Fort Hunt Park, located south of Washington, D.C. in Virginia, is part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The land was acquired by the federal government in 1893 for development as a Coastal Defense fortification. In the period between the First and Second World Wars, when military activity ceased, a Civilian Conservation Camp was stationed at here. Crews carried out numerous work projects in the Washington area, including at least one major landscaping project at Fort Hunt.

A successional woodland of varying density surrounds the park on the east, south, and west, while on the northern edge a thin row of trees extends along a fenceline just south of Fort Hunt Road. Fort Hunt Park: Cultural Landscape Inventory, NPS, 2004

A shaded, grassy picnic area with wooden tables under a tree canopy
The park contains remnants of the Coastal Defense Fortification era (1893-1924) and eight picnic areas. Fort Hunt Area C-1 can accommodate up to 100 people and 40 cars.

NPS

Fort Park is a recreational area in Fairfax County, Virginia, 11.5 miles south of Washington, D.C. and 2.5 miles north of Mount Vernon. The park, under the administration of the George Washington Memorial Parkway unit of the national park system, is on the west side of Mount Vernon Memorial Highway. A loop road encircles the park's central area, which is composed of grass-covered picnic areas and playing fields. A Civilian Conservation Corps-era plan suggests that the park was to have been treated as a picturesque landscape, with an overall cover of woodland occassionally opening into fields. 

Symmetrical row of tents on a flat, open field beside the Potomac River
During the second Bonus March, a temporary encampment was set up on the old parade ground at Fort Hunt beside the Potomac River as WWI veterans came to Washington to demand payment of the bonuses for their wartime service. The marches were the result of a national period of economic suffering.

NPS/Museum Resource Center, "Fort Hunt Bonus Camp, 1933"

The period of historic significance for Fort Hunt Park begins in 1893, when land was first acquired by the federal government for use as a Coastal Defense fortification. It extends to 1942, when the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was disbanded, and the camp that had been station at the fort was removed. The uses of Fort Hunt during the 1890s-1942 contribute to U.S. history, collectively representing distinct changes in American military, economic, and social life. 

A crowd gathers on both sides of a picnic table, covered with food and a tablecloth
Picnic at Fort Hunt in 1955

NPS/Museum Resource Center

Fort Hunt was part of an improved sytem of coastal defenses built throughout the United States in the 1890s following recommendations of the Endicott Board. The Endicott Board had been convened to assess the changing needs of modern naval warfare and the role that the United States played as an international power. It was a companion fortification to the older Fort Washington on the opposite shore of the Potomac River in Maryland. Both forts were placed at a point where the river channel narrows, several miles south of Washington, D.C., to help protect the city from enemy vessels. 

Six structures that were built during this period still stand, including concrete gun emplacements, a concrete battery commander's station, and a wooden single-family dwelling. Aside from the dwelling, these reflect the modern use of reinforced concrete. The obsolescence of these batteries less than 30 years after their construction reflects the rapid changes of modern warfare. 

Between the First and Second World Wars, military activity at Fort Hunt ceased. In the 1930s, CCC Camp NP-6 was stationed at the fort, and the work crews carried out projects around the Washington area. At Fort Hunt, they excavated a lake bed, probably to drain an existing swamp and also to create an attractive picnic area. The lake bed is still a prominent topographical features within the woodland of Picnic Area F.

An NPS Model Laboratory was set up at Fort Hunt, and about twenty of the CCC men were employed under NPS personnel to build relief maps for Eastern parks. The Fort Hunt camp was regarded as a “model facility,” and it occasionally played host to illustrious foreign visitors.

In the early 1960s, rehabilitation projects funded through the National Park Service’s Mission 66 program led to improvements of buildings, roads, parking, picnic facilities, and landscaping.

 

Quick Facts

  • Cultural Landscape Type: Historic Site
  • National Register Significance Level: National
  • National Register Significance Criteria: A
  • Period of Significance: 1893-1942

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