An Administrative History-Roads and Trails

Road and Trail Construction

The first construction work within Rock Creek Park got underway in 1897. In the absence of appropriated funds, Captain Beach secured a chain gang to improve existing and abandoned roads through the park.

Congress did not appropriate money for park improvements until 1899, when a road along the creek from Blagden Mill north to Military Road was opened and macadamized at a cost of some $15,000. According to a later Board of Control report, heavy blasting and grading were required, but "[g]reat care was taken to do as little damage to the topography as possible outside of the limits of the road " During this project the standing stone walls of the dilapidated Blagden Mill were obliterated, to the regret of Louis P. Shoemaker, one of the major landowners whose property had been taken and an amateur historian of the valley. [13]

An old road from Klingle Road north to Pierce Mill Road along the east bank of the creek was also graded in 1899. Two years later an existing road along the west bank linking Pierce Mill with the segment running north from the Blagden Mill site was regraded, and it and the portion below Pierce Mill were macadamized. In 1900 the valley road was extended across Military Road to near the District line, but this northern-most section was not paved for some years. By a resolution of November 20, 1901, the Board of Control named the entire road along the creek Beach Drive in honor of its secretary. [14]

More often than not Beach Drive forded rather than bridged the creek. In 1902 the Board of Control constructed two attractive bridges, however. Boulder Bridge carried the road across Rock Creek upstream from the Blagden Mill site where the mill dam had been. Designed by w. J. Douglas and built for $17,636, the reinforced concrete arch was faced with large fieldstones gathered from outside the park. The bridge blended admirably with its surroundings and survives as an outstanding specimen of naturalistic "parkitecture." The other crossing, known as the Pebble Dash Bridge from its exposed aggregate facings, spanned Broad Branch at its juncture with Rock Creek. It stood until the mid-1960s, when a new pair of bridges replaced it and an adjoining ford across the main stream. [15]

The Board of Control saw to the construction of other roads during and after its completion of Beach Drive. Ridge Road, running from Beach Drive at the confluence of Broad Branch and Rock Creek north along the highlands between the two streams to Military Road, was laid out and macadamized between 1899 and 1901. It was later redesignated Glover Road for Charles Carroll Glover, one of the park's prime movers.

Another new road intersecting with it near its lower end also extended to Military Road along the eastern slope of the ridge. It was named for John W. Ross, president of the District of Columbia Board of Commissioners and president of the Board of Control, after his death in 1902. A timber bridge built in 1903 to carry Ross Drive over a Rock Creek tributary ravine was replaced in 1907 by a 168-foot span "significant for its early engineering distinction of being an open-spandrel concrete arch with no pretense at ornamentation other than its organic structural shape." (Ross Drive Bridge remains and was listed with Boulder Bridge in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.) Last of the roads built under Board of Control auspices was Morrow Drive, running from the juncture of Beach Drive and Military Road up the eastern slope of Rock Creek valley to 16th Street; it was named for Maj. Jay J. Morrow, a former secretary of the board and District engineer commissioner, in 1911. [16]

In addition to the roads, the Board of Control constructed or improved about 21 miles of bridle paths and four miles of footpaths by 1912. Most of the bridle paths followed old footpaths and hauling roads. [17]

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Last updated: April 10, 2015

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5200 Glover Rd, NW
Washington, DC 20015


202 895-6000
Rock Creek Park's main phone line.

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