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Thread: Tuesday Tidbits - Biking-Related Factoids & History in the DC Area

  1. #41
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Alexandria, VA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Emm View Post
    Thanks Bobco--the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery was my favorite stop on the Alexandria history ride last Saturday. I must have seen it a hundred times when biking in Alexandria, but never knew exactly what the memorial was.

    For those of you who haven't checked it out, you need to. The sculpture is incredibly moving, and the full memorial and space is beautiful.
    The City of Alexandria has additional information and photos of the cemetery

  2. #42
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Tukwila, WA
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    Default No Nuts, Just Acorn

    Located a few blocks from the Silver Spring Transit Center in Acorn Park is the site for which the town is named. Acorn Park can be found here:

    It all started with Francis Preston Blair, a newspaper editor from Frankfort, KY who came to Washington in 1830 to edit the Washington Globe, a pro-Andrew Jackson presidency paper established by Jackson’s friends to counter the anti-Andrew Jackson paper: the National Intelligencer. In 1842, Francis built a country house near the site of current-day Acorn Park. He also built a city house which was called Blair House and is now known as the President’s official guest house. (Image is of a mural depicting the country house on the Silver Spring estate)
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    Now, there are multiple accounts of how the name of the town came about, but they both center around either Francis or his daughter and a spooked horse. In 1840, Francis was out horse riding with his daughter Elizabeth when one of them was thrown from their horse. The horse took off and was found at or nearby a spring. The spring was full of mica which reflects sunlight and sparkles like silver. Francis decided to name his estate Silver Spring after this. (Image is from the grotto area of the Silver Spring)
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    Near the spring grew many oak trees (now there are only 2 left), and Francis made it a park since he liked to have folks visit it. In 1842, an acorn-shaped gazebo was built by Benjamin C. King near the spring. The gazebo has since been renovated, but it remains the only acorn-shaped gazebo in the world. (Images of Acorn Park from June 1917 and August 2017)
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    Also at Acorn Park are various murals depicting a carefully-selected history of Silver Spring (carefully-selected in that they completely skip Silver Spring’s history of segregation and battles for civil rights). (Image of murals at Acorn Park)
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    Special note: because my focus for these has been on DC area sites for folks to visit and my impending move is approaching, I will be ending this series after 3 more articles (the final Tuesday Tidbit will be posted on 9/12).

  3. #43
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Tukwila, WA
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    Default Tuesday Tidbits - Biking-Related Factoids & History in the DC Area

    Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

    Located just off the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail in NE DC sits a land- er, should I say water? - filled with acres of aquatic flora: the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. It can be found here:

    In 1882, a Civil War veteran from Maine named Walter B. Shaw purchased land from his mother-in-law. He had lost his right arm in the war.

    Walter was feeling homesick, so he had wild water lilies brought in from Maine. He planted them in an old ice pond, and they flourished so well that he opened W. B. Shaw Lily Ponds as a commercial attraction in 1912. This is the same year that the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers started a dredging project to clear built-up silt from passages on the Anacostia River; more on that soon.

    Walter died in 1921, and his daughter, Helen Shaw Fowler, took over the gardens.

    In 1930, Helen received a notice of condemnation from the government; the dredging project had reached the gardens.

    The gardens were in danger of being destroyed by this project, so Helen fought against it for 8 years until Congress authorized the purchase of the land to be turned into a park. In 1938, it was purchased for $15,000 under the Recreation Act of 1926 (later replaced by the Recreation and Public Purposes Act of 1954).

    Today, the gardens cover 8.5 acres across 45 ponds. There is a wooden greenhouse on the property dating back to 1913. In August of 1978, the gardens were added to the National Register of Historic Places. Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is the only National Park Service site devoted to the propagation and display of aquatic plants, and hopefully it will continue to be around for much longer.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Last edited by bobco85; 08-29-2017 at 05:12 PM.

