Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Friends of McMillan Park: McMillan Park was our "Central" Park: It`s Not Gray, It`s Black & White!

See this 10-30-2013 message:

From: Paul Cerruti <>
Date: Wed, Oct 30, 2013 at 12:34 PM
Subject: McMillan Park was our "Central" Park: Its Not Gray, Its Black & White !

McMillan Park was our "Central" Park: Its Not Gray, Its Black & White!

For those who are curious or simply want more information on the history of McMillan Park - These are the facts:

McMillan Park, comprising the grounds of the reservoir and the sand filtration plant, was open to the public until 1941.  It was planned from its inception in 1906 as a public "central" park serving the surrounding neighborhoods of Bloomingdale, Brookland, Columbia Heights, Eckington, Edgewood, LeDroit Park, Park View, Stronghold, Truxton Circle and more. (Secretary William Taft, 1906, official designation of the public grounds consisting of the filtration beds and adjacent reservoir as McMillan Park). 

McMillan Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places:   McMillan Park is an extraordinary example of engineering and artistic achievement, far ahead of its time and progressive even by today’s standards - a beautifully landscaped public park on top of a water purification plant.  The Slow Sand (water) Filtration Plant was an engineering feat and a triumph for water purists since it did not use chemical intensive processing.  It transformed everyday life for the residents of Washington DC by providing reliable, clean drinking water for the first time.  The ground level surface area of the slow sand (water) filtration plant and land surrounding the reservoir is significant because it was transformed by Fredrick Law Olmsted Jr., Landscape Architect, into one of the finest parks in Washington DC.  Amenities and attractions for all ages were an integral component: 'Playgrounds' for children and adults; The Olmsted Walk, a path that ran its course within and around the perimeter of McMillan Park providing exercise and walking enjoyment; the studied shaping of the terrain and varied selection of plantings that were intended to provide beautiful vistas and visual enjoyment at every opportunity.  The collaboration with leading artists - Herbert Adams, Sculptor, and Charles Platt, Architect - resulting in the acclaimed design and setting of the McMillan Memorial Fountain, created a majestic monument to honor an individual that had a leading role in the way "historic" Washington DC looks today (National Mall, Union Station, etc) and for the clean drinking water we enjoy.     
"...McMillan Park, already one of the finest of the capital's parks" (Detroit Free Press, May 1, 1911: "Memorial Work Is Soon To Start") 
"McMillan Park is another beautiful park for nature lovers: the water, trees, birds and flowers are all that the nature lover could ask for." (The Boys and Girls Herald, June 19, 1921: "Gage School Pupils Boost Nature Study")
History and the facts speak for themselves:
1) McMillan Park comprises the entirety of the ground level surface area of the Sand Filtration Plant (both east and west of 1st Street) and the grounds surrounding the reservoir (west of 1st Street).  The exact boundaries and the remaining sections of Olmsted Walk that ran its course within and around the perimeter of McMillan Park may be seen on Google Maps by clicking on the link below:
To be clear:
-Southern boundary was Bryant Street (west of 1st Street) and Channing Street (east of 1st Street)
-Eastern boundary was North Capitol Street
-Northern boundary was Michigan Ave/Hobart Place
-Western (furthest) boundary was 5th Street NW
Sample Sources:
=>The Sunday Star, April 15, 1906; "McMillan Park - Name for Filtration Plant Grounds Approved:  It was announced at the War Department yesterday that Secretary Taft had approved the name "McMillan Park" as the official designation of the public grounds embracing the Washington city filtration beds and plant, the adjacent reservoir and all approaches thereto belonging to the United States."
=>The Evening Star, June 6, 1907; "The Public Stable Site: ....The reservoir and filtration bed reservation has been formally styled "McMillan Park" in honor of the late senator from Michigan, to whom is today due the highest credit for the work of developing the capital."
