Civil War Defenses of Washington

A Parks for the People Competition Entry

Temporary Moves in DC

by andrewgdawson


Access, Connections + Walkability

by Molly

Since we’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about the connectivity and access between the CWDW sites, I thought it was worth highlighting their place in the walkability of Washington, DC as a city.

According to the website, Washington DC is the 7th most walkable large city in the US–a ranking based on the average walking or transit distance to things like grocery stores, coffee shops, bookstores, restaurants,…and parks.

What if we were to flip that equation, so to speak, and measure the average distance from the parks to their neighborhood features? This could be a way to quantify our anecdotal impressions of each site, including the ones that seemed most accessible:

like Fort Reno, with its WalkScore of 89:


and those like Fort Foote, whose first-impression isolation is proven in its WalkScore of 23:

(Clicking through to the full data pages about each site will tell you more about the score, and will map out the amenities that are located nearby.)

WalkScores aren’t perfect, and a site’s context isn’t useless just because it isn’t pedestrian-friendly. But this could offer another way to frame our on-site impressions, and could be another factor to consider as we design our interventions.

Prisons in the Parks

by karinabishop

Urban prisons seem to be a hot topic recently at Penn Design!  Check out these MArch students’ solution to New Jersey’s incarceration issues.

Simultaneous Design Competitions!

by samanthakuntz

D.C. is really going for a design overhaul…check out the design proposals for underutilized sites throughout National Mall.  The Trust for the National Mall Design Competition

Wouldn’t it be nice to somehow protect these new additions to our national heritage?  Some form of a ring…or natural barrier? Oh wait.  We have that.

The Civil War

by crkinane

The National Park Service recently released a new website dedicated to telling the Civil War story.

Fort Stevens is the only part of CWDW that seems to have made it on the “places to visit” list.  The blurb about Stevens only focuses on the history of the site in connection with the war years – only barely mentioning the CCC reconstruction (and by barely I mean describing it in the first paragraph as “partially reconstructed.”)

The website has an interesting page of themes (in the ‘Stories’ section), one of which is “Civil War to Civil Rights.”   Under that theme they discuss the Contraband history of CWDW!  Although the article doesn’t mention CWDW by name, Battery Carroll and Fort Greble do get an honorable mention.

People want parks!

by crkinane

Today Sustainable Cities Collective posted an article about the increasing demand for city and neighborhood parks due to a comprehensive report released by the Brookings Institution on the same subject.

While the entire article was interesting, I thought this paragraph in particular brought up some interesting points, most we’ve certainly touched on in discussions:

“In addition to creating demand for parks, density also provides opportunities for parks to sustain themselves financially.  Park advocates and philanthropists, many of whom live or work near their parks, support park-friendly policies and contribute funding and volunteer hours. Dense activity also provides a market for fee-based park programs, from concessions to special events to carousels and skating rinks. These program elements in turn contribute to parks’ success, providing community amenities and reasons to travel to and linger in public space.”

The Earthwork Management Plan 1998

by romy0772


Here is the Earthwork Management Plan from NPS–Caitlin found it!

you can smell like a national park

by shannongarrison


Or at least your house can.

Check out Air Wick’s National Park Series air freshener collection.

And don’t forget to bring your mason jar next time you visit the Civil War Defenses.

“My Neighborhood”

by crkinane

I stumbled across this art installation while looking for photographs of Fort Reno.

Fort Reno Fire HydrantThere are many more available here (all pertaining to Reno):

Fort Lincoln and modernism

by Mary Catherine Collins

Randy brought this site to my attention – it is a public park built at Fort Lincoln and designed by Paul Friedberg. I do not think many of us were aware of its presence because Fort Lincoln is not part of our survey and plan. The site’s design takes advantage of views and mimics ramparts with its geometric sidewalks, curbs, and stairs. Here is the link to a short description and photos of the park Fort Lincoln Park. Just food for thought as we begin designing interventions for the sites.

Biking in Washington, DC

by Mary Catherine Collins

Today’s article in the Washington Post is mostly referring to bicycle commuters … but DC is a growing city and apparently cannot keep up with the increase in bicyclers….I am excited to see how CWDW can respond to the city’s need for more safe bike routes.  

District can’t keep pace with bicycling boom

Defining the word “resilience”

by Molly

An apropos conference and discussion of the word “resilience”:



“Resilience is everywhere. In recent days, the word—which describes the ability of systems to respond, adapt, and succeed when faced with challenges—has been used in news stories on psychology, as in survivors’ response to Fukushima; the U.S. economy, which added jobs even as Europe experienced a financial slowdown; and sports, wherein Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy recently praised his team’s “resilience” in bouncing back after a defeat. Resilience also crops up in discussion about communities, disaster response, national security, business, climate change, and more….”



