long Bridge (the predecessor structure to the 14th Street Bridge).[6] This led to the creation of "Potomac Park" (now known as West Potomac Park) on March 3, 1897.[4]

In 1900, the United States Senate established the Senate Park Commission to reconcile competing visions for the development of Washington, D.C., and the parks within it. Better known as the "McMillan Commission" because of its influential chairman, Senator James McMillan, the Commission released a document known as McMillan Plan in 1902.[7] The McMillan Plan called for turning the undeveloped land into a formal park with extensive recreation facilities.[8][9] After dredging was complete in 1911, a road was built around the perimeter of the park and Japanese cherry trees planted along the roadway.[8] East Potomac Park was now established.

During World War I, temporary soldiers' barracks were built in the park, and victory gardens were extensively planted throughout the park.[8] In the 1920s, the golf course, a teahouse, a camp site, and horse stables were built in the park.[8] A four-mile-long pedestrian promenade was constructed in 1935.[8] Congress designated Hains Point as the site for a National Peace Garden in 1988, but no memorials have as yet been constructed.[8]

Secret project[edit]

In 2004 an area of several acres behind the Park Service offices at Ohio and Buckeye drives SW was enclosed by a tall wooden fence and a large steel shed constructed. The action, initiated by the Navy, bypassed normal review procedures for the taking of public land. The ongoing activity there, involving regular arrival and departure of dump trucks, is presumed to be related to national security [10] but has not drawn public attention since then. In 2013 additional equipment observed at the site was consistent with construction of a permanent building.

See also[edit]

Washington Channel


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  2. ^ "Nomination Form" (PDF). National Park Service. 15 July 1972. Retrieved 2013-05-10. 
  3. ^ a b Tindall, Standard History of the City of Washington From a Study of the Original Sources, 1914, p. 396.
  4. ^ a b The Improvement of the Park System of the District of Columbia, 1902, p. 5.
  5. ^ "The Potomac Flats," Washington Post, September 22, 1882; Development of East Potomac Park, April 20, 1916, p. 10-11.
  6. ^ Development of East Potomac Park, April 20, 1916, p. 9-10.
  7. ^ See, generally: The Improvement of the Park System of the District of Columbia, 1902.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Bednar, L'Enfant's Legacy: Public Open Spaces in Washington, D.C., 2006, p. 56.
  9. ^ Gutheim and Lee, Worthy of the Nation: Washington, D.C., From L'Enfant to the National Capital Planning Commission, 2006, p. 148.
  10. ^ "Navy Keeps a Secret in Plain Sight" Washington Post, November 26, 2004


External links[edit]