=>Detroit Free Press, May 1, 1911: "Memorial Work Is Soon To Start: ...In public recognition of his (Senator McMillan's) services, the grounds which contain the big reservoir and all the filtration beds and auxiliaries, were made into a public park and named McMillan park, already one of the finest of the capital's parks." 
=>Washington Times, November 9, 1912; "Board of Trade Will Re-Elect Its Present Officers - Campaign for Park Improvements in Capital Supported From Michigan: ...The monument referred to (McMillan Memorial Fountain) is now being erected on the grounds of the filtration plant, McMillan Park, near the head of North Capitol Street."
2) Olmsted's plans for McMillan Park included "Playgrounds" - The McMillan Park playgrounds were inaugurated and opened to the public on July 1, 1913.
The Playgrounds at McMillan Park were known and referred to as the "Bloomingdale Playgrounds" and sometimes as the "McMillan Park Playgrounds".  The "playgrounds" comprised both the contemporary understanding of playground (as in children's playground: swings, slides, sandboxes, etc, etc) AND sports venues (tennis courts, basketball courts, volleyball court, baseball/soccer/football playing fields). 
=>McMillan Park's "Playgrounds" were large enough to accommodate 3,000 children.
=>McMillan Park's "Playgrounds" included the following amenities:
·     Rock-A-Bye Swings (for toddlers)
·     Baby Hammocks (for toddlers)
·     German Kindergarten Swings
·     Merry-Go-Round
·     Sandboxes
·     24 Foot Long Slide 
·     Tennis Courts (Six courts and noted because they were grass courts)
·     Basketball Courts
·     Volleyball Court
·     Croquet Court
·     Gymnastics Equipment
Horizontal Bars
Horizontal Ladders
Vertical Ladders
Vaulting Horses
Vaulting Bars
·     Sports Fields    
=>A community swimming pool at McMillan Park was desired by the surrounding communities from its inception.
Sample Sources:
==>Washington Times, July 24, 1913: "New Playground Has Capacity Strained"
==>Washington Herald, October 12, 1913: "District Playgrounds Furnish Model For Other Cities"
==>Washington Herald, October 23, 1914: "Candy Sale for Playground: A candy sale for the benefit of Bloomingdale Playground will be held at the playground..."
==>Washington Times, February 28, 1919; "CIty Playgrounds Reopen Tomorrow:  ...Bloomingdale, First and Bryant streets northwest;..."  
==>Washington Times, August 5, 1919; "What's Doing; Where; When: Dance Fiesta - McMillan Park, Bloomingdale playground, children, 7:30 p. m."
==>Washington Times, August 9, 1920: "Playgrounds Help Make 10,000 Happy - D.C. Recreation Centers in 29 Locations Prove Mecca for Children: ...Bloomingdale playground is the shadiest (as in lots of shade from the sun). It has six tennis courts and will accommodate 3,000 children."
==>Washington Times, September 23, 1913: "Citizens Seeking A Swimming Pool: A resolution urging the construction of a swimming pool and shelter house at the playgrounds in McMillan Park is to be presented to the Commissioners of the District. It will bear the signatures of the officers of the North Capital and Eckington Citizen's Associations...".
==>Washington Herald, October 7, 1913: "Citizen's Association To Submit Estimates: ...North Washington Citizen's Association...Resolutions were passed to request the commissioners to include in their estimates for the coming year an appropriation for the erection of an adequate shelter and swimming pool with the necessary lockers and shower baths at the Bloomingdale playgrounds."
3) McMillan Park hosted sports activities and events including Baseball, Basketball, Cycling, Football, Soccer, Tennis (six tennis courts), Track & Field and Volleyball by diverse age groups and organized teams/leagues.  
