Crossposted on Got Nikon, Will Travel
The McMillan Park and Sand Filtration Site is a fascinating piece of DC history. In fact, to call the site fascinating really doesn’t do it justice; there’s nothing else like it in the area. Completed in 1905, it was part of the McMillan Plan to develop and beautify Washington. The site was used until 1985 to filter drinking water for the city. When the site was completed it was a state of the art water filtration system, using sand to filter water from the Washington Aqueduct (if you’re really interested, it used a slow sand filter system).
As I said, fascinating site: above ground are ivy covered water towers and open grass fields; below ground, twenty catacomb chambers, where the sand filtered water. As you can imagine, the only light that comes into the chambers is either from open man-mole covers in the chamber’s roof or the access doors at the front of the chambers. Photographically, it creates a fascinating play of light and shadows. And to break the monotony, there is even some damage from the 2011 earthquake (picture below), where part of the ceiling caved in. The site is similar to St. Elizabeths, with neglect and decay making some remarkable sights.
As great as the site is, it was recently closed to future tours. I was lucky enough to go on the open houses, which the local ANC held, twice; once last October and another in April. The site is slated for development, but I’m not convinced it will happen anytime soon. Hopefully something can be worked out and the site can be reopened for tours. It truly is an amazing site and something every DC resident should see. It is a great part of the city’s history.
The park is located west of Catholic University, with by North Capitol Street on it’s east side, Channing Street NW to the south, 1st Street NW to the west, and Michigan Avenue NW on the north.