Tennis courts on the National Mall - Washington DC
The New Deal carried out a major renovation of the National Mall, the green centerpiece of Washington DC. Funding was provided by the Public Works Administration (PWA), labor power by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and supervision of the work was the responsibility of the Superintendent of the National Capital Parks, which had become a branch of the National Park Service when the park system was taken over by the Interior Department in 1933.
One element of the National Mall project was the building of tennis courts on the north and south sides of the Mall between 3d and 4th streets. It seems that these were replacements for previous courts on the mall itself, which were demolished in the overall reconstruction of the Mall in the mid-1930s (Sunday Star, 1935). This appears to have been part of a thorough rethinking of the National Mall, from a functional park with pools, tennis courts and storage facilities, to the scenic centerpiece of the monumental city.
The earliest mention of new courts declared that, “Rollers, like giant ants, smoothed out the tennis courts on the Mall, and government clerks thronged to them after office hours.” ( Sunday Star 1935). Another article mentions of four new courts in the Mall at 4th Street, among others built around the city (Evening Star 1938).
The website “Histories of the National Mall” shows that there were ten courts on the mall between 3rd and 4th streets by 1940. It further notes that, “These courts were probably segregated when they opened, but by 1948 they were designated ‘open’ to any race.”
The Mall tennis courts lasted until 1972, when they were removed for the National Gallery of Art’s east wing.
Newspaper clippings file, 1935-1942. Record Group 69, Records of the Work Projects Administration. National Archives and Records Administration.
"Play Spaces Cut By Work On Mall," The Sunday Star, March 17, 1935, p. B-1.
"Lovely Little Fool," The Sunday Star, September 1, 1935, p. F-8.
“New Deal Projects Aid Many Park Developments in Capital,” Washington Daily News, July 23, 1936.
“Work on Million Dollar Mall is Now 90 Percent Completed,” Washington Post, October 4, 1936, p. 15.
"16 New Tennis Courts Are Opened To Public," The Evening Star, April 30, 1938, p. A-20.
"Tennis courts on the Mall", Histories of the Mall http://mallhistory.org/items/show/358
Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on January 2, 2020.
Additional contributions by Richard A Walker.
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