Sample Sources:
==>BASEBALL=>Washington Herald, August 7, 1921; "Playground Baseball Season Opens - The midsummer season of the Junior Baseball League for boys 16 years of age and under of the various playgrounds under the Municipal Playground Department opened Wednesday.... Western Division League: Tuesday, August 9 - Mackin vs. Bloomingdale at Bloomingdale"
==>BASKETBALL=>Washington Times, July 24, 1913: "New Playground Has Capacity Strained"
==>CYCLING=>Washington Post, April 30, 1937: "Recreation in Beautiful Surroundings: ...Rock Creek Park, West and East Potomac Parks, Anacostia Park, McMillan Park - these beckon daily to the cyclist." 
==>FOOTBALL=>WashingtonTImes, November 6, 1921; "Liberty Wants Games - The Liberty A.C. (Athletic Club) will take on the Mohawk Reserves today at 1:30pm on the Bloomingdale playgrounds..."
==>SOCCER=>Washington Herald, November 2, 1916; "Surprises Sprung In Playground Leagues: One of the best games to date in the playground soccer ball leagues was played on the New York avenue grounds yesterday between Twining and Seaton schools elevens.... On the Bloomingdale Playgrounds the Brookland School eleven defeated the Gage School, 5 to 1."
==>TENNIS=>Washington Times, May 19, 1916; "Ten Teams Play For Times' Tennis Trophy - Program For Today in Tennis Tourney - Today's Contests: Bloomingdale playground - Eckington vs. Brightwood"
==>TRACK & FIELD=>Washington Herald, June 14, 1922; "Grade Schoolboys Conclude Meets - Wallach and Brookland Win Final Preliminary Track Contests: The last two playground division track and field meets for elementary school students under the supervision of the municipal playgrounds were held yesterday.  Wallach School won the Virginia avenue division meet with eighty-one points, while Brookland romped away with the Bloomingdale meet with sixty-five points." 
==>VOLLEYBALL=>Washington Times, July 24, 1913: "New Playground Has Capacity Strained"
4) McMillan Park was the center of Community Activities, Gatherings and Events - McMillan Park had a Park Staff that organized activities and events for children, adults and families.
Organized children's activities included:
·     Children's 'Camps'
·     Sports Competitions
·     Craft Competitions
·     Doll Contests
·     Beauty Contests
·     Pet Shows
·     Kite Flying Contests
·     Dance events
·     Picnics
Organized adult & family activities included:
·     Dance events
·     Concerts
·     Picnics
·     Holiday Events
Sample Sources:
=>Washington Times, August 5, 1919; "What's Doing; Where; When: Dance Fiesta - McMillan Park, Bloomingdale playground, children, 7:30 p. m."
=>Washington Herald, March 16, 1921; "Playground Work Proves "Poplar" - Speaking of popular clothing apparel, the most "poplar" piece of clothing which has been put on display in the District in many seasons was hung up for inspection in the office of Mrs. Susie Root Rhodes, supervisor of municipal playgrounds, Saturday.  The article is a piece of neck wear made of poplar tree catkins pasted on a piece of silk, shaped like a neckpiece.  It was made by a class of the Bloomingdale playground under the direction of Director Elizabeth Mahon... "
=>Washington Herald, April 18, 1921; "Kind to Animals - Miss Elisabeth Mahon, director of the Bloomingdale Playgrounds, reports that the boys and girls under her care are striving to make this week a successful "kind to animals week".
=>Washington Post, May 30, 1923; "Children Crown May Queen: Festival Given by Youngsters at Bloomingdale Playgrounds. An Old-fashioned May festival, featuring the May polie dance and crowning the queen of the carnival..."
=>Washington Post, April 28, 1923; Photo, "Margaret McGee, with Mike and Ike and Pete and Repeat, winners of the pet show at the Bloomingdale playgrounds yesterday. 
=>Washington Herald, July 10, 1918; "Playgrounds Plan Week's Amusements: Tuesday, July 9 - Bloomingdale Playground, First and Bryant streets northwest: Band concert, Marine Band-7:30 to 8:30; Dancing-8:30 to 10 (dancing on open air pavilion every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday)" 
=>Washington Post, October 28, 1934; "Mrs Roosevelt to Plant Tree: Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt will officiate at the planting of a tree in McMillan Park Playground under the sponsorship of the Women's City Club Wednesday at 3:30pm." 
