Rawlins Park

RawlinsPark_feature_CharlesBirnbaum_2012.jpg
Washington, DC
United States
Rawlins Park

Created from Andrew Ellicott’s 1792 plan for Washington, D.C., this space remained untouched until the large-scale improvement of the city following the Civil War. In 1872 the U.S. Congress designated the land for a statue of General John Rawlins, at which point it was infilled using soil from the regrading of the Ellipse. Subsequent improvements included a terrace along the northern border and the addition of trees, including junipers, cedars, and maples. In 1875 the statue of Rawlins, sculpted by Joseph Bailey, was erected at the center of the park. In 1916 the park was redesigned by landscape architect George Burnap in anticipation of the construction of the adjacent U.S. Department of Interior building. Fencing was removed, in accordance with design standards established by the McMillan Plan, and the curvilinear circulation network was replaced by a starburst pattern. The statue of Rawlins, which had been removed in 1886, was returned to the park in 1931 and, in 1935, a new Department of Interior headquarters was begun to the south. After the streets surrounding the park were widened and perimeter trees were removed, the park was redesigned by the Public Works Administration under the guidance of landscape architects Donald Klein and Leland Bartlett. 

Measuring 1.5-acres, this rectangular park is divided into three terraces that are connected via a series of wide staircases oriented along a north to south axis. The centermost terrace is topped by a magnolia-lined flagstone plaza containing an Octagonal bubbling fountain placed on axis with the statue of Rawlins and flanked by two 116-foot-long reflecting pools. The rows of magnolias and linear pools create a framed, narrow sightline towards the statue of Rawlins tucked into the park’s eastern border which is accessed by another set of stairs. The upper and lower terraces contain narrow flagstone paths framed by linear lawn panels and benches, bordered by London plane trees and cast-iron fencing along the perimeter. The statue of General John Rawlins is a contributing feature of the Civil War Monuments in Washington, D.C., listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.