Sent: Saturday, February 23, 2019 4:51 PM
Daniel Goldon Wolkoff
McMillan Park Conservancy
1231 Randolph Street, NE
Washington, DC 20017
Submission to National Association of Olmsted Parks Feb. 22, 2019
The Community Struggle to Save McMillan Park Washington DC
Daniel Goldon Wolkoff
The legacy of segregation continues to impact American cities. In Washington, D..C., sections west of 16th St enjoy five times more parks and green-space than predominantly African-American eastern sections. In upper NW parks are in walking distance to every household, they are wooded hillsides and stream valleys, manicured historic civil war fortifications, horse and bike trails and the Olmsted landscaped “Jewel of The National Park System”, 1500 acre, Rock Creek Park, and even that had been segregated.
Washington’s only integrated park, designed by The Olmsted firm as well, McMillan Reservoir Park was called “our beach, our paradise” by the eastern section’s minority community.
(photo of McMillan Park Ivy)
At the turn of the 19th Century, Senator James McMillan brought to Washington enlightened designers and engineers from the wildly successful Columbian Exposition. McMillan Park turned out to be “the omega collaboration amongst the cadre chiefly responsible for popularizing the City Beautiful Movement.”
The 113 acre hybrid clean water utility and outdoor public recreation green-space, that eliminated water –borne diseases, was landscaped by The Olmsted firm, and when the original fresh water Filtration site was decommissioned, Federal GSA sold that 25 acres to The District of Columbia for $9.3 million, in 1987.
In what may have likely been efforts to discourage African-American families from buying homes in the area, the park remained fenced off after fear of sabotage ended after WWII.
(Photo of Ben Franklin Bloomingdale elder at fence)
The District government cut down hundreds of trees and “our paradise” was purposely erased from local memory. Even when designated historic, the Office of Historic Preservation did not enhance, maintain, improve or give access to the site, though required to by DC’s Historic Preservation Act.
Over 20 years later HPO’s architectural historian, Kim Williams, nominated the site to The National Register of Historic Places.
Since the $9.3 million purchase, the site and that fortune has been totally wasted, no public access permitted and even neighborhood group’s tours have been terminated. A massive development of high rise offices, dense housing and retail are planned by development conglomerate Vision McMillan Partners (VMP), actually partnering with the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development..
Parks and green-space desperately needed, community efforts to save McMillan Park from massive urbanization include court appeals to stop demolition of 20 acres of underground masonry arched sand filtration cells, perfect for adaptive re-use.
(Photo of underground filtration cells)
Federally assigned deed covenants require all work on the site to conform to The Secretary of Interior’s Historic Preservation Standards, which VMP and DC government are trying to circumvent, destroying the park to build their massive McMillan Town Center, and transferring public ownership to the private corporation.
Our community groups 25 year efforts won an Appeal in DC courts, vacating the zoning approvals. All alternative plans have been ignored including this world class site plan by Catholic University Planning Professor, Miriam Gusevich.
We believe a violation of our first amendment rights to petition the government for redress of grievances. We have little in the way of resources and hope to gain support from the Olmsted parks community, especially legal assistance,
please contact Daniel Goldon Wolkoff , 202-232-8391 and firstname.lastname@example.org.The Mayor and DC City Council have literally written the law as they go along, determined to demolish the Olmsted Park and bring traffic and unworkable mass transit demand to this already dense section of D.C. Our most experienced preservationist says “you don’t build condos on an Olmsted Park”.