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Rock Creek Park

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Title: Rock Creek Park  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Chandra Levy, William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center, Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, Hawthorne (Washington, D.C.), Barnaby Woods
Collection: Cemeteries on the National Register of Historic Places in Washington, D.C., Historic Districts in Washington, D.C., Military Monuments and Memorials in the United States, National Register of Historic Places in Washington, D.C., Nature Centers in the United States, Nature Centers in Washington, D.C., Parks in Washington, D.C., Rock Creek (Potomac River), Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, United States National Park Service Areas in Washington, D.C., Urban Public Parks
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
Maryland border entrance
Location District of Columbia, United States
Nearest city Washington, D.C.
Area Over 2000 acres (3 mi2)[1]
Established September 27, 1890
Visitors 2,115,516 (in 2004)
Governing body National Park Service
Rock Creek Park Historic District
Rock Creek Park is located in District of Columbia
Rock Creek Park
Rock Creek Park
Location Roughly, Rock Creek Park from Klingle Road to Montgomery County line, Washington, District of Columbia
Area 1754 acres (2.74 mi2)[1]
Built 1820s (Peirce Mill); 1897-1912 (Park facilities) [2]
Architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., John Charles Olmsted
Architectural style Late Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Revivals, Early Republic, and NPS Rustic
Governing body National Park Service
NRHP Reference # 91001524 [3]
Added to NRHP October 23, 1991

Rock Creek Park is a large natural area with public park facilities that bisects the northwestern urban areas of Washington, D.C. The park is administered by the National Park Service.


  • Overview 1
    • Park management 1.1
    • Recreation facilities 1.2
  • Peirce Mill 2
  • Horse Center 3
  • Montrose and Dumbarton Oaks Parks 4
  • Old Stone House 5
  • Administrative history 6
  • Rock Creek Park – Administrative Unit 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


The main section of the park comprises 1754 acres (2.74 mi2, 7.10 km2), along the Rock Creek Valley. Including the other green areas the park administers (Glover Archbold Park, Montrose Park, Dumbarton Oaks Park, Meridian Hill Park, Battery Kemble Park, Palisades Park, Whitehaven Park, etc.), it encompasses more than 2000 acres (3 mi2, 8 km2). The major portion of the park lies north of the National Zoo, and was established by an act of Congress made law by President Benjamin Harrison on September 27, 1890, the same year that Yosemite National Park was established.[4] Park construction began in 1897.[2]

Legislative language from its establishment, and the character of the park, suggests that it is among the oldest of America's national parks. In 1913 Congress authorized creation of the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway and extended the park along a narrow corridor from the zoo to the mouth of Rock Creek at the Potomac River.[2] The parkway is a major traffic thoroughfare, especially along the portion south of the zoo. The park is patrolled by the United States Park Police.

The parklands follow the course of Rock Creek across the D.C.-Maryland border to connect with Rock Creek Stream Valley Park and Rock Creek Regional Park in Montgomery County. The Maryland parks are operated by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

The Rock Creek Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 23, 1991.

Park management

As originally authorized by Congress, the park was governed by the Rock Creek Park Commission, comprising the Chief of Engineers of the Army, the engineer commissioner of the District of Columbia, and three presidential appointees.[4] In 1933, the park, along with other National Capital Parks, was transferred to the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.[5]

Recreation facilities

Rock Creek Nature Center and Planetarium

Recreation facilities include a golf course; equestrian trails; sport venues, including a tennis stadium which hosts major professional events; a nature center and planetarium; an outdoor concert venue; and picnic and playground facilities. Rock Creek Park also maintains cultural exhibits, including the Peirce Mill and Civil War fortifications, such as Fort Stevens and Fort DeRussy. Rock Creek is a popular venue for jogging, cycling, and inline skating, especially on the long, winding Beach Drive, portions of which are closed to vehicles on weekends.[1]

Peirce Mill

Peirce Mill
Beach Drive in the fall
Sleeping in a car on Sunday in Rock Creek Park, 1942. Photo by Marjory Collins.

Peirce Mill is a water-powered grist mill in Rock Creek Park. There were at least eight mills along Rock Creek within what is now Washington D.C., and many more farther upstream in Montgomery County, Maryland. Of those eight, only Peirce Mill is still standing.

It was built in the 1820s by Isaac Peirce, along with a house, barn, and other buildings. It was later owned by a son, Joshua Peirce, and a nephew Peirce Shoemaker. It became part of Rock Creek Park in 1892.[6]

The family consistently spelled their name "Peirce" (except for some of Isaac Peirce's ancestors who went by Pearce). Others often use "Pierce" but not the family. Evidence includes family gravestones, family Bible, and estate book from Joshua Peirce, and living descendants who still use the old spelling.

