MARYLAND AVENUE NE
Maryland Avenue NE is a cultural landscape in northeast Washington, D.C. Located in the northeast quadrant, the segment of the avenue included in this cultural landscape inventory runs diagonally, southeast to northwest, for approximately 1.4 miles, between 2nd Street NE and 14th Street NE. The landscape is comprised of ten reservations, including Stanton Park, that are managed by the National Capital Region, National Capital Parks – East. Reservation numbers from southwest to northeast include: 205, 015, 206, 207, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, and 213. The reservations are all small parks, many of them triangle-shaped or quasi-triangular. They range in size from approximately 0.05 acres to 3.88 acres, with U.S. Reservation 213 (at the northeast end of the cultural landscape) as the smallest reservation on Maryland Avenue NE and Stanton Park (near the southwest end of the avenue) as the largest reservation in the cultural landscape.
Maryland Avenue NE was first laid out as part of Pierre L’Enfant’s 1791 plan for the city of Washington, and included in Andrew Ellicott’s modified plan in 1792. L’Enfant’s original plan interposed an orthogonal grid of streets, oriented in the cardinal directions, with a series of grand radial avenues to connect prominent sites. As one such grand avenue, L’Enfant designed Maryland Avenue NE to begin at the United States Capitol and extend northeast, crossing a series of gridded streets. A series of triangular parcels were created by the juxtaposition of the two urban systems; it was these triangular “reservations” (together with other traffic circles and squares) that L’Enfant envisioned as ornamental green spaces for public use. The Maryland Avenue NE cultural landscape comprises ten of these reservations from the L’Enfant Plan, as modified by Andrew Ellicott.
In 1814, during the War of 1812, the British Army marched down Maryland Avenue after the Battle of Bladensburg, setting fire to the capital city as they marched. In subsequent decades, the avenue remained largely undeveloped, despite its proximity to the United States Capitol and central Washington, D.C.
The small parks created as a result of the L’Enfant plan were not improved until the 1870s at the earliest, and Maryland Avenue NE was not paved until 1892. These improvement projects coincided with an effort by the Board of Public Works (BPW) to establish “parkings” along the city’s wide streets and avenues, bordering roadways with long strips of lawn and planting trees in order to reduce paving costs. These “parking projects” motivated the OPBG to reassert its ownership over the reservations under its jurisdiction, and to gradually improve them as ornamental spaces adjacent to the new “parkings.” Beginning in 1871, the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds (OPBG) redesigned the park at Massachusetts and Maryland Avenues, giving it the official name of Stanton Park; in 1874, a statue of Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene was installed in 1874. The OPBG also delineated, landscaped, and enclosed the Maryland Avenue NE small parks during this period; these projects progressed incrementally until 1914. In 1915, a wide planted median was established along the centerline of the avenue between the small parks, further greening the experience of traveling through the cultural landscape.
In 1933, two reservations were selected as sites for improvement projects undertaken by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), as part of the New Deal’s programs in Washington, D.C. Three decades later, several reservations saw replantings and improvements to hardscapes and infrastructure as part of the beautification projects spearheaded by First Lady Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson. Concerned about the country’s increased traffic congestion and deteriorating downtown areas, First Lady Johnson established the Beautification Program to restore beauty to blighted areas and improve the quality of life in urban neighborhoods. The program launched in Washington, D.C. and expanded nationwide. On Maryland Avenue NE, the program’s interventions included the addition of play areas in Reservations 209 and 210, and the creation of new vegetation features in several reservations.
Historic Maps and Images
View of the City of Washington in 1792
Sketch of Washington in embro: viz, previous to its survey by Major L’Enfant, 1792
Plan for the City Intended for the Permanent Seat of the Government of the United States
Excerpt from "Historical map of the city of Washington, District of Columbia: view of the city & location of the houses in the year 1801-02: the beginning of Washington" (Harmon 1931, Library of Congress)
Excerpt from "Map of Washington City, District of Columbia, seat of the federal government: respectfully dedicated to the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of North America" (Boschke 1857, Library of Congress)
Early photographic view of Washington, D.C. from the Capitol, looking northeast circa 1863. An unpaved Maryland Avenue NE is visible at the center of the photograph, extending from foreground to background. (“Early Photographic View” n.d., Library of Congress)
Excerpt from Map of the City of Washington Showing the Varieties of Street Pavements Laid and under Contract on January 1st, 1889: To Accompany the Annual Report of Cap’t. T.W. Symons, Corps of Engineers, U.S.A. (George Washington University Special Collections)
1892, City of Washington Statistical Map No. 3 showing the different varieties of Street Pavements. (Rossell and Lusk 1892, Library of Congress)
Analysis and Evaluation
The Maryland Avenue NE cultural landscape derives national significance as one of the major public avenues envisioned in Pierre L’Enfant’s 1791 Plan of the City of Washington. The full cultural landscape was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 as part of the nomination for the L’Enfant Plan, with significance based on Criteria A, B, and C. The period of significance for that nomination is 1790-1942.
