Our Grand Avenue

Historic Landscape Initiative

Sheridan Circle to get original linden species

We’re delighted that the National Park Service has changed the type of linden to be planted in the ring of 16 trees that form the monumental landscape of Sheridan Circle.  The American linden (Tilia americana) has a majestic form and can grow 50-80′ tall. This was the tree planted in 1904, in double rows along Mass Ave  sidewalks and making the ring around the dome-shaped park of the Circle and central raised statue.

In our slide show, watch these amazing giant lindens grow — and die off.   The NPS has been replacing them with little-leaf linden (T. cordata) which are shorter and bunchier. You can see the difference in our slideshow and by viewing trees there today.  Now the NPS  decided to plant only the original species henceforth.

The Circle, designed and landscaped in the early 20th century, is a unique example of City Beautiful urban design and landscape. The ring of tall trees form living ‘pillars’ around the perfect dome of the lawn. The design recalls the Pantheon in Rome and the (later) Jefferson Memorial.

Restore Mass Ave’s core work is choosing tree species and sites to revive the experience of the original Grand Avenue here. Our Sheridan Circle Restoration Project is working with the National Mall & Memorial Parks (NAMA) division of NPS on restoring this neglected yet outstanding example.

Besides improving the trees, our Sheridan Circle Restoration Project envisages improving the fountains, focal plantings, and lighting the outstanding statue of General Philip Sheridan.  Tree Project chief is RMA Board member Robert Nevitt . Mass Ave resident and historian Bobbie Brewster is the overall Sheridan Circle Restoration Project Director.

Norway Embassy trees & views preserved

Thousands of people who every day drive, bike or bus through the intersection of Mass Ave and 34th Street, will continue to benefit from the huge historic trees by the Norway Embassy, thanks to a DC committee vote in December.

Royal Norwegian Embassy, Apostolic Nunciature, US Naval Observatory, DCMR "parking"

Historic landscape vistas at Mass Ave & 34 Street: Embassy of Norway and Vatican Embassy

The DC Public Space Committee denied by a 3 to 1 vote a proposed 6′ high security fence in front of the Embassy of Norway, at 3401 Mass Ave, Dec 17, 2015. PSC members said the embassy had not made its case that the fence would make the building more secure.   Before the vote, Restore Mass Ave testified that trenching for the fence could hurt the old and new trees in the public land on this corner, and obstruct one of city’s most impressive Grand Avenue vistas. The Urban Forestry Administration also voiced concern about the fence’s impact on the trees.

RMA President Deborah Shapley also noted that six other huge linden trees across 34th Street, in front the Apostolic Nunciature (Vatican Embassy), at 3339 Mass Ave, had been spared from possible root damage when a fence proposal for that site was withdrawn last spring.  For detail please see our Tree Care Blog post.

Emmet Park: Statue and big cedar can coexist

Statues and evergreens can co-exist, Restore Mass Ave argued in objecting to a National Park Service plan to take down a giant deodar cedar tree next to a noted sculpture on Mass Ave.

Emmet Park is the triangle of public land bounded by Mass Ave, 24th and S Streets. It features a bronze statue of Robert Emmet, the Irish patriot, in a woodsy setting with laurel bushes and a bench.  The federal land inside this triangle is NPS Reservation 302. NPS plans to take down the cedar – to make the statue more visible and to stop alleged dripping of sap on the statue – and other landscape changes.

To make the Emmet statue more visible, we said: Activate the lights NPS has there already!  We also proposed new shade trees for corner of the park at 24th and S Streets. See our proposal on our PDFs page: Restore Mass Ave filing on NPS plan for Reservation 302.

For our press release see In the News. NPS project documents are at Rehabilitation of Landscaping at U.S. Reservation 302.  The slideshow above shows trees RMA has planted on the perimeter of this site which is city land: a black gum, which turns flame-orange in fall, and a cherry which continues the row of pink blooms up 24th Street and makes the bench more inviting for park visitors.

A Grand Avenue Revival quick-read

Below are some slides about our new book, A Grand Avenue Revival: Massachusetts Avenue Landscape History & Design Guide. RMA President Deborah Shapley gave the full 15-minute presentation to guests at the launch party hosted by the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., on December 6, 2014.

What do we mean by the “historic landscape” of Mass Ave?

Below is the presentation to the Office of Foreign Missions, US Department of State, given on March 5 2014 by Restore Mass Ave President Deborah Shapley. She explained what changes are needed – from trees to flagpole placement – for Embassy Row to be the leading example of the “grand avenues” that once graced many US cities.

Click here for the briefing.

1st page of briefing cropped