  4. #44
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Tukwila, WA
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    Default Not Quite a Circus (Except the Traffic)

    The Fairfax, Virginia intersection of Leesburg Pike, Columbia Pike, and Seminary Road (when they all met in a 5 point intersection) gets its name from a man who is a distant relative to a famous circus. Baileys Crossroads has been around for 2 centuries, and although it has a plethora of interesting stories, I will tell just a few here. You can get the map image with far more detail here:
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    It all starts with a man named Hachaliah Bailey who was from Westport, New York. He ran the Bailey Circus, the first in America to feature an elephant (the elephant’s name was “Old Bet”). Later, a distant relative would form the Bailey component of the eventual Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
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    In 1837, he purchased 526 acres in the NE quadrant of the Leesburg Pike/Columbia Pike intersection. His mansion (named Moray) stood (burned down in 1942) near the current location of the Staples store in Bailey’s Crossroads. If you find the gazebo pictured here, look behind it and you will see a path leading to a road (aptly named Moray Lane). Both used to be part of the driveway to his mansion, accessible from Leesburg Pike via Glen Forest Drive.
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    Windmill - If you stand inside one of the cloverleaf loops at Leesburg Pike/Columbia Pike, you will see a windmill standing there. It is the only remaining portion of the old Payne estate. Luther Payne had purchased some of the land and built 3 stone houses nearby. Some of his land was donated for the nearby Glen Forest Elementary School.

    Munson’s Hill - If you look at the map shown earlier in this article, you will see Munson’s Hill to the west of Bailey’s Crossroads. During the Civil War, the Confederates built a fort atop this hill, and it was said to give such a great view that one could see Union troop actions on the Mall in DC. Union troops, even after occupying and controlling land on 3 sides of the fort, were reluctant to attack because they saw huge cannons on display. It was only until the Confederate soldiers abandoned the fort that Union troops discovered that these massive cannons were really just tree trunks that had been blackened with bootblack and charcoal and propped up with carriage wheels. The soldiers then called them “Quaker guns” because the “guns” didn’t shoot (Quakers were pacifists).

    Washington-Virginia Airport - On the current site of the Skyline complex stretching between Leesburg Pike, Seminary Rd, Scoville Rd, the Coca-Cola bottling plant, and the NOVA campus, used to stand the Washington-Virginia Airport. Oddly enough, the X of the runways is close to where the Target stands. The local Burke & Herbert Bank on Seminary Rd still has 2 pairs of landing lights on the top of the building from when the airport used to exist (the building was a BP gas station at the time)!
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    Skyline Towers Collapse - After the airport closed, the land was used to build the Skyline complex which included the notable tall apartment buildings. During construction of Skyline Plaza in 1973, a portion of the 24th floor collapsed and started a chain reaction as that section of all the floors below it as far as the 2nd to 3rd basement levels collapsed, too. The result was the deaths of 14 construction workers, injuries to 35 others, and a large gap in the building that made it look like 2 separate buildings. The cause was found to be contractor error due to insufficient wooden shoring to hold up concrete being poured to form the floor above.
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    Giant Food Store - This is quick one, but the Giant Food store located off Jefferson Street is actually the largest store in the Giant Food chain.

    Quick note: next week's Tuesday Tidbit will be the last of this series. It's been awesome doing this, but I will need to focus on other things as I start my new life in the Emerald City next week.

  5. #45
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Tukwila, WA
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    Default Final Tuesday Tidbit - We All Spring for Ice Cream!

    Located just south of Arlington Boulevard off the W&OD and Four Mile Run Trails lies a century-and-a-half old resort for which a local road gets its name: Carlin Springs. You can find it here on the map:
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    Back in 1872, John F. Carlin developed a resort around two natural springs off Four Mile Run and the Washington, Ohio, & Western Railroad (it would not become the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad until 1936). The establishment featured an ice cream parlor, restaurant, dance pavilion, and a swimming hole where Four Mile Run and Lubber Run (called Lovers Run on some maps) met. It also had its own train station so that visitors from DC and Alexandria could travel there. You can see the locations of the various buildings on these maps from 1887 and 1890:
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    The resort would not last, however, and in 1887 it was sold to developers. Note that the previous map images are from surveys done of the Glencarlyn area which included the Carlin Springs resort for said developers. They removed the buildings but decided to preserve the springs. Eventually the land was acquired by Arlington County in 1942.

    You can still find the springs on the side of the hill if you look behind the historical marker sign, but one of the springs has almost been completely covered up by accumulated dirt and debris.
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    Only one mystery remains: what flavors of ice cream were offered at the parlor?

    This will be my last post in my Tuesday Tidbits series (it's still Tuesday here as I type this!). I apologize for the week delay, but I was in the middle of moving to my new home in Tukwila, Washington. I will immerse myself in local history (both geological and human) for the time being. Thank you for reading these, as writing them has been very fun for me.

    P.S. - the first tidbit I learned about my new home is that Tukwila stands for “land of hazelnuts.”


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