Picnic shelter, Fort Hunt ParkLikely CCC
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) developed the Fort Hunt site as a recreational park from 1936 to 1939. The work was very extensive, including excavating a lake, a golf course, roads and parking areas, and a storm drainage system. The CCC enrollees built 8 acres of picnic areas with tables, stone fireplaces, restrooms, water pipes and drinking fountains, plus a trail system for hikers. Lastly, they constructed a park ranger home, shop buildings and an oil storage house, and planted trees and other landscaping.
Little of the original work remains, since the park has undergone a great deal of renovation over the years. Nevertheless, the site is a testament to the CCC and the New Deal’s commitment to public recreation.
A HABS Survey Report was done on CCC activity at the park, which details what was done and what remains:
“The work completed by Camp NP-6-VA at Fort Hunt is among the most extensive for NCR sites. Their efforts aimed to create picnic areas with stone fireplaces, an artificial lake, a golf course, a utility area, and various roads, parking areas, and trails. A considerable amount [of] landscaping and related activities were pursued. These included cleanup, grading, planting, and cutting, not to mention the herculean excavation of the lake, the razing of seven ‘undesirable structures,’ and the installation of a storm drainage system.
The CCC built considerable picnic and recreational amenities, including: a public comfort station and its associated water and sewage systems, an open shelter (14′ x 8′), eight drinking fountains of the ‘rustic log-type with bubblers and faucet’ scattered throughout the park, twenty-five fireplaces of stone and fire-brick construction, forty-nine table-and-bench combinations, development of eight acres of picnic grounds. A utility area was also created for maintenance purposes and necessitated such facilities as: an equipment and bulk storage building, a “maintenance dwelling” for the caretaker, and possibly some shop buildings, all of which were arranged around a large parking area. On the park’s western border, they also constructed a small, brick oil storage house with a slate roof. Officials anticipated that the jobs related to the picnic facilities (comfort station, trails, plantings, parking, fireplaces, table-and-bench combinations, drinking fountains, and lake excavation) would occur between April and October 1936. Although these jobs may have been started at that time, a March 1938 status report noted that the construction of the comfort station and picnic grounds were still only 90 percent complete.
The 2004 field survey found that Fort Hunt Park’s picnic and recreational grounds have been almost wholly redeveloped and considerably expanded with new comfort stations, shelters, grills, picnic tables, athletic fields, and parking areas. Although there is still a discernible utility area, any CCC-era buildings have been replaced or altered beyond recognition. The U. S. Park Police occupies structures within the park at its southern end.
Notable survivors of CCC-era construction include the oil storage house and five stone and fire-brick fireplaces located along a road/trail adjacent to what was to be the artificial lake. These features are located in the woodlands of an area called Section F that extends along the GW Parkway on the park’s east side. They probably survived later redevelopment because the lake, though excavated, was never flooded. One of the grills is still in occasional use, but overall the lake and its associated picnic area have descended into disuse and ruin. None of the eight ‘rustic log-type’ drinking fountains survive. When the fieldwork at Fort Hunt occurred, two large pin oaks survived on the park’s west side, near the oil storage house; one has since been cut down because it was dying. These trees were planted ca. June 1939 and marked a visit to CCC camp by King and Queen of England on 9 June. They stopped with President Franklin and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt on their way back from Mount Vernon.
Summary: Fort Hunt Park bears both considerable physical remains dating from the CCC period, as well as maintenance of the site as a large recreational facility, proof of the enduring spirit of much of the CCC work in the NCR. Tangible physical remains include: a brick oil storage building, five stone and fire-brick fireplaces, a dry lakebed, and a commemorative pin oak.”
Civilian Conservation Corps Activities in the National Capital Region of the National Park Service, National Capital Parks-Central, Washington, DC, HABS DC-858. https://lcweb2.loc.gov/pnp/habshaer/dc/dc1000/dc1020/data/dc1020data.pdf, accessed February 2013.
Project originally submitted by Brent McKee - https://nddaily.blogspot.com on May 24, 2013.
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