DC: Meridian Hill Park
I’m fortunate to live only three blocks away from Meridian Hill Park, an intelligently designed, century-old urban park off 16th Street in the U Street-Columbia Heights area of NW Washington DC. The park used to be a no-go area after dark, and I bet it was a no-go area during the day for most of the 80s and 90s during the crime wave, but now it’s a haven for families, joggers, soccer players, and dog walkers like me. I take my dog Ollie up here every day after work.
As the name suggests, Meridian Hill Park was built on a long sloping hill leading up to Columbia Heights from W Street. The designers of the park did a good job of integrating the park’s concrete staircases and fountains into the physical landscape. Between the four staircases that bridge the southern part of the park with the northern part are a series of small pools that flow down into a larger pool at the base of the staircases. The southern part of the park also a separate, larger pool of water, about the size of a basketball court, and several statues, one of James Buchanan.
The northern part of the park has a great lookout point over the city. The view would be so much better if not for the huge apartment building directly south of the park though. Right at the lookout point is a really cool statue of Joan of Arc on horseback wielding a sword. Up on this are of the park is a grass field about two football fields long where I see people playing soccer, frisbee, and other games. Ollie likes to lie down in the grass here on the way back from our walk.
The park also has a great collection of trees, including burr oaks, poplars, sweetgum, and maples. I went up there one day with a tree book and identified a few. The winding pathways at the western and eastern edges of the park bring you through these trees and other bushes and shrubs that I will not attempt to identify.
If you live in DC and haven’t been to this park before, it is certainly worth a visit. The gorgeously designed staircases and fountains are excellent examples of an architectural design that takes advantage of the natural contours of the landscape.
- Best time to visit is in the summer when the fountains are functioning
- Visit on a Sunday afternoon to see the drum circle