“The ability to bounce back, to absorb shocks, to persevere, to retain functionality over time, to endure, to adapt, to succeed, to survive, to sustain… so many verbs are conjured up by the term “resilience.” Whether we’re talking about our bodies, our minds, our communities, our institutions or our natural environment, the R-word provides a conceptual framework for designing a better tomorrow. Please join us for a wide-ranging inquiry on what it means to be resilient and what a resilient future could look like….”

What makes an urban park ‘urban’?

by samanthakuntz

A side note on planning…

Planning efforts in D.C. are currently placing a strong emphasis on open public space. As we work to revitalize the national park components, it is interesting to see what concurrent urban park projects are in the works.

Will our forts (and batteries!) at the fringes of the city measure up to those parks from re-purposed infrastructures within the urban core?  How can we design the fort system to be as accessible to D.C. residents?

Click below to check out D.C.’s proposed plan for the 11th Street Bridge:

11th Street Bridge – Urban Park Plan

Fort Bayard

by beccalederer

More like Fort Play-Yard!

Though a hilltop where the fort likely stood is still present, there are no other remnants of the CWDW. This park is at a busy intersection that is also just at the border between Maryland and DC. There are activity spaces for the entire family to enjoy – picnic tables, a playground, and soccer/baseball fields.

What here, besides a sign, makes it clear that this park is the site of a Civil War Defense? Is this a park worthy of CWDW status?

Bark-ery Kemble? Battery Kibble?

by beccalederer

Either way, Battery Kemble Park is for the dogs. They frolick (ha!) in this hilly park in NW DC while their owners throw tennis balls or chat happily to each other.

Civil War Defenses?

But a distant memory or perhaps simply a name for a well-loved park that is essentially a big dog run with some trails and steep slopes.


“Play deserts?”

by crkinane

Do we need more playgrounds?

When it Comes to Parks, it's Not Just How Many, But Where

When it Comes to Parks, it’s Not Just How Many, But Where.

Beltline Art Projects

by shannongarrison

Some examples of public art projects from the Atlanta Beltline.

Check out their flickr for more.

Tim Frank, Re-Pairing Terrain

Sally Heller – Rest Stop

JD Koth – Twisting Passage

HENSE & BORNE – Untitled

Marquetta Johnson – Hammock Garden



Channeling my inner explorer

by samanthakuntz


Experience the adventure first hand.  From the shaky camera work to the jolts you sense while traversing the ruins, you will feel as if you are trekking across the Fort Foote entrenchment yourself…

(Alright, so maybe its just sad camerawork. And most of the jolts are me realizing I need to look down before I fall into a five foot deep pit.  But it’s fun all the same.)

Totten Coaster

by samanthakuntz

Not for the faint of heart.

Best Sign…Ever.

by samanthakuntz

What signage is most effective?  For me, it wasn’t the standardized “cannon shot,” even at the site with the actual cannons present.  It was the grade school style, bulletin board offering from Fort Foote.

It may not have looked as professional or anywhere near as aesthetically pleasing as the standard NPS issue, and it may have been weather worn near to illegibility in some instances, but it was the most effective.

The posts brought your attention to key points, facts, and trivia.  Did I know that many soliders died of malaria at Foote because it was built over a swamp?  Now I do!  And it may seem like a minor point in the history of the site, but these little tidbits color the experience in a really positive way.

Forget professional signage, I’ll take laminated posts like this any day.

Judging the book by its cover…

by samanthakuntz

Does the entrance or outside appearance shape your impression of the park within?  How inviting is the park that greets you with barricades, confusing directions, or worn signs?  Personally, if I were unfamiliar with sites and did not have to complete a field survey, I probably would not have explored further past such unwelcoming borders.  But the interior of these parks are far more exciting (and inviting!) than their exteriors suggest.

Here are a few examples:

Fort Totten – Who wants to hike up a hill with no idea of what they will find when the entrances at the foot of the hill are all barricaded?  Totten’s interior is worth the walk, but the entrance gives little hope for passersby.

Fort Foote – Once past the parking lot, the trail leads to a confusing clearing with trails leading in two directions.  The less inviting one, a natural bridge over a fly-ridden swamp, actually yields the best park results…

Fort Willard – What you see is what you get.  A small neighborhood park parcel buried in the suburbs, the fake cannons and manicured lawns on the outside do not conceal any hidden treasures.

