Posted tagged ‘playgrounds’

Repairs Coming for Park View School Playground

September 18, 2017

As some in the community may already know, on the evening of Friday, September 1, at 9:30 pm there was a fire on the Bruce-Monroe @ Park View playground on the south side of the building. Fortunately, one of the custodians was able to alert the fire department which responded quickly. It is suspected that the fire was intentionally set and a section of rubberized material along with one of the pieces of playground equipment were destroyed. That has all since been removed.

On Friday, September 15, I was able to connect with the Department of General Services (DGS) and found out that they are unable to exactly replace the playground equipment that was damaged — however they did find something very similar. The recommended replacement has been sent to DCPS for review and sign off, after which the orders will be placed and the playground repaired.

While at DGS, I also pointed out the leaning wall along Newton Place. I know this has been a concern for many over the years, though until recently it appeared to be largely stable. Over the past several months, however, the wall appears to be less stable and the winter weather could further compromise its integrity with water freezing and thawing. DGS has agreed to inspect the wall to determine if the time has finally arrived to repair it.

(Above and below: Damaged area of playground awaiting repairs at Bruce-Monroe @ Park View)



Washington’s May Day Celebration, 1924

May 1, 2015

May Day maypole dance 1924(Maypole dance at unidentified D.C. playground, May 1, 1924. Photo from the Library of Congress.)

“Fairies, flowers, and queens, personified in several hundred children,” were once a common site at District playgrounds in celebration of May Day, particularly during the early part of the Twentieth Century. Early on, Mrs. Susie Root Rhodes, supervisor of District playgrounds, made May Day celebrations an annual event.

First Lady Grace Coolidge receiving May Basket

First Lady Grace Coolidge receiving May Basket from James Owens, Maurice Towney, and Virginia Yingling (Photo from Library of Congress).

The celebrations in 1924 were particularly notable as May Day coincided with the American Child Health Association’s Health week (April 28 to May 3), and thus received citywide attention. For her part, Mrs. Rhodes began planning for the annual celebration two months in advance. May Day festivities were organized at 26 playgrounds across the city with locations including Park View, Bloomingdale, McKinley, and Rosedale, to name but a few.

The day began at 9:00 a.m. when three little children from the Child Welfare Society visited the White House and hung a May basket for Mrs. Coolidge on the north door of the White House. After placing the basket, the children were beginning to run down the steps of the portico when Mrs. Coolidge saw them and called them back to thank them. According to local newspapers, Mrs. Coolidge hugged and kissed the youngest of them – James Owens – remarking: “I once had a little boy like you.”

Midday featured Miss Grace Abbott, of the children’s bureau, who was schedule to speak for an hour at the health meeting at Keith’s at which Corcoran Thom presided. Later in the day, the focus shifted to the city’s playgrounds where May queens – by the acclaim of their subjects – presided over the May Day festivals beginning at 4:00 p.m.

The May queens were elected by the votes of their playmates at the playgrounds where they presided. During their fleeting reigns, they watched over athletic contests, folk dances, the dances of the flowers and fairies, and the maypole, with the events scheduled to end at 6:00 p.m.

May Day Park View 1924(May Queen Margaret Appleby (center) on the Park View playground, May 1, 1924. Photo from the Library of Congress.)


“Children of District Revel Tomorrow in May Festival.” The Washington Post, April 30, 1924, p. 10.

“Children to Hang May Day Gifts on White House Door.” The Washington Post, May 1, 1924, p. 2.

“Children’s Pageant Charmingly Given.” The Evening Star, May 2, 1924, p. 17.

“Many Child Health Activities Planned.” The Evening Star, April 30, 1924, p. 2.

“May Day Festivities at 26 Playgrounds.” The Evening Star, April 30, 1924, p. 17.

“May Day Joyously Observed in D.C. At Playgrounds and Social Centers.” The Evening Star, May 1, 1924, p. 17.

