The Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway Historic District’s 180-acres runs along the gorge and rim of the lower Rock Creek Valley (south of the National Zoo), and includes a swath of land along the Potomac River. The Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway forms the central feature of the property itself—authorized for construction in 1913, the roadway was established as a transportation connection between the center of the city (National Mall and Potomac Park) and the Northwest quadrant of D.C. (National Zoological Park and Rock Creek Park). The 3.1 mile road extends from Lincoln Circle into the lower valley, generally following alongside the creek.
Original plans for the parkway envisioned a path for carriages, equestrians, and pedestrians, but a delay in funding resulted in design changes that included consideration of the pathway for automobile use. Construction began in 1920 and concluded in 1936. Throughout the twentieth century, numerous changes occurred along the parkway, such as major alterations resulting from the boom in automobile use following World War II. The parkway constitutes a major asset of D.C. transportation, and is an essential route for many residents in the District and region.
Within the historic district, bridges are the most visible cultural resource. Thirteen remain structurally sound, including the major spans of Massachusetts Avenue (Charles C. Glover Memorial Bridge), Connecticut Avenue (William H. Taft Memorial Bridge), and Calvert Street (Duke Ellington Memorial Bridge). The earliest bridge within the area (now lost) was constructed in 1788. The oldest standing bridge in the park was erected in 1915, and the most architecturally distinctive is likely the curvilinear Dumbarton (Q Street) Bridge with its sculpted bison. Additional industrial resources include lampposts, sea walls, culverts, and kilns.
DC Inventory: November 8, 1964 (Joint Committee on Landmarks)
National Register: May 4, 2005