Sometimes progress is not accomplished by destroying the old and replacing it with the new. Lives are not always enhanced when yesterday becomes nothing more than rubble to be removed and history is paved over with parking lots. History is littered with bureaucratic “oops” over decisions made that resulted in the loss of pieces of yesterday, that can never be recovered. Let it be said – Save McMillan Park is not the battle cry of those opposed to improving the quality of life in Bloomingdale (or any other part of the Nation’s Capitol). It is a plaintive cry echoing from the voice of reason. Save McMillan Park.
Millions of people have driven by the old brick towers located off North Capitol Street just south of the VA Medical Center/Washington MedStar Complex. It has been fenced off since after WWII. I remember sitting in the back of my father’s old Buick, looking out the window and wondering what that mysterious place might be. Little did I know or understand the wheeling and dealing that was occurring regarding the structures and the future of the site.
McMillan Park is actually the site of a water filtration plant. McMillan was the city’s first water treatment plant, built in 1905, and played an important element in the city’s water supply system, preventing the spread of typhoid and other water-borne diseases. It was in use until 1986 when the Army Corps of Engineers updated to a newer system. In 1987 ownership and control of the park was transferred to the District of Columbia (The choice for DC was accept the land and existing structures for $1 with the caveat that it would be used as a park or pay $9.3 million with no caveats). DC (using logic that totally escapes me) chose to pay $9.3 million. Oh there was hope that they could just raze the structures, pave it over and have a shopping center with a brand new K-Mart. Fortunately, those plans were placed in the large circular file when the property was listed on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites. Now the site has also been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, plans for the future of McMillan Park are in the hands of a team of developers, now known as Vision McMillan Park(VMP), to design new space for housing and retail on the site.
The quiet voice that has increased it’s volume regarding the future of McMillan Park emanates from the Friends of McMillan Park. Before you support the destruction of this beautiful site, you should spend a few moments reading about the park and what it could be on their site.
The beautiful reservoir pictured is located minutes from the US Capitol Building. As a matter of fact, if you stand at the center of its prominent vista, you’ll find a gorgeous view the National Basilica to the northeast, Howard University’s Independence Hall to the west, and the Capitol and Washington monument to the south. There may not be a more beautiful spot in the city. It should be saved. The final plan should dovetail with the one that the Friends of McMillan Park endorsed. If we have learned nothing else in our mad rush to raze, pave and construct on every patch of dirt left in the area, we should have realized that preserving historical sites enhances the quality of life in the city.
Progress does not have to be accomplished through the removal of every scintilla of the past. Parks are for people. Parks are a place where we interact with one another. Shopping malls and K-Marts are get in and get out destinations. The people of Bloomingdale and the rest of the city will be better served now and in the future if the DC government heeds the call to Save McMillan Park.
images used have been garnered from sites supporting saving mcmillan park. they are not mine and only represent a bit of the beauty found on the grounds.