“Mrs. Coolidge Kisses Boy In Reward for May Basket.” The Washington Post, May 2, 1924, p. 11.

“White House Lady Kisses Little Boy Who Hung Basket.” The Evening Star, May 1, 1924, p. 2.

Park View Field House Project Progressing

April 29, 2015

The restoration of the old field house at Park View Recreation Center is coming along nicely. Among the many changes people will notice is that the porch is being opened up as it originally was and the areas that had been cut out of the original brick wall are being reconfigured to their original door and window openings. I was surprised to see the original supporting posts for the porch roof were buried withing the wall when the porch was enclosed. The entire project is aiming for a completion date of July 31st, 2015.

Park View field house

Park View field house

Checking Out Kalorama Playground Improvements

February 5, 2015

Kalorama Playground(A view of the 5-12 year old playground with the recreation building in the background).

I continue to be interested in the various playground improvements happening around D.C. We’ve made great progress with improvements at Park View Recreation Center over the past seven years and hopefully will continue to see move improvements there over the years to come. Due in part to the work still left undone at Park View, I like to compare it to other smaller playgrounds to see how it compares.

Map of Kalorama playground showing playground area in tan.

Map of Kalorama playground showing playground area in tan.

On January 27, 2015, I checked out the presentation for the playground improvements at the Kalorama Playground. Interestingly, Kalorama is about a 3 acre site compared to the 1.5 acres at Park View. With this in mind, I was immediately struck by how the larger Kalorama site has one primary building constructed between 1947 and 1949 that is larger that Park View’s original field house but much smaller than the primary recreation building at Park View.  With the emphasis at Kalorama on outdoor playground use rather than interior recreation center use, I again question if the smaller Park View site is overbuilt. I definitely believe that the buildings are not efficiently configured creating a lot of wasted space between them.

But back to Kalorama. In reviewing the Department of General Services Web site that includes the slide deck from the January 27th meeting, the overall project will address the site-work deficiencies from previous projects as well as address the erosion and water run off issues. The scope of work includes the following:

  • Site-work
  • Tree Protection and Remediation
  • Storm-water Management Improvement
  • Landscaping Improvement
  • Hardscaping Improvement

The focus of the January presentation was on the playground areas near the recreation building and along Columbia Road.

kalorama-playground-community-meeting-presentation-january-27-2014-4-1024(Detail of site plan, showing the 2-5 year old play area to the right and the larger 5-12 year old play area to the left.)

As with the renovations that occurred at Park View, the team working on the upgrades to the playground area presented several options for community members to get feedback on what neighbors would like to see in the areas. Below are a few images from the slide deck to give an idea of what is being considered, although it is too early in the process to know what the final plan will look like. The full slide deck should be reviewed for other design ideas.



Great 1920 Photo of Playground Tree Planting

December 18, 2014

Happy Hollow

Here’s a great photo that dates to April 15, 1920, showing a tree planting at the Happy Hollow playground. Today the playground is known as Marie Reed. The tree planting was part of “Be Kind to Animals” week and planted in memory of the horses and carrier pigeons which gave their lives in World War I. As you can see in the photo, many of the children dressed in costumes with animal themes.

The following day, April 16, 1920, the District of Columbia celebrated Arbor Day by planting sixty-one American linden trees in the city. Excluding the trees in Rock Creek Park, the District estimated it had a total of 104,061 trees growing in Washington’s parks after the Arbor Day tree plantings.

Garden History at Twin Oaks Community Garden

December 1, 2014

Twin Oaks(The Twin Oaks Community Garden, at 14th and Taylor streets, NW. View of southern garden)

Community gardeners in the neighborhood will surely be familiar with the Twin Oaks Community Garden located at 14th and Taylor Streets, NW. It’s currently configured with half of the garden to the north and half of the garden to the south of Taylor Street. Interestingly, the bisected nature of Twin Oaks dates to 1920, when the site was officially established as a community playground. As part of the Powell School modernization and expansion project, the northern garden area will eventually be relocated on the hill above the turf soccer field in the Upshur Recreation Center as the school expansion calls for the garden space to become a surface parking lot for the school. None-the-less, the southern garden area will continue as a community garden along with the new Upshur Recreation location.

