National Capital Parks
A History
NPS Logo

PARKS OF THE NATIONAL CAPITAL, 1933-1951 (continued)

Park Use

National Capital Parks takes pride in the fine record of park use. Since the parks are established for the enjoyment of the public, it is gratifying to park officials to witness a steady increase in park use. As the urban population grows, park use will become even more intensified. In a single year, millions make use of the National Capital Parks. The bulk of the facilities and forces are devoted to providing for these uncounted millions of park patrons who make use of Rock Creek Park, Great Falls, Maryland, Fort Washington, Fort Hunt, the Mall, Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Anacostia Park, the Washington Monument grounds, and other areas throughout the city's metropolitan area. [110]

Supervision of Park Events

Park use covers a wide variety of activities. In the National Capital Parks there are facilities for all types of sports. Hundreds of thousands of park patrons enjoy the parks as a retreat for themselves and their families from the tensions of modern urban living. The number of park users engaged in passive recreation is extremely large. An outstanding type of park use, which has greatly increased during the years 1933-1951, is the attendance at special events and celebrations held in the parks. The arrangements for all events and celebrations held in the parks are in charge of the Special Assistant to the Superintendent.

The Watergate Concerts, the traditional Cherry Blossom Festival, the Fourth of July Celebration, the President's Cup Regatta, and several important parades are included among the annual events held in the National Capital Parks. Of these, the Watergate Concert was originated since 1933. The Watergate programs, which have become so popular in the National Capital, first started in 1935. [111] The first series of outdoor concerts at the Watergate represented a collaborative project of various Government agencies. The first series of performances at the Watergate was sponsored by National Capital Parks. The Navy Department supplied the barge for the orchestra background, and the District Emergency Relief Administration administered the work project and supplied the labor. [112] The National Symphony orchestra, a non-profit organization, contributed two-thirds of the cost of the project, while the remaining expenses were met by the cooperating Government agencies. [113] Since that time, the National Symphony, service bands, opera companies, and other musical aggregations have used the Watergate.

The Celebration for Admiral Nimitz
The Celebration for Admiral Nimitz

National Community Christmas Tree

The lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree on the White House grounds is a unique event in the National Capital Parks. The first tree was a fir cut from the Green Mountains, and presented to President Calvin Coolidge in 1923 by President Paul D. Moody, of Middleburg College, Middleburg, Vermont. [114] After lighting the Christmas tree, the President of the United States sends his Christmas greeting across the Nation. Although the ceremony itself is brief, considerable planning on the part of the Committee precedes the event. It has become one of the friendliest services held in the parks.

Memorial Services

Hundreds of memorial services are held in the parks. Services are held annually at the Lincoln Museum in commemoration of the birth of Abraham Lincoln and on the anniversary of his tragic assassination. The first anniversary celebration of Lincoln's birth on February 12, 1942 was made the occasion for the Lincoln Museum exhibition of a collection of relics intimately connected with the assassination. The single shot Derringer pistol used by the assassin John Wilkes Booth, the assassin's personal diary and many other relics held in the possession of the Judge Advocate General, United States Army were loaned to the Museum for an indefinite period. [115] Memorial services at the various statues, memorials, and monuments constitute a particular phase of park use.

fireworks above Washington Monument
Fourth of July Celebration

Great Falls, Maryland

Great Falls, Maryland is an area of intense park use. Located about 15 miles from Washington, Great Falls of the Potomac constitutes a scenic and historic attraction in National Capital Parks. Visitation to this relatively small area is extremely high, numbering in the thousands on weekends. Visitors to the Great Falls area may see the thundering falls and walk along the restored portion of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The historical importance of the area is graphically described in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Museum, which was opened to the public in the summer of 1951. The Museum is located in the recently restored Great Falls Tavern. A short distance from the Tavern is a Naturalist trailside exhibit, containing numerous interesting exhibits of the flora and fauna of the area. The completion of the restoration of the Great Falls Tavern, installation of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Museum, and completion of the Naturalist trailside exhibit mark important recent improvements and additions to the parks. [116]

Another type of park use centers about the many dedications held within the National Capital Parks. From 1933 to 1951, numerous dedications have taken place. Some of these dedications mark extremely important accomplishments of the office. A few of the important dedications occurring during the last 18 years include the following: the bathing pools and field houses at Banneker Recreation Center and Takoma Park Recreation Center were dedicated and opened to the public on June 23, 1934 with appropriate ceremonies. [117] Groundbreaking ceremonies for the Second Division Memorial were held on September 14, 1935. The Calvert Street Bridge was dedicated on December 19, 1935. [118] The exercises marking this concrete achievement were marked by a parade of over 2000 participants and the presence of a large crowd. The Lanston Golf Course was dedicated and opened to play on June 11, 1939. [119]

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Museum
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Museum

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 31-Jul-2003