Today this is a marina for pleasure boats. In 1848 it was a working dock that admitted directly onto the Potomac River, and was the site of the largest non-violent slave escape attempt in US history, the “Pearl Incident”, when 77 individuals attempted to flee down the Potomac river and through the Chesapeake Bay with the intended destination of New Jersey, a free state. Their efforts were thwarted by contrary winds on the Potomac and betrayal by a fellow slave who did not join them.
These warehouses in Georgetown today house businesses, a tavern and boutiques, but at the time of the Pearl Incident were tobacco and grain warehouses owned by Mr. Dodge, the man who owned the leaders of the escapee contingent.
The net outcome of the Pearl Incident was the ending of the slave trade in Washington DC in 1850, but full abolition of slavery and legal emancipation would have to wait until 1862. Along the way, the captain and first mate of the Pearl spent four years in prison because they could not afford to pay the fines ($10,000 in 1848 currency, or about $250,000 in today’s currency).
Rock Creek Park is a large urban park that runs from where Rock Creek enters the Potomac River to its headwaters some 30 miles away in central Maryland. Part of that park is owned and operated by the United States Park Service, and part is a regional park operated by Montgomery County, Maryland. The park dates to the 1890s and was surveyed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscape designer. In one of the greenest cities (Washington DC has more tree coverage than any other major US city, earning it the nickname “the tree capital of the US” and making it a living hell twice a year for allergy sufferers), it is a natural oasis of wild landscape. It was not always so, as Rock Creek provided the power to dozens of mills that functioned as the industrial engine such as it was for Washington and its surrounding farmland. Today, Pierce Mill is one of the few remaining complete structures to commemorate that industrial heritage. If you take a wander up the trails that parallel the stream, though, you can find signs of some of the other mills that dotted the landscape.
This structure marks the remnants of one of the larger mills along Rock Creek. I’d have to go back and take notes on the signage along the path that indicates what this mill produced and who owned it and when it operated, but most likely it ceased to function in the 19th century. To require such large foundations, it must have been a substantial operation, though.
Here is the footing for a small bridge that spanned the creek.
Somewhat more modern evidence of the urbanization of Rock Creek, a road bridge that spans the creek and provides access to the park from the neighborhoods around it.
A gravelly bend in the creek, dappled with sunlight. Hard to imagine that within 200 yards of either side of this stream there are roads, houses, cars and businesses.
A tree along the trail that follows the stream.
And a final reminder of man’s presence – an electrical junction box. It has the feel of being a monolith, left behind by an alien civilization, purpose unknown, long abandoned, or a portal to another place and time like the wardrobe portal to Narnia.
I’ve always loved buildings, since I was a little kid. I was fascinated by castles and old buildings of all kinds (I grew up in a house that predated the Civil War in a town that was burned by the Confederates). Now, I’m equally fascinated by modern urbanity. Here’s some of my take on super urban Toronto.
I like black and white for architecture, especially modern glass and steel architecture, because it amplifies the abstraction of geometry found in modern design.
A street car emerges from the shadows of the urban canyon carved between high rise office towers. Pedestrians become silhouettes in the early morning light. An early Sunday morning in downtown Toronto:
A daring facade wiggles between more traditional office towers:
A modern condo building rises above the traditional Victorian and Edwardian streetscape of the city center. Taxis fill the street below in the hustle and bustle of the human beehive of activity, while overhead power lines for streetcars divide the sky into grids:
The CN Tower soars above downtown, framed by other towers. The sweeping roofline of the concert hall below directs the eye to the CN Tower from any angle:
Modern apartments frame an industrial-era chimney in a contrast of textures:
Two street lamps crane forward into the scene in zoomorphic curves, the necks and heads of two flamingos, breaking the chaotic geometry of the polygonal tower behind them:
Looking straight up, towers and street lamps criss-cross the sky:
Mirrored windows of one tower reflect upon another, as vertical lines converge out of frame: