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

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

    With SafeTrack coming to a close, I've been looking for other ways to spend extra time (when not on a bike), so I came up with this little side project on my Twitter: Tuesday Tidbits. They consist of small, bite-size facts with a bit of history on biking related or biking accessible things. They could include trails themselves or sites/objects/etc. that people probably pass by a million times and never realize are there or what they are for.

    I've only been doing this for a couple of weeks, so I'll add entries for previous weeks on this thread, too.

    I hope you enjoy this summer side project of mine!

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    Default Four Mile Run Trail - 50 Years and Counting

    The Four Mile Run Trail turned 50 years old this year (I asked BikeArlington why there was no birthday party). It was first opened on April 4, 1967, and includes portions such as the Wayne F Anderson Bikeway and Barcroft Trail. Photo is from the trail's grand opening celebration:
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    There is a local myth that Four Mile Run was originally named Flour Mill Run after the various mills (including Arlington Mill) located along the stream and that a dilapidated sign for Flour Mill Run was later interpreted to say Four Mile Run, but that has been debunked using historical maps of the area (one map has Hunting Creek a.k.a. Cameron Run as Three Mile Run, and another has a Fifteen Mile Run located much farther upstream along the Potomac River, but I could not determine the current name for it). Photo is a portion of map drawn by Andrew Ellicott who was commissioned by George Washington to survey the DC area (before there was a DC):
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    Did you know, the Four Mile Run Trail might never have existed, and in its place could have stood the Four Mile Run Expressway? I scared people this morning at coffee club with the following images showing designs for a motor expressway (first image is of Carlin Springs Rd/US-50/Four Mile Run Expressway near Glencarlyn & Bluemont Park; second image is of Walter Reed Dr/Shirlington Rd/Four Mile Run Expressway near Shirlington):
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    Obviously, this format allows for more than 140 characters, so I expanded on the brief phrases a bit. I'll try to keep each of these bite-sized, but I hope folks like this.

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    Default Carrollsburg - Historic Town Now Part of DC

    Before the Residence Act of 1790 mandated the creation of a capital and George Washington sent out a trio of folks to secure plots of land for the future District of Columbia, a town named Carrollsburg was founded in 1770 in the location we know as Buzzard Point. This can be accessed on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail in SW DC.
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    Here are some historic maps of the south half of the District of Columbia and the town layout of Carrollsburg, both from 1790-1791. Note that there is no Hains Point, and the tiny Jackson's Hill on the map later became Capitol Hill! FYI: the town layout of Carrollsburg has North pointing to the right.
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    In 1933, the Potomac Electric Power Company Buzzard Point Plant was built. Originally built with 1 tower, it was later expanded to the current 3. In 2012, Pepco announced the shutdown of the plant as part of the deal to create a future soccer stadium (Audi Stadium) for the DC United team.
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    Cool historic maps! I might try to georeference those and overlay them with current imagery if I find a few spare minutes.

    If you have high-resolution copies send me a note.

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    Quote Originally Posted by anomad View Post
    Cool historic maps! I might try to georeference those and overlay them with current imagery if I find a few spare minutes.

    If you have high-resolution copies send me a note.
    Most of the historic maps I've been able to find were through the Arlington GIS, Library of Congress website with its nearly endless number of images amongst other media, and even a Flickr group dedicated to photos of Arlington pre-1990. Here's a link to the Carrollsburg town layout: https://www.loc.gov/item/88690858/ The Library of Congress site gives multiple options for file download size, so you can get some really nice versions of each (I downsized everything to 1080 pixels in height for uploading to the forum).

    Also, fair warning, you will lose many, MANY hours looking through all the historical imagery that is available!

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    Default Bladensburg Dueling Grounds - Settled Scores

    This Tuesday Tidbit is from 6/6/2017

    Just outside the D.C. border in Bladensburg, Maryland lies the old Bladensburg Dueling Grounds. It can be accessed from the Anacostia River Trail near Bladensburg Waterfront Park by passing through Colmar Manor Community Park up to Bladensburg Rd (Alt US-1).
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    When you get there, you will see Dueling Creek and a few informational signs. Between 1808 and 1868, over 50 duels took place in this area. Because the District of Columbia had outlawed duels, gentlemen who needed to settle their differences without pesky law enforcement would head about 0.4 miles outside the city here to Dueling Creek (also nicknamed “Blood Run” and “The Dark and Bloody Grounds”) which is a tributary of the Anacostia River.
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    The most famous of these duels took place on March 22, 1820 between Commodore Stephen Decatur (decorated naval officer who had success against the Barbary Pirates near North Africa) and Commodore James Barron (dismissed from naval service after his ship, the frigate Chesapeake, was captured in 1807). Both captains in the Navy, Decatur was on the court-martial board that declined to reinstate Barron after having found him guilty of neglect of duty. While you can imagine that Barron was not too happy about the outcome, they had been feuding for 13 years (Barron thought Decatur had called him a coward for losing his ship). They had a duel with pistols at eight paces, and in the end, Decatur was killed while Barron was wounded.
    (Decatur on left; Barron on right)
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    Maryland officially banned duels in 1839, but you can see the legacy of the Dueling Grounds is still a part of Colmar Manor. Random fact: Colmar gets its name from District of "Col"umbia and “Mar”yland.
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    Last edited by bobco85; 06-21-2017 at 06:17 PM. Reason: date correction