I’ve been intrigued by Twin Oaks for some time now. The field house on the site, built in 1934, first attracted my attention as it is a design similar to Park View’s field house, now listed on the National Register. However, when I started to look into the historic nature of Twin Oaks, I quickly learned that the gardens there have their own interesting and important history.

The Washington Youth Garden program began in a modest way at the Twin Oaks Playground in the spring of 1962 by two volunteers at the playground – Mrs. Harold Marsh and Mrs. Martin Vogel. The Department of Recreation supported the gardens and quickly expanded the program – with Twin Oaks designated as the demonstration center and headquarters – to provide an opportunity for inner city children to grow flowers and vegetables and learn from the experience. The youth garden program was co-sponsored by the D.C. Department of Recreation and the volunteer based Washington Youth Garden Council. By 1966 the Twin Oaks center was enlarged to include the abandoned tennis courts on the north side of Taylor Street. By 1977 the program had grown to include three centers and vegetable garden plots at 40 playgrounds throughout the city. The youth gardens that took root throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s transformed communities and the individual participants.

Washington Youth Garden brochure(Undated Washington Youth Gardens brochure, featuring the Twin Oaks Demonstration Center. Image from Washington Youth Garden Web site.)

The goal of the Youth Gardens was to teach elementary school students in D.C. horticultural skills and life skills such as team building, cooperation, personal responsibility, self-confidence and environmental stewardship. After a successful garden program at the Twin Oaks Playground in 1962, plans were made by the Youth Gardens Council to develop some 200 plots in over 90 playgrounds in addition to developing gardens in other lots, yards, and encouraging small projects such as window boxes and potted plants at the beginning of 1963. While the program began under the direction of recreation department horticulturist Frank L. Ford, horticulturist William C. Hash quickly became the Recreation Department’s youth program director. From the beginning, the Twin Oaks Garden Center served as the training center for volunteers and as a demonstration area for the various types of garden projects. The field house was prepared with office space in 1963 to support the administrative and training needs of the Youth Garden program.[1]

Twin Oaks Youth Gardener with radishes, ca. 1970s

Twin Oaks Youth Gardener with radishes, ca. 1970s

The Twin Oaks garden demonstration program was open to children between the ages of 8 and 16. In 1967, about 75 children participated in the program at Twin Oaks – many of whom had never visited a farm. Some children grew enough produce to take home or sell. By 1968, about 800 to 1,000 Washington children were participating city-wide.

The Washington Youth Garden received positive attention outside of the immediate community. It was of interest to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, which selected the Youth Garden concept as a model for consideration as a nationwide program to be sponsored by some clubs.[2] Additionally Lady Bird Johnson’s First Lady’s Committee bestowed their More Beautiful National Capital Award to the Twin Oaks Garden Demonstration Center on June 6, 1968, specifically noting that the Twin Oaks program contributed “toward making Washington a more beautiful place for its citizens and the nation.” Twin Oaks was not only the headquarters for the Youth Garden program, it was considered the largest garden site in the Youth Garden program with about 50 plots under cultivation. This made it a logical choice when the program was expanded in 1970 with the first youth garden greenhouse, dedicated on May 15th of that year at Twin Oaks. The greenhouse remains a rare building type owned by the District of Columbia.

Lady Bird Johnson Award

In 1971, a youth garden was established at the U.S. National Arboretum as a special project. The Arboretum garden was tended by 100 youngsters from four elementary schools: Logan, Peabody, and Nalle in Northeast, and Shadd in Southeast. Access to the Arboretum was provided by buses which ran twice a week.[3] Due to D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation budget cuts in 1995, the Friends of the National Arboretum (FONA) increased fundraising efforts and “adopted” the Washington Youth Garden (WYG) in 1996. Today, the WYG receives in-kind support from the U.S. National Arboretum including land, soil amendments, office and greenhouse space, equipment use and horticultural expertise.

