Rock Creek Park Walking Tour
Tour of sites within one of the oldest national parks in the country.
Since its purchase in 1955 by the businesswoman, socialite, philanthropist and collector Marjorie Merriweather Post, Hillwood has served to function once as a place of residence, and forever as a museum to educate and awe those who visited it. Hillwood is known largely for its sizeable decorative arts collection that focuses heavily on the House of Romanov, a collection of French decorative art, and acres of sculpted gardens. Included in the collection are, among other pieces, Fabergé eggs, 18th and 19th century French art, and one of the country's finest orchid collections. Hillwood's mansion and gardens opened to the public in 1977 and are maintained by the Post Foundation.
Cloverdale is a historic home located in Washington, DC’s Forest Hills Neighborhood. Originally constructed as a home in 1810, the building was remodeled numerous times while retaining its Colonial Revival style of architecture. In August of 1990, the home was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the building is no longer a home, but the Education Office of the Chinese Embassy.
Joshua Peirce built this house in 1823 overlooking the Rock Creek valley, and converted some of the estate into an 82-acre commercial nursery, the first in the nation's capital. In honor of Swedish naturalist and taxonomist Carl Linnaeus, Peirce named the mansion and nursery Linnaean Hill, and locally it is known as the Klingle Mansion. After Peirce's death in 1869, his nephew, Joshua Peirce Klingle, lived there with his wife. He sold the mansion and land to the federal government for the creation of Rock Creek Park in 1890. During the twentieth century it served as a nature center, and now it is the park's headquarters.
While the lower floor of this former carriage house and homing pigeon coop was an art collective, the upper floor was a spy station in the middle of Rock Creek Park. During the Cold War, intelligence agents from the FBI used this space to observe the embassies of communist countries Czechoslovakia and Hungary. From 1971 into the 1990s, the alternative art space the Art Barn operated on the first floor. All the spy equipment was removed in 1992 and the building is part of Rock Creek Park, as it was throughout the twentieth century, and is maintained by the National Park Service.
Built in 1829 by Isaac Peirce, this gristmill was part of the vanguard of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. The mill utilized mechanical innovations created by American inventor Oliver Evans to replace some of the human labor previously requiring in milling flour. The mill used water from Rock Creek to turn a wheel which in turn operated machinery inside. It operated until 1897. The U. S. goverment acquired the mill in its acquisition of the whole estate for Rock Creek Park, and restored the building between 1933 and 1936 as well as in the 1970s and at the beginning of the 21st century.
In 1958, the Architect of the Capitol J. George Stewart removed hundreds of sandstone blocks from the eastern façade Capitol Building during a renovation, supported by Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn. The stones were left in Rock Creek Park, and have remained there ever since. They vary in size and purpose, and provide a glimpse into the history of quarrying and carving techniques used on the Capitol building in the 1800s. The site is not maintained by any government body, but is an unofficial and unmarked monument within the park. Subsequent renovations have added to the heaps of stones in the park.
Built in 1861, Fort DeRussy was used by the Union Army during the American Civil War. The Union Army built 68 earthen forts to defend Washington, D.C. from Confederate forces during the American Civil War. The outline of this fort still remains even after the many years concluding the war. Fort DeRussy's artillery, especially it’s 100-pound Parrott gun, was pivotal to defending nearby Fort Stevens from a Confederate attack in July 1864. The remains of the fort are now part of Rock Creek Park and have been largely overtaken by the forest, but visitors can still see evidence of the former fort. The site is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places and maintained by the National Park Service.
Rock Creek Park is the third-oldest National Park in the United States, established in 1890. The Park encompasses over 2,000 acres, and includes not just wildlife, but recreational facilities such as a tennis stadium, a golf course, horse trails, as well as other facilities such as an amphitheater, a planetarium, a concert venue, and cultural exhibits. The Park is run by the National Park Services and is open to the public.