What shapes your fort experience?

by samanthakuntz

Sometimes the best moments are the most unexpected.  National Parks aren’t always about the physical offerings, but your interactions with the people who use them.

An example of the electronic maps seen at Richmond

by Jon Vimr

Presumably more exciting in person, but at least slightly interesting:

If you end up watching make sure to stay the course beyond the first 40 seconds, it’s around then that the lights and audio really get moving. 

Stating the Significance of the CWDW

by Molly

The latest version of the Statement of Significance is available here.

Want the short version?…

CWDW in the headlines

by Molly

Our Historic Research Team has been working to cull from the wealth of information about the Defenses, in order to make the strongest case for the sites’ significance based on these just-the-headlines distillations (which we’ll show on Thursday).

Fittingly enough, headlines-wise, here’s the first: a graph of all of the Washington Post coverage of the sites over time (# of articles per year), charted alongside the waxing and waning public interest in the Civil War (as identified by Benjamin Cooley in Mr. Lincoln’s Forts). This latter data is reflected in the graph’s purple region, which is an abstract, rather than scientific, curve based on Cooley’s assessment. Lastly, we’ve highlighted a few key events and developments (and will identify a few more) to track potential reasons why coverage (and public consciousness) of the forts would rise and fall.

Stay tuned for other summations from the HR Team…

“Rising above it all!”

by crkinane

It looks like Xiaojuan’s idea wasn’t too far off!  Check out this article from a Seattle news station that describes the recently proposed aerial gondola system.  It’s expensive, but definitely attention grabbing!

Citytank also has a post on the subject, but with more graphics and information than the news story.  Apparently Portland has one of these systems already, so should Washington, DC be next?

The Paradox of Parks

by tishaallen

“The Fort Circle parks do not honor the Underground Railroad, the thousands of enslaved Africans who sought sanctuary there and built some of the city’s first black communities, the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), nor the students who integrated Sousa Middle School on park grounds, and certainly not the birth of funk and go-go music or the Coming Home traditions that are celebrated in African-American church, class, and family reunions in the city’s parks.”

This is an excerpt from “The Paradox of Parks” a publication by anthropologist Brett Williams.  From 2006, this publication discusses the importance of urban parks and the role they play in shaping community and identity through the lens of Fort Circle Parks (CWDW).

This piece has a little something for everyone and touches on issues of planning, shifting ecologies, and the history of park systems in D.C. as related to Fort Circle Parks.Williams_The Paradox of Parks

A Call to Action – The Committee of 100

by tishaallen

The Committee of 100 on the Federal City released a “Call to Action on the Fort Circle Parks Draft Management Plan” in 2003.  This document echos many of the concerns and opportunities we called out during our SWOT analysis exercise last week and is a worthwhile read (see link below).

The end of Chapter 3 in Part II of the CWDW Historic Resources Study covers the demise of the Fort Drive project.  In discussing the reasons for its failure, one quotation resonates: “Fort Drive simply never captured the imagination of Congress.”

As we push forward with recommendations and possible interventions, how can we build off of and push the envelope beyond the recommendations presented in the Committee of 100 report?  How can we capture the imagination of Congress, the National Park Service, and local residents with our design?

CWDW Call to Action Report – 2003

Other related documents are available on the Committee’s website.

Civil War sites through the lens of tourism

by randallfmason

This report commissioned by the Civil War Preservation Trust documents tourism impacts and experiences around 20 Civil War historic sites/parks (including Richmond). Worthwhile to scan for a quite different perspective we haven’t considered much: CWD as economic generator.

Food for thought from Golden Gate National Recreation Area

by Molly

NPR: Who’s a Park For? Dog Owners Fight Park Service

“…Golden Gate National Recreation Area, in California’s Bay Area, is expanding, quite literally, up next to some people’s backyards. And while you might think neighbors would be thrilled to see this scenic landscape preserved, the relationship between the National Park Service and locals is off to a rocky start.

If you love your dog the way Peggy and Bill Bechtell love Kalie, you couldn’t ask for a better place to live than right on the border of Rancho Corral de Tierra. The ranch is 4,000 acres of cypress trees and grassy rolling hills, about 20 minutes south of San Francisco. Peggy says it is dog paradise.

‘We don’t have a community center, that’s our socialization out there. There’s 12 dogs running around playing together,’ she says.

Until recently, this land was owned by a local land trust, which mostly just let it be. But in January, the land officially joined the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It’s now part of the National Park System. The Bechtells, like a lot of others here, are none too pleased.

‘We’ve had nothing but great community here for 32 years and the minute they come, they ruin it,” Peggy says. “Everybody’s upset. Everybody’s furious. And frightened.’…”