Following the budget cuts that ended the youth garden program at Twin Oaks, the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation continued to operate the site as a community garden. Currently, the Twin Oaks Community Garden contained about 45 plots – located on both the north and south parcels – each about 10′x15′ and altogether encompasses almost 3/4 of an acre.

Greenhouse 1970(At the celebration opening the new greenhouse, the children wore Dutch costumes and performed Dutch folk dances as part of the ceremony)

[1] “Youth Garden Projects Start,” The Evening Star, May 10, 1963, p. A-19.

[2] Durbin, Louise. “Our Youth Garden Project,” The Washington Post, Aug. 17, 1969, p. 136.

[3] “Green, Margaret. “Youth Commended for Gardens,” The Evening Star, Sept. 8, 1971, p. C-2.

City Amidst Parks and Recreation Master Plan for D.C.

June 12, 2013
Graph showing the six phases of and their duration

Graph showing the six phases of the Master Plan and their duration.

The following announcement was sent out on various listservs yesterday. Knowing that playgrounds, recreation, and greenspace is of great concern to everyone in the community, I wanted to make sure that as many people were aware of the new Parks and Recreation Master Plan as possible.

I particularly like that there is a significant Historic Preservation Review component that will engage in an historic context study of the District related to the physical evolution of the parks and recreation system and inventory and analyze key sites for their historical integrity. Detailed project information can be found here.

If you want to learn more or participate, the June 20th meeting will be held at Raymond Recreation Center.

Full press release below:

DPR and DC Office on Planning Announce The Parks and Recreation Master Plan For the District

Over 30 Organizations, Community Stakeholders and Residents Are Invited to Participate in this New City-Wide Initiative

DPR Customer Service:  (202) 673-7647
DPR Media Contact:  John Stokes
, (202) 288-7275, email:  john.stokes (at)
OP Media Contact:  Tanya Stern, (202) 442-7635, email: tanya.stern (at)  

(Washington, DC)
  Today, the DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and the DC Office of Planning (OP), in collaboration with consulting firm AECOM, announced a new city-wide initiative titled “The Parks and Recreation Master Plan” for the District of Columbia.  DPR, OP and AECOM have been working together with 30 additional government, community and private sector organizations to develop the beginning phase of the District’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan. This plan will guide a new, bold and strategic vision for advancing the District’s parks and recreation resources and help District residents, workers and visitors Move, Grow, and Be Green.

All District residents are asked to participate in planning the District’s park system for the next ten years. A variety of outreach tools including an online forum, public workshops, and an official “launch” at Mayor Gray’s One City Summer Kickoff, held on Saturday, June 15, 2013 at RFK Stadium (Lots 6 & 7) will be available to engage citizens, collect feedback and gather information to create the Parks and Recreation Master Plan.

The Parks and Recreation Master Plan project team is interested in hearing residents’ ideas on the District’s overall parks system, including what is working well, areas that could use improvement, and large-scale ideas to be considered for implementation over the next ten years. (more…)

Councilmember Orange Proposes Smoke Free Playgrounds

February 21, 2013

Yesterday, I received several press releases from Councilmember Vincent Orange. I thought the one below was a little more interesting than most.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            Contact: James D. Brown

February 20, 2013                                                                               202-724-8174




No Smoking Within 25 Feet of a Playground or Play Area

(Washington, DC) – Councilmember Vincent Orange, (At-Large, D), introduced legislation to prohibit smoking within 25 feet of a playground or play area located on a public or private education facility or on a District of Columbia Park and Recreation Center.

