Georgetown is blessed with four major parks within its boundaries: Rose Park, Montrose Park, Volta Park and the Georgetown Waterfront. Together they make up an emerald necklace strung around Georgetown’s historic homes. In GM’s opinion, they are among the top two or three reasons to live in Georgetown.
But which of them is the best?
Photo by Digitaldetection.
Rose Park is located on the eastern boundary of Georgetown between P St. and M St. It is owned by the city and administered by the DC Parks and Recreation department. Of the four parks, it probably has the most interesting history. Located as it is near the center of the historic Herring Hill neighborhood, Rose Park was a treasured resource of Georgetown’s African American population. It was founded in 1918 by the Ancient Order of the Sons and Daughters of Moses to serve the area’s African American children. Throughout its history it was known as Patterson’s Park, Jacob’s Park, or Winship’s Lot. While officially designated for Blacks only, the park was always a de facto integrated park, used by residents of all races.
Today Rose Park continues to be very popular. It offers:
- A long and narrow grassy area used mostly for dog walking, picnics, and small ball games like bocce.
- Three of the best (but most crowded) tennis courts in Georgetown
- Full basketball court
- Large playground
- Little league park
- Summer full of events
- A Friends of Rose Park group
- A summer farmers market every Wednesday
All and all a solid entry. What have the others got?
Ok, full disclosure: GM lives across the street from Montrose Park. So he’s going to be a little biased. But that said: Montrose Park is a totally awesome park.
Montrose Park is on the northeast border of Georgetown between R St., Oak Hill Cemetery, Dumbarton Oaks (both the estate and the nature preserve) and Rock Creek Park. The land that became Montrose Park was owned by Robert Parrott a rope maker. The long walkway lit by gas lamps once served as the ropewalk where workers braided the rope. The lot was used by Georgetown families for recreation and was known as Parrott’s Woods. In the early part of the 20th century, the land was proposed for a housing development (in fact a house once sat on the property). Sarah Louisa Rittenhouse and a group of other Georgetowners petitioned Congress to purchase the land for the benefit of the public. A memorial in her honor stands at the park’s entrance.
The park is technically part of Rock Creek Park and as such is administered by the National Park Service.
Montrose Park offers:
- The most open space of the four parks, with several large fields of grass and groves of trees. It probably has the best landscape architecture of the four parks too.
- The aforementioned gas lamp-lit walkway.
- Four tennis courts in rather shabby condition.
- A large playground.
- A small but fun hedge maze. (In reality it’s just a big hedge that kids like to run through. It’s not much of a maze anymore, if it ever was.)
- Quick access to Rock Creek Park and the rustic Dumbarton Oaks Park.
- Basically an off-leash dog park.
GM likes to say that Montrose Park is Georgetown’s worst kept secret. Over the last several years it has become an increasingly popular choice for people on a sunny day.
Volta Park is bounded by Q St., Volta Place, 34th St., and 33rd St. It is probably the most compact of the four parks, fitting in a surprising amount of stuff in one city block.
Volta Park was originally a cemetery. It was used as one from 1762 through the late 19th century. At that point the bodies were removed and the land was transformed into a park. According to the Friends of Volta Park, the park was the scene of Alger Hiss’s spying and the Kennedy brothers’ touch football games. By the mid 90’s, though, the park was in such poor shape that a group of citizens organized to rehab the park. We owe it to them that it is in such good shape now.
Volta Park is owned by the city and administered by DPR.
Volta Park has a wide variety of offerings, including:
- A softball field.
- A dog park.
- A public swimming pool (which is in great shape, but is seriously lacking in deck chairs)
- A community activity center.
- A playground.
- Two basketball courts.
- Two tennis courts that are better than Montrose Park’s but not quite as nice as Rose Park’s.
- As mentioned, a Friends of Volta Park group.
- Summer events.
Volta Park is the West Village’s only option, but it’s a good one. Events and programs keep the park humming with activity throughout the warmer months.
The Georgetown Waterfront Park is by far the youngest of Georgetown’s parks. Just a few years ago it was a giant parking lot. Now it’s four city blocks of beautiful meandering paths and well placed benches. And it’s only halfway built. By the end of this year or early next year, the full park will be complete and Georgetown’s waterfront will finally rise to its potential (oh yeah, except for that).
The Waterfront Park has the following to offer:
- The Green Electric Range.
- The Thought Journal.
- Eventually an amphitheater to watch crew races.
- Did GM mention views?
Maybe the Georgetown Waterfront is a little bit of a one trick pony, but it’s a hell of a trick.
So what do you think? They’re all wonderful in their own ways. But if GM would have to pick, he’d go:
- Montrose Park – It’s just the most visually attractive. Since GM mostly uses parks to sit and read, this is a winning feature.
- Rose Park – It’s not quite as attractive as Montrose Park, but it’s still pretty nice. Plus it has a good mix of sports facilities and a pastoral setting.
- Volta Park – Great mix of facilities, but lacks the natural attractiveness of either Montrose Park or Rose Park.
- Georgetown Waterfront – All attraction, no action.
How would you rank them?