National Trust “Extremely Troubled” by Proposed Development’s Disregard for McMillan Park Covenants

A view of McMillan Park in autumn.

A view of McMillan Park in autumn.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation added its testimony today in strong opposition to the most recent plans submitted by Vision McMillan Partners to develop historic landmark McMillan Park. The Trust’s statement joined dozens of testimonial letters voicing disapproval of the revised plans due to their failure to maintain the historic character of the site, which was constructed in 1904.

“The National Trust remains extremely troubled by the fact that the development plans completely disregard the binding historic preservation covenants that conditioned the sale
of the McMillan Reservoir site from the GSA to the City in 1987,” said Elizabeth Merritt, Deputy General Counsel of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Ellicottdale Arch, Franklin Park, an Olmsted Park in Boston, MA. Olmsted National Historic Site, photo courtesy NPS  National Association of Olmsted Parks.

Ellicottdale Arch, Franklin Park, an Olmsted Park in Boston, MA. Olmsted National Historic Site, photo courtesy NPS National Association of Olmsted Parks.

The DC Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) received testimony before their public hearing today to determine if the Vision McMillan Partners’ revised plan upheld the site’s historic character. McMillan Park–originally the McMillan Sand Filtration Plant–was designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted Jr. to serve as the city’s first water filtration plant.

John Singer Sargent,  Portrait of Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted's son designed McMillan park.

John Singer Sargent, Portrait of Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted’s son designed McMillan Park.

Olmsted Jr., whose father designed Central Park, created the site as part of the US Senate Park Commission’s comprehensive plan to preserve park space and provide for the recreation and health of the growing city.

 Parc Monceau, a 20-acred park in Paris, France. McMillan has drawn comparisons to the urban park.

Parc Monceau, a 20-acred park in Paris, France. McMillan’s potential has drawn comparisons to the urban park.

The HPRB received letters from a large contingency of neighbors, DC citizens, architects, and preservation groups, including the Sierra Club and the National Association for Olmsted Parks, objecting to the destruction of the site’s historic character, which is composed in part by rolling green hills and ivy-covered towers. These letters are part of the pubic record and should be accessible soon.

“Why would the city choose to build on a park, any park, let alone a park of great significance?” asked one writer. Others called for an international competition to develop a new plan for reviving McMillan and utilizing its underground infrastructure. “Act like a world-class city.  Make no small plans. Let’s build for the ages; let’s honor this historic place,” concluded one letter writer.

Seattle Gas Works Park, a 20-acre reclaimed industrial space now used as an urban park and once slated for demolition.

Seattle Gas Works Park, a 20-acre reclaimed industrial space once slated for demolition and now used as an urban park. Architect Richard Haag realized that the site contained the last gas works and a unique opportunity for preservation.

McMillan Emergency! Please Contact Your ANC about a Vote Tonight to Approve the Mayor’s Plan!

Dear Residents of Single Member District 5E07,
We learned yesterday that a last-minute change to the ANC’s agenda for this evening has Comm’r Dianne Barnes of SMD 5E09 moving to get the ANC to vote in support of the current Vision McMillan Partners plan for the development of the McMillan Sand Filtration Site.  Because you are among over 275 residents of your single member district who have expressed opposition to that plan and a desire for a much more exciting, community-oriented plan, I am writing to ask you to contact your Commissioner, Wanda Foster, and ask her to vote AGAINST any motion in support of the VMP plan.
The vote is tonight so please contact Comm’r Foster today by either e-mail ( and or phone (202-440-9253).  However you reach out to her, please let me know so that we can keep track of contacts with Comm’r Foster.  Also if you are a member of the Bloomingdale Civic Association, you may also contact Comm’r Teri Janine Quinn of SMD 5E06 who is also President of the BCA and who will be voting tonight, that you oppose this effort to gain support for the VMP plan and would appreciate her voting against any motion to support it.  Comm’r Quinn’s e-mail address is  Just let her know that you are writing as a concerned citizen of Bloomingdale.  And if you are not a member of the BCA, please considering joining today so that you can vote in next month’s BCA elections of officers.  You must be a member by this week to be eligible to vote (Bylaws states that to vote in an election, a person must have been a member for at least 30 days before the date of elections, which this year is Oct. 21).
You can make a difference in the future of McMillan today with a single call or e-mail.  If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.
Many thanks for your help and continued interest in this critically important neighborhood project.
John T. Salatti
(202) 986-2592“Together, Building a Better Bloomingdale”

Call to Action: Please Submit McMillan Park Testimony to HPRB and DMPED


We scored a significant victory at the June 6th Surplus Meeting hosted by DMPED when over 150 people attended and 95% of the speakers opposed “surplussing” McMillan Park. Although the community clearly said “No” to declaring McMillan Park to be surplus public property, the city continues moving forward with its plans, which include constructing the hideous building in the following illustration from Vision McMillan Partners within our historic Park. Not only would this monstrosity contribute significantly to the destruction of the site’s historic integrity, the mausoleum-style architecture stands in stark contrast to the graceful old town homes of the surrounding communities. Understandably, Vision McMillan Partners avoids highlighting this building in its brochures or community outreach.

VMP Mausoleum

The next stage of the fight to save McMillan Park takes place at the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) hearing on June 27, 2013 from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm at 441 4th St. NW, Room 220 South (Judiciary Square). You can either attend the hearing and deliver your testimony in person or submit your testimony via email in advance. If you testify in person, you will have 3 minutes to speak, and you should bring 10 printed copies of your testimony to share with the Board.

If you are unable to attend the HPRB hearing in person, please send the following email to the list of addressees below. To win this battle, it is essential that the Mayor, City Council Members, and Historic Preservation Review Board hear from as many of us as possible. You must send this email by 5:00 pm Monday, June 17!!

  • To:,
  • Cc:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Mr. Mayor, Council Members, Mr. Newaldass, and Members of the Historic Preservation Review Board:

I am writing for two reasons:

First, as follow-up to the June 6th McMillan Park Surplus Meeting, I urge the City Council to reject Mayor Gray’s proposal to surplus and dispose of the McMillan Park Sand Filtration Site.

Second, I urge the Historic Preservation Review Board to reject the Vision McMillan Partners proposed building designs for McMillan Park Reservoir (HPA #13-318). The height, scale, and designs of the proposed buildings are inappropriate for the historic McMillan Park site and are inconsistent with the overall open space character, sense of place, aesthetics, and historic vistas of this distinctive national landmark Olmsted park. The proposed building designs are also incompatible with the existing historic buildings and with the above- and below-ground historic structures on the site. The building design iterations are also premature and unrefined given that the Historic Preservation Review Board has yet to approve the proposed master plan and design guidelines.

Thank you,

Your Name
Your Address