What the Helen of Troy is This?


You guys haven’t been stumped yet this week. Ever actually. So this is located on a huge piece of land not terribly far from Tenleytown. Here’s the corner where I took the photo:


Was this a former military testing ground or something like that?

11 Comment

  • The general area itself is the old Fort Reno from the civil war.

    The taller cylindrical tower and adjacent shed are a former “Presidential Emergency Facility” codenamed “Cartwheel”:


    The chain link fenced off area (and a large portion of that hill) is an underground treated water storage facility, with the pumping station housed in the tower with the cone shaped roof. Not sure what the shorter cylindrical tower is.

  • There are three towers near the Ft. Reno Reservoirs. As ontarioroader says, the tallest one is/was a microwave relay tower used as part of a Cold War communications net.

    The shorter cylindrical tower and the Victorian tower are elevated water tanks. DC WASA operates a pumping station in the building near the base of the older tower.


  • ah

    Didn’t you post a sledding video a few weeks back from just this spot?

  • This is a fabulous spot for picnics btw. You get an unobstructed view to the west. There’s not a lot of room at the top of the hill but enough to set out a blanket and watch the sunset.

  • Both of my kids went to Wilson High School, across the street. In addition to picnics and even more casual sitting around on the grass, there are regular rock concerts there on summer evenings.

    Captcha: severed javelin

  • I went to Wilson in the 90s and spent many a sunny afternoon on that hill when I was supposed to be in class. Based on my observations, there was definitely something government related still going on there. There were signs saying that the fenced area on top the hill was a dog training facility, but I never once saw a dog, or a person for that matter, inside the fence. There were lots of black SUVs driving in and out all day though, and when there was a fight or violent incident at Wilson the Secret Service often showed up before the DC police…. Perhaps “Cartwheel” was still operational??

  • Interesting, ontarioroader. When I was a kid attending Deal and then Wilson (1966-1971), rumor was there were ICBM’s under there. And the fantastic sledding is on Deal Hill. Not sure what all the construction is going on there. I grew up on Fessenden St and visit my mom almost every weekend.

  • I once heard that it had been a site for anti-ballistic defense before the ABM treaty.

  • An Army Corp of Engineers report from 1994 refers to “Site name: AAA (Anti-Aircraft Artillery) Site, Fort Reno” then includes some standard milspeak that they cannot confirm or deny weapons were ever placed there. Looks like some parts of the area went back and forth between Dept of Interior and DoD around the Korean War. Odd history for sure.

  • I have heard that this facility supplies the drinking water for the White House, which would be consistent with both the water tower as well as military/security character.

    Captcha: Vladivostok dispatch

  • Fort Reno is the location for one of the District’s water pumping stations and distributes treated drinking water to portions of the city. Two reservoirs and an elevated tank are also located here. DC Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) and the Washington Aqueduct share the water storage and pumping responsibilities.

Comments are closed.