The southwest portion of the cultural landscape was also listed in the Capitol Hill Historic District in 1976 (with a boundary increase in 2003); the district boundaries encompass U.S. Reservations 205, 015 (Stanton Park), 206, 207, 208, and 209. The 1976 nomination was listed with significance in the areas of Community Planning, Military, and Other-Local Neighborhood History, with significant periods that included 1700-1799, 1800-1899, and 1900-. The 2003 boundary increase nomination for the historic district was listed with significance based on Criteria A and C, and a period of significance of 1790-1945.
This CLI recommended that the Maryland Avenue NE cultural landscape’s significance be refined and expanded to encompass the following five periods:
1791-1792, with national significance under Criteria A, B, and C, based on the association with the L’Enfant Plan and Andrew Ellicott’s modified plan;
1814, with national significance under Criterion A, for its association with the events of the burning of Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812;
1871-1915, with local significance under Criteria A and C, for the period of OPBG construction and improvement of the small parks;
1933-1936, with local significance under Criterion A, based on the Works Progress Administration’s improvement projects in at least two Maryland Avenue NE reservations during the New Deal; and
1963-1969, with local significance under Criterion A, based on the mid-century redesign of Stanton Park and the beautification projects undertaken in several small parks as part of Lady Bird Johnson’s landscape priorities in Washington, D.C.
Landscape characteristics identified for Maryland Avenue NE are: land use; topography; cluster arrangement; spatial organization; circulation; views and vistas; vegetation; buildings and structures; and small-scale features. NOTE: Although Stanton Park is generally addressed within the Analysis and Evaluation narrative, it is treated as one singular structure for the purpose of this Cultural Landscape Inventory.
Despite some changes in cluster arrangement, circulation, and small-scale features, the Maryland Avenue NE cultural landscape still retains many landscape characteristics and features from the periods of significance. The cultural landscape's contributing features are:
Land Use: Passive recreational use as small pocket parks; active recreational use with play areas; commemorative use of Stanton Park
Topography: General descending slope from Reservation 205 at southwest down to Reservation 213 at northeast; graded conditions of individual reservations (see CLI for more details)
Cluster Arrangement: Collection of small parks between 2nd Street NE and 14th Street NE, located on north and south sides of Maryland Avenue NE
Spatial Organization: Proximity/accessibility of small parks to surrounding public streets and roads; organization of reservations located along the Maryland Avenue NE corridor; composition of individual reservations (see CLI for more details)
Circulation: Reservation 209 stairs from Maryland Avenue NE to play area
Views and Vistas: General views from small parks along Maryland Avenue NE, to southwest and northeast; view from Reservation 205 to United States Capitol; views between reservations at bow-tie intersections (see CLI for more details)
Vegetation: Planting plans of individual reservations (see CLI for more details)
Buildings and Structures: Stanton Park
Small-Scale Features: Quarter-round curbing at Reservations 206, 207, and 211; OPBG-era blocks inscribed with "U.S." in Reservations 210 and 211; rail-tie retaining walls and rail-tie steps in Reservation 209; Millet lamppost in Reservation 212
The Maryland Avenue NE cultural landscape retains overall integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.
Existing conditions at Reservation 205, 2019 (Photo by Molly Lester)
Existing conditions at Reservation 206, 2019 (Photo by Molly Lester)
Existing conditions at Reservation 207, 2019 (Photo by Molly Lester)
Existing conditions at Reservation 208, 2019 (Photo by Molly Lester)
Existing conditions at Reservation 209, 2019 (Photo by Molly Lester)
Existing conditions at Reservation 210, 2019 (Photo by Molly Lester)
Existing conditions at Reservation 211, 2019 (Photo by Molly Lester)
Existing conditions at Reservation 212, 2019 (Photo by Molly Lester)
Existing conditions at Reservation 213, 2019 (Photo by Molly Lester)
The final report will be posted here when it is available from the National Park Service.