It is associated with a long and continuous planning effort for the Washington region, begun with the L’Enfant Plan, extended with the Permanent System of Highways Plan of 1898, and reinvigorated with the McMillan Plan of 1902. Well-known landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., Charles W. Eliot II, and Gilmore D. Clarke invested much time and energy in the planning and execution of the parkway.
The highway was authorized by the Capper-Cramton Act of 1930, and constructed in stages from 1930 to 1966. The parkway also commemorates George Washington’s association with the Potomac River, including his enterprising efforts to tap the hinterlands through canals along the river, his estate at Mount Vernon, and his selection of the site for the nation’s new capital. The commemoration of Red Cross founder Clara Barton, for whom the Maryland segment of the parkway was named by an Act of Congress in 1989, is notable as well. Her home at Glen Echo overlooks the parkway.
National Register: June 2, 1995