=>Washington Times, December 23, 1913; "Entertainment Held at Bloomingdale Playground: If anybody has any doubts about the existence of the real Christmas spirit he should have been at the Bloomingdale playgrounds Monday afternoon...".
=>Washington Herald, September 25, 1916; "Playground Kiddies To Have Joint Picnic: The children of Eckington, Bloomingdale and Mt. Pleasant are to have a joint picnic at the Bloomingdale playground tomorrow... Special field games such as baseball, soccer, basketball and tennis have been arranged.  Folk dancing by the girls and ring games by the smaller children are part of the program... Miss Randolph Livingston and Thomas Crowley will have charge of the Bloomingdale youngsters..."
5) McMillan Park had a yearly Summer Concert Series.
Sample Sources:
=>Washington Herald, July 10, 1918: "Playgrounds Plan Week's Amusements: ...Tuesday, July 9-Bloomingdale Playground, First and Bryant streets northwest: Band concert, Marine Band-7:30 to 8:30...
=>Washington Times, May 29, 1919; "Summer Concerts For D.C. Arranged - A detailed list of the evening concerts to be given this summer by the Engineers' Band, the Sixty-third infantry Band and the Cavalry Band was made public today... June 13, McMillan Park; June 26, McMillan Park; July 18, McMillan Park;  July 25, McMillan Park; August 6, McMillan Park; August 29, McMillan Park; September...".
=>Washington Herald, June 5, 1921; "Park Concerts Program - Washington music lovers who enjoy hearing band concerts are fortunate this year.  Col. Sherrill, of the office of public buildings and grounds, war department, has announced the summer schedule of 84 outdoor concerts in the parks and circles of the District.  The list follows: ...McMillan Park, June 7, July 7, Aug 8, Sept 6
=>Washington Post, July 20, 1924: "Sherrill Announces Concerts For Week: ...Friday-Community Center band, McMillan Park, First and Channing streets northwest."
=>Washington Post, September 8, 1924: "Park Band Concerts For Week Announced: Liet. Col. C.O. Sherrill officer in charge of public buildings and grounds, announces the following park concerts for the wek commencing today... Army, McMillan Park, First and Channing streets..."
6) McMillan Park had multi-purpose recreation buildings - an open air Dance Pavilion and a Field House (adjacent to the athletic fields).
Sample Sources:
=>Washington Herald, July 11, 1917; "Dancing Pavilions For Playgrounds - Five Washington Centers to Have Improvements in Near Future - Mrs. Susie Root Rhodes, superintendent of playgrounds, has announced that dancing pavilions will be erected this week on five of the Washington Playgrounds, New York avenue, Bloomingdale, Virginia avenue, Georgetown and Howard.  These pavilions will be for kindergarten work, Red Cross work and dancing."
=>Washington Times, August 5, 1919; "What's Doing; Where; When: Dance Fiesta - McMillan Park, Bloomingdale playground, children, 7:30 p. m."
=>Washington Herald, July 10, 1918: "Playgrounds Plan Week's Amusements: ...Tuesday, July 9-Bloomingdale Playground, First and Bryant streets northwest: Band concert, Marine Band-7:30 to 8:30...
=>Washington Post, March 2, 1934: "Playground Design by Wyeth Approved: Approval of the design for the Bloomingdale Playground field house in McMillan Park was announced yesterday by the Fine Arts Commission...".
=>Washington Post, May 28, 1940: "North Capital: …The association, holding its final meeting of the season at McMillan Playground fieldhouse, saw an American Airlines film on air travel.”
7) McMillan Park - McMillan Memorial Fountain: A monument memorial in honor of the great achievements of Senator James McMillan (b. 1838, d. 1902), first and foremost of significance to residents of Washington DC for transforming one of the worst water supply systems in the country and delivering reliable clean drinking water to the District for the first time.  
