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Special PoP Feature: Intangible Tales Vol. 4

by Prince Of Petworth May 27, 2008 at 11:15 pm 15 Comments

The great Intangible Arts is back for volume 4 of his intangible tales. If you missed the previous entries check out Vol. 1 here, Vol. 2 here and Vol. 3 here. All the amazing photographs were taken by Intangible Arts. Vol. 4 takes a closer look at the McMillan Reservoir.


We got our house a couple of years ago and proudly spread the word to friends and family, many of whom are far away and don’t know DC very well (also, many of whom figured I’d never get my sh*t together enough to buy a house at all, thus proving that life is totally wacked.)

We learned to love the McMillan Reservoir for its value as a place-marker, for showing the folks where the heck we are: “y’see on the map, the kidney-bean shaped body of water north of center? Yeh? Near that.”

But sadly, that’s the end of its “usefulness” to those of us who live nearby. The chain-link and barbed wire fences mean business (as do the folks in uniform at the gates that would prefer that I put the friggin’ camera down and move along, please). But it’s a beautiful property, weaving down the eastern edge of the Howard U football field towards the aqueduct pump house. The landscaping in there is rolling and green and completely cut off to everyone but the Army Corps of Engineers and swarms of farting geese. Story continues after the jump.


To the east of the reservoir is the field of sand filtration towers, looking like some haunted industrial playground. The whole complex is a curiosity now, since it’s no longer a functioning water source. The site is one of the largest undeveloped tracts of land in the District, and honestly, I wouldn’t mind keeping it (mostly) that way: open, accessible green space.

The sand-filtration catacombs beneath the ground were framed with unreinforced concrete over 100 years ago, so much of the ground is unsafe to build upon. It would seem perfect, therefore, to go with a public park program, plus the construction of some basic amenities (small grocery, etc) and eventually tear those damned fences down, yes?


Potomac river water hasn’t flowed through the site since the mid-80s, but the grounds have been closed to the public since WWII (predating Homeland Security paranoia by several decades). Now of course, it’s just an attractive space wrapped in barbed wire.

So what’s the deal today?

There have been plans, proposals, and meetings for decades, but the place seems cursed to remain stuck in some inertial coma. BUT, thanks to a land-swap deal arranged by former mayor Anthony Williams, newer forces are in motion now and maybe (just maybe) something may be happening.

There was a community meeting on the fate of McMillan on April 22nd, at Trinity University (I heard about it about a week too late, alas). Thankfully, IMGoph has documented some of this meeting (with pix of proposal renderings) at http://imgoph.blogspot.com/2008/04/bloomingdale-youre-getting-wal-mart.html“>Bloomingdale (for now). Sounds like there was great attendance, and neighbors were universally concerned that any development must FIT the neighborhood. As it should.

A number of the underground catacomb cells have deteriorated enough to require demolition with whatever plan gets approved. Thus, the land itself will likely see some big changes, no matter what the building/construction plans are.


For now, I just dig the space for what it is: something to walk the dog around, where the geese can tease him mercilessly from inside the fence. It makes our neighborhood a unique one in DC, to be within an easy walk of the shopping action on 14th street, but right around the corner, a gorgeous slab of calm Earth.


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