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    Default Cloud's Mill Race - Remnant of a Past Economy

    Just off the Holmes Run Trail in Alexandria is a remnant of the past milling economy that was big until the end of the 19th Century. In the first 15 years of the 19th Century, Alexandria exported over 1 million barrels of flour from over 100 mills in northern Virginia.

    Constructed from 1813-1816, Cloud's Mill (also known as Triadelphia) was operated by James Cloud from 1835-1863 until Union forces took it over. You can get to the site where Cloud's Mill stood from the Holmes Run Trail by crossing the bridge connecting it to Pickett St and heading a block west on Holmes Run Parkway.

    While the mill is no longer in existence, a portion of the mill race (current of water that turns a water wheel; the channel is made to be narrow to make the water flow faster) was preserved and can be found off North Paxton St between Holmes Run and Duke Street. The location of the mill itself was on the south side of Holmes Run between Paxton St and Pickett St. I'm not entirely sure the exact location of the mill, but the satellite map shows my estimate. Note: Duke Street and Little River Turnpike are one-and-the-same. The full version of the 1860 historic map is available here: https://lccn.loc.gov/2001627680
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    At the marker for the Cloud's Mill Race, there is a mill stone and description that can be seen. While there, you will notice that there is a slight depression behind the mill stone. This is part of the preserved mill race that ran along the south side of Holmes Run from current Beauregard St/Morgan St to Little River Turnpike (there was a toll gate on Little River Turnpike at Holmes Run).
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    The nearby townhouse complex was involved in preserving this portion of the mill race, and they even named their streets after Cloud's Mill (even though they misspelled the name by adding an "e" so it's more olde and sophisticated, I guess).

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobco85 View Post
    Did you know, the Four Mile Run Trail might never have existed, and in its place could have stood the Four Mile Run Expressway? I scared people this morning at coffee club with the following images showing designs for a motor expressway (first image is of Carlin Springs Rd/US-50/Four Mile Run Expressway near Glencarlyn & Bluemont Park; second image is of Walter Reed Dr/Shirlington Rd/Four Mile Run Expressway near Shirlington):
    I've seen that before; thanks for posting it. It would have run the length of the trail beyond Bluemont, in fact. Scary.

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    Default Matthew Henson - Pioneering Arctic Explorer

    I took a week off doing this to celebrate Independence Day, but I've got a fresh new Tuesday Tidbit for this week!

    Situated between Aspen Hill and Wheaton-Glenmont in Montgomery County, MD, and extending off a part of the Rock Creek Trail is the 3.6-mile long Matthew Henson Trail. It can be accessed directly from Rock Creek Trail just north of North Bethesda.
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    More interesting, however, is the person for which this trail is named. Matthew Henson was the first African-American Arctic explorer.
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    Born in 1866 in Charles County, MD, to free parents (neither parent had been a slave), at the age of 12 he went to Baltimore and became a cabin boy on a merchant ship where he was taught to read and write by Captain Childs.

    At age 21, he met explorer Robert Peary while working at a clothing store, and Peary recruited him to accompany him on a trip to Nicaragua to survey the potential for a canal. Impressed by Henson during this trip, Peary made him his first man and started to take him on trips to the Arctic.

    It took 8 attempts with Peary's expeditions to Greenland which included many interactions with the Inuit (Henson fathered some children along the way), but Matthew Henson finally reached the North Pole in 1909.

    He has gotten many awards including Honorary Member of the Explorers Club, Congressional Medal, and U.S. Navy medals, and was even invited to the White House by President Eisenhower. He was also featured on a postage stamp with Peary.
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    After his death, his remains were moved from his original grave at Woodlawn Cemetery to Arlington National Cemetery via a decree by President Reagan. His grave has a special tombstone and is next to the grave of Robert Peary. The building for the Earth Conservation Corps at Buzzard Point in DC is named for him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobco85 View Post

    More interesting, however, is the person for which this trail is named. Matthew Henson was the first African-American Arctic explorer.
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    Now that's a real person to name a trail after, not Wayne f'in' Anderson.

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