Until the inauguration of the Slow Sand (water) Filtration facility (1905) at McMillan Park, water from the tap was often muddy in appearance and suspect in its safety to drink.  Hence, many residents resorted to local wells, rather than consume the “dirty” water from the tap.  This situation resulted in hundreds of DC residents perishing needlessly from water borne diseases (Typhoid Fever, Cholera, etc.) every year.
McMillan Memorial Fountain (Herbert Adams, Sculptor and Charles A. Platt, Architect) was an acclaimed achievement of artistic beauty and a destination monument of Washington DC – On First Street, directly opposite Channing Street, once existed a monumental granite staircase framed by large red cedars on either side.  Ascending three flights of stairs in a direct line, interrupted by two landings for pause, one would arrive at a grand but petite plaza of granite paving, at the center of which was located McMillan Memorial Fountain.  The base of the fountain was a large, intricately carved, granite basin 18 feet in diameter containing a pool of water.  Rising monumentally from the center was a finely carved and ornamented granite pedestal with an intermediary granite basin of water on top to create a cascading waterfall midway.  From this intermediary basin, and as its majestic pinnacle, stood the amazing Three Graces bronze sculpture: three delicate, classical, female goddesses with their arms uplifted above their heads holding a bronze bowl that had jet of water soaring to sky. 
The majestic setting was the highest elevation in McMillan Park, affording breathtaking views - over the tops of the surrounding townhouses - of the city skyline. 
The entirety of this artistic ensemble - landscape, architecture, sculpture - was removed and the site destroyed following the closure of McMillan Park to the public in 1941.  The staircase, plaza and fountain were dismantled and carted off, while the high elevation was lost to the excavation and construction of a new pure water underground cell.  
Note: Several years ago, the upper 1/3 portion of the fountain was retrieved and may now be seen behind the fence at the current First Street entrance to the Army Corps of Engineers portion of McMillan Park (west side of First street).  
Sample Sources:
=>Detroit Free Press, May 1, 1911; "Memorial Work Is Soon To Start"
=>Washington Herald, May 18, 1913; "Memorial Fountain to McMillan"
=>The Sun, February 6, 1916; "Current News of Art and the Exhibitions: ...McMillan Fountain by Herbert Adams Awarded Medal of Honor at Architectural League Exhibition" 
=>Washington Post, January 9, 1941; "Fearing Sabotage, D.C. Boosts Water Dept. Estimates"
=>Washington Post, June 14, 1941; "D.C. Water Fund Faces Deficit of $205,926, House Is Told: ...For construction of a covered reservoir of 20,000,000 gallon capacity on Federal land near the McMillan filtration plant, $400,000 to start... For protective fencing around resevoirs and pumping stations to facilitate guarding against sabotage, $15,700."
=>Washington Post, April 9, 1957: "McMillan Fountain Left to Deteriorate in Park"
In addition to all of the above evidence from various news sources, living evidence in the form of neighbors who were children when McMillan Park was open and who still live here today is being recorded and collected by Bloomingdale resident John Salatti: “They have provided their witness to the fact that the entirety of McMillan Park was indeed a park”.
Open space is so important to the historic sense of place at McMillan Park - infill development is simply incompatible and inappropriate.
Would you subdivide and infill develop the Great Lawn of Olmsted's NY Central Park?  
History and the facts speak for themselves - The spread of misinformation and attempted re-writing of history – as is being done by those seeking to destroy this historic park - are simply attempts at misleading the public.
McMillan Park was the center of community activity, gathering and events for the surrounding neighborhoods - Since its closure in 1941, the surrounding communities have paid a very steep price, having been robbed of this large, open, green space and its amenities.
McMillan Park was a public “central” park – McMillan Park in its ENTIRETY merits and deserves preservation and restoration!
Say NO to demolition and SAVE this historic site:
Sign the on-line petition at
Paul J. Cerruti
26 T Street NW 

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