General Information Regarding National Capital Parks: Washington
ca. 1933
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The National Capital Parks provide the setting for most of the public buildings in Washington and are an essential ornament to the National Capital. In 1791 when Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant was preparing plans for the Federal City under the direction of George Washington, he included ample reservations for park areas.

The parks of the National Capital now embrace 676 reservations. totaling approximately 6,500 acres of land, located in the District of Columbia and its environs. The park system was established under authorization of Act of July 16, 1790, and has been under continuous Federal control ever since, a period of 150 years. For 18 years, from 1849 to 1867. the parks of the National Capital were under the supervision of the Secretary of the Interior. After a lapse of 66 years, during which period they were administered by officers of the Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army, the parks went back to the Interior Department on August 10. 1933, to become a permanent unit of the national park system. This change took place by authority of an Executive Order issued June 10, 1933.

The Washington Monument


The original city, as designed by L'Enfant, was planned in accordance with the Act of July 16, 1790. Under this authorization, President Washington acquired for the United States, in addition to the street areas which were donated by the original owners, 17 reservations by purchase. Among these were the Mall, the Capitol grounds, and the White House grounds or President's Park, all of which were included in L'Enfant's plan for the Federal City. Other parks were created on the remaining reservations from time to time, the chief ones being LaFayette Park, part of West Potomac Park, the Monument grounds, Judiciary Park, and Garfield Park.

The original areas donated for streets were exceedingly wide and permitted the establishment of parks, circles, and triangles at intersections. From such areas came Lincoln, Stanton, Farragut, McPherson, Marion, and Mount Vernon Parks; Washington, Dupont, Scott, Thomas and Logan Circles; and many small reservations.

As the Capital City grew in size and importance, additional areas were acquired for park development. The principal acquisitions were East and West Potomac Parks, Rock Creek Park, the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, Theodore Roosevelt Island, the Mt. Vernon Memorial Highway and Anacostia Park. The National Capital Park and Planning Commission has prepared plans for a comprehensive park system for Washington suitable in scope to meet the future growth of the Federal City. Several areas have been acquired in accordance with these plans, but they are largely undeveloped. The fulfillment of these plans will give the National Capital a park system unsurpassed by that of any other capital in the world.

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Last Updated: 30-Nov-2009