The Georgetown Metropolitan

The Lost Proposal to Turn M St. into a Freeway


For no particular reason at all, a couple local DC publications decidedly recently to revisit the insane plans from the 1960s to criss-cross the city with freeways. Due to the heroic efforts of activists across the city, the plan was defeated and dozens of neighborhoods (most of which are currently thriving) were saved from demolition.

In Georgetown itself, the plans actually were not too much more dramatic than what we currently have. A proposal to create a new bridge upstream of Key Bridge by the Three Sisters Islands would have brought highway traffic straight from Spout Run in Arlington. The traffic would feed directly into the Whitehurst and flow to an expanded K St. in Foggy Bottom.

But in researching his article on the Exorcist Steps last week, GM encountered a plan in the Library of Congress archives for something much more dramatic. The map, shown above, is simply labeled “Plan of Francis Scott Key Parkway”. It would plop a traffic circle right at the northern end of the Key Bridge. And, even more ridiculous, it would level M St. and the surrounding blocks all the way up to N St. It also would appear to extend Virginia Ave. from Foggy Bottom up through lower Georgetown, probably eliminating the canal. In short, about the most devastating highway plan as you could think of for Georgetown.

But GM has no idea who created it and why. It’s part of a group of photos by Theodor Horydzcak primarily of buildings around DC from the 1920s. But it doesn’t appear this was his idea. And there’s not a single mention of a “Francis Scott Key Parkway” anywhere in the Post archives.

So maybe it was just one person’s looney idea. But given the attitude that reigned in the mid-Twentieth century vis-a-vis highways, we should nonetheless count our blessings that this is nothing more than a mysterious photo buried deep in the Library of Congress’ vaults.