The mill was listed on the National Register in 1969 as Pierce Mill.[3] It was repaired and re-opened October 15, 2011.

The Peirce Carriage Barn, adjacent to the mill, usually is open every day. The barn is the National Park Service point of contact. The barn was part of the Peirce estate built in 1810 and used as a tack room and carriage barn. The barn is now a mini museum containing information on the milling process, the Peirce family estate and other mills along the Rock Creek Valley.

Horse Center

Rock Creek Park Horse Center, founded in 1972, is located in the middle of the park near the Nature Center. The barn, run by Guest Services Inc, has 57 stalls, two outdoor rings, one indoor ring, and three bluestone turnout paddocks. The stable provides trail rides, pony rides, and lessons for the public, along with boarding for private horses. The stable primarily teaches English riding, with an emphasis on lower-level jumping and dressage.[7]

The barn is also home to Rock Creek Riders, a therapeutic riding program for adults and children with special needs in the DC area. Past participants in the program include brain injured veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and people with autism, cerebral palsy, or attention deficit disorder. The program is volunteer-run and relies on donations and contributions for funding. Previously, Rock Creek Riders has worked with the United States Mounted Police, National Park Service, Wounded Warrior Project, and the Caisson Platoon Equine Assisted Programs to provide these therapeutic riding services. [8]

The horse center's summer camps are popular with DC residents. The stable offers summer camp from 9-3 for children over eight, and a two-hour afternoon camp for children between five and eight years old. The stable also recently implemented a summer CIT training program for teenagers.

Montrose and Dumbarton Oaks Parks

Montrose Park occupies land that belonged to Robert Parrott. Adjacent to it is Dumbarton Oaks Park, which preserves the grounds of the former Dumbarton Oaks estate. The house and its formal garden are not part of the park.

Both parks were listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 28, 1967.

Old Stone House

The Old Stone House, the oldest building in Washington, D.C., is a simple eighteenth century dwelling. The house is a popular museum, showcasing the everyday life of middle class colonists. It was purchased by the federal government in 1953 and has been open to the public since the 1960s. The house is located in the Georgetown neighborhood, not on land contiguous with Rock Creek Park, but the property is managed by park staff.

Administrative history

Congressional authorizations:

  • Rock Creek Park – September 27, 1890
  • Meridian Hill Park – June 25, 1910
  • Montrose Park – March 2, 1911
  • Rock Creek & Potomac Parkway – March 4, 1913
  • Dumbarton Oaks Park – December 2, 1940[9]

Rock Creek Park – Administrative Unit

Rock Creek Park is an administrative unit of the National Park Service responsible for administration of properties in the District of Columbia north and west of the National Mall and Memorial Parks. There are 99 properties that include various parks, parkways, buildings, circles, triangles, memorials, and statues. These include: [10]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Rock Creek Park, District of Columbia. "Frequently Asked Questions." National Park Service, U. S. Dept. of the Interior. Last updated 2014-08-15. Accessed 2014-08-23.
  2. ^ a b c Construction of initial roads, bridle paths and foot paths took place during 1897-1912. National Park Service (NPS), Washington, D.C. (2004). "Under Military Rule." Rock Creek Park: An Administrative History.
  3. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  4. ^ a b NPS (2004).
  5. ^ NPS (2004). "Under the Park Service: The Changing of the Guard." Rock Creek Park: An Administrative History.
  6. ^ NPS (2004). "Under Military Rule: Pierce Mill." Rock Creek Park: An Administrative History.
  7. ^ "Rock Creek Park Horse Center". Retrieved 2014-03-26. 
  8. ^ "Equine Therapeutic Activities in Rock Creek Park". Rock Creek Riders. 2014-01-27. Retrieved 2014-03-26. 
  9. ^ NPS (2004). Rock Creek Park: An Administrative History.
  10. ^ "Reservation List: The Parks of the National Park System, Washington, DC". National Park Service; Land Resources Program Center; National Capital Region. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 

External links

  • National Park Service: Rock Creek Park
    • Battleground National Cemetery
    • Meridian Hill Park
    • Montrose and Dumbarton Parks
    • The Old Stone House
    • Peirce Mill
  • Dumbarton Oaks
  • Friends of Peirce Mill
  • Rock Creek Conservancy
  • Rock Creek Park Documentary produced by WETA-TV
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