Now and a Long Time Ago: Reservoir and Wisconsin

This week on Now and a Long Time Ago, GM heads up to Book Hill. Nowadays, Book Hill is a beautiful little hillside park that offers an even more beautiful view from the top. It is named, of course, after the stately public library that crowns it.

At the base of Book Hill is Reservoir Rd. GM long assumed that Reservoir Rd. was named after the reservoir at its western end: the Georgetown reservoir in the Palisades. But there was another reservoir at the eastern end: the Wisconsin Ave. Reservoir.

Built in 1859, this reservoir provided water to Georgetowners and the citizens of the city of Washington (which were separate cities at this point). It became unnecessary by the early twentieth century and was demolished in 1932. The libray was quickly built after that and opened in 1935.

The only remains of the reservoir are some of the stone walls around the perimeter of the property. But the library nonetheless pays tribute to the location’s history. The fence posts are all topped with an elaborate Neptune’s trident. Obviously this alludes to the water-theme generally, but it also reflects the elaborate sea serpent sculptures that ringed the old reservoir.

Less grandly, the lower staircase and the carpet in the children’s library is meant to evoke running water. So there, where children gather to hear tales of cats and their hats, once huge quantities of water sat.


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