Fellow Southwest residents,
May I please present a modest proposal for a historical marker here in the District, which I think would help our residents remember a forgotten bit of our history and would cost very little? For several years I have studied the history of Buzzard Point and in fact published the only history of that area (Buzzard Point, DC: A Brief History of a Brief Neighborhood) with the financial support of the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly and of the Capitol Riverfront BID.
Absolutely all the older remnants of the Buzzard Point area below Q St. except the power plant have disappeared and it is a blank sheet for developers now. (I have written a landmark nomination for the power plant, which has been sponsored to Historic Preservation Review Board by the DC Preservation League.) However, the James Creek Canal and its preceding creek were long associated with the life of that community (it was finally filled in in 1930) and the canal’s route is still seen along Canal St. SW.
I would like to suggest that we place a simple bronze plaque along that street, probably along the edge of King Greenleaf Recreation Center to remember the old canal. The C&O Canal in Georgetown is preserved, and the Washington Canal is known both from its lockhouse at 17th and Constitution Ave NW and the new Canal Park in Southwest where it progressed to the Anacostia. A simple plaque—perhaps a very brief explanatory history and even a picture (the Historical Society of Washington, DC has some very good ones)—would help educate current and new residents of the little-known history of their neighborhood and give the place some sense of heritage.
The James Creek Canal was not a major factor in the District’s history but it brought high hopes in its time and was delineated in the L’Enfant Plan. It was, I understand, a rather minor undertaking in our history, but then, I am suggesting only a very modest commemoration of it. I hope you will find this proposal interesting and, naturally, will be happy to talk with you further about the idea.
Hayden M. Wetzel