Franklin Park isn’t just a beautiful green space — at 4.8 acres in size, it’s the largest park in the District’s downtown, frequently serving as the site for many free, community-focused events. Two years after this National Park Service (NPS) property reopened following a complete overhaul — thanks to a partnership between the NPS, the D.C. government, and the DowntownDC BID — the BID continues to improve this popular urban destination. After all, not only does it have important uses today, but it has a significant history.
According to Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove’s celebrated book about the District, Chocolate City, “Franklin Square has long been a site of controversy and celebration. Indeed, two years before the Franklin School [now Planet Word] opened, the square hosted one of the most memorable events in the city’s history: the first post-Civil War Emancipation Day celebration.” The April 16, 1866, event welcomed 10,000 people to celebrate at the park.
It’s vital to keep this historic green space thriving, which is why the BID is pleased to announce some recent upgrades.
Entering the park on either the southwest or northeast corner, you’ll see beautiful new signage letting you know exactly where you’ve arrive, along with information boards:
On the south side (I Street), the building designed for a future cafe now has an operable wall, which can slide open to create a great indoor-outdoor space for future customers. The public restrooms on the west side of the café space now also feature the names of a number of D.C. parks, honoring the ongoing relationship between the NPS, the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, and the BID.
In the northeast area of the park, across from Planet Word is the children’s garden, where steps and landscaping are now around the slide for both an aesthetic and functional upgrade; rose bushes are soon coming to this space, too. These improvements were made possible by the DowntownDC Foundation and the gift of the DowntownDC BID board of directors on behalf of former BID executive director Richard H. Bradley upon his retirement.
In the center of the park is the historic fountain, now functional, providing a central point of beauty and surrounded by umbrella-covered tables, where people enjoy lunch during the day. This fountain, which seems like a lovely aesthetic addition, has historic significance itself: This block-size parcel — referred to as Reservation 9 in the 1791 L’Enfant Plan for the City of Washington — was preserved as parkland in 1831 to protect its natural springs, which provided fresh water to the White House for a number of decades. The fountain you see today is the original one placed there in the 1930s.
The DowntownDC BID and the DowntownDC Foundation are proud to continue to improve and utilize this gem of downtown. Keep up with DowntownDC via email and social media to learn about upcoming events at the park. Or enjoy it on your own time by enjoying lunch during the workweek, having a family picnic on weekends, or even detouring your walking commute for a beautiful few minutes with nature in the heart of the District.
Interested in supporting Franklin Park and other green spaces in our community? Support the DowntownDC Parks Fund.