“The purpose of the Smoking Restriction Amendment Act of 2103 is to protect the health, comfort, and environment of children. The bill addresses the concerns of District residents who have smelled cigarette smoke on playgrounds and play areas as well as witness adults smoking in these areas. Children should be afforded a safe and healthy environment in which to play,” said Councilmember Orange.

In addition, the “No Smoking” signs provision of the Smoking Restriction Act of 1979 shall be amended to require the owner, manager, or person in charge of the playground area to conspicuously post at minimum four signs at the 25-foot boundary of the playground or play area on the property. The sign shall state “smoking is not permitted on the playground or play area”.

Residential home owners or tenants who reside within 25 feet of a playground or play area will not be subjected to the smoking restriction.


Renovation Work at Park View Rec Making Good Progress Despite Slipping Schedule

January 22, 2013
State of renovation work at Park View Rec as of January 21, 2013.

State of renovation work at Park View Rec as of January 21, 2013.

The $400,000 renovation work at the main facility of the Park View Recreation Center appears to be taking a little longer than originally planned. As readers may recall, the original schedule announced in November 2012 had the work wrapping up by mid-January 2013. I’ve recently been informed in a round about manner that the work may not be completed until early February based on progress at the site.

However, base on the progress that’s been made, I certainly don’t think this minor delay is anything to be concerned about. It’s clear that real progress is being made. On the interior, walls have been removed and opened up to make the space more functional. On the outside, the planters around the building have been removed and (as seen below) the metal anti-loitering ridges on the retaining walls at Warder and Princeton have been installed.

Metal anti-loitering hardware installed on the retaining wall at Warder and Princeton.

Metal anti-loitering hardware installed on the retaining wall at Warder and Princeton.

Also on the exterior, I’m also thrilled to see that the Parkview Recreation Center sign on the Otis Place side of the building has been removed. I’ve been advocating for years that the signage on the building needed to be changed if for no other reason than that the neighborhood’s name was misspelled as one word. I’ve been assured that this is to be corrected in the new signage and will definitely stay on top of this.

The old rec center sign has been removed to facilitate exterior work on the facility.

The old rec center sign has been removed to facilitate exterior work on the facility.


Presidential Wives, Playgrounds, and Tree Planting Ceremonies

December 21, 2012
First Lady Grace Coolidge plants a tree at the Chevy Chase playground, February 28, 1929.

First Lady Grace Coolidge plants a tree at the Chevy Chase Playground, February 28, 1929.

I’ve started doing research on District playgrounds so there’s a good chance that I’ll have a few posts about them in the near future. But for now, I’ll start with a historical side note that I stumbled upon related to playgrounds, trees, and presidential wives. Apparently, from 1928 to 1934, the Women’s City Club was successful in inviting siting and former First Ladies to attend their prominent tree planting ceremony.

The first such tree planting occurred on May 1, 1928, at the Park View playground as part of the he District playground program that included 42 municipal playgrounds. At the Park View Playground, Mrs. William Howard Taft planted a red maple. According to the day’s program, during the exercises the school children danced around the tree  singing the planting song.

On February 28 of the following year, Mrs. Calvin Coolidge planted a tree at the Chevy Chase playgrounds as one of her last acts as First Lady. More than 1,000 persons witnessed the ceremony. Though this was the second such event at a District playground, it was described as an established custom by former First Ladies in their final days in the Capital before the inauguration of a new administration.

Mrs. Woodrow Wilson was honored in 1930 with a tree planting at the Virginia Avenue Playground and Mrs. Herbert Hoover planted a willow oak on October 22, 1931, at the Mitchell Park Playground.

After a two year break, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt planted the last such tree that I’ve been able to track down on October 28, 1934. This tree was planted at the McMillan Playground (1st and Bryant).

It’s possible that the tradition was interrupted by the Great Depression, or World War II, or that organizers had simply run out of presidential wives to honor. Whatever the reason, I like the idea and would be happy to see it come back.


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