Book Hill Park

While I was riding around northwest D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood on a recent bike ride I happened upon Book Hill Park, which is located at the corner of Reservoir Road and Wisconsin Avenue (MAP). From the southern entrance it appeared to be just another D.C. park, but I discovered that there’s to it than meets the eye. The Georgetown branch of the D.C. Public Library is located at the top of the hill at the northern end of Book Hill Park.

The location of the park was formerly the site of the original Georgetown Reservoir from 1859 to 1932. This reservoir was part of the larger Washington Aqueduct, America’s first public water system. This system, created between 1853 and 1863, still collects water from the Potomac River far upriver at Great Falls, and feeds the city through the original aqueduct system. Just down Reservoir Road from Book Hill Park is the newer and larger Georgetown Reservoir, which holds water from this system today.

After being converted into a park, it eventually fell into a state of neglect and disrepair. Book Hill Park had become a mess of overgrown brush and was lacking amenities. But local community members organized to do something about it. Forming The Friends of Book Hill Park in 2000, they cleaned up the property. Then in 2005, the remaining sections of the original 1871 fence were restored, and the signs were placed. Numerous flowers and trees have since been planted on the hillside, including thousands of daffodils and even some several cherry trees donated by the Japanese Embassy.

There is a set of stone steps leading to the top of the hill, where visitors can enjoy sweeping views of Georgetown and across the Potomac to nearby Rosslyn. Offering a quiet repose from the busy streets of Georgetown, the park provides benches and shade for library patrons for reading or resting. Passers-by, people from the neighborhood, and everyone else are also welcome at the public park.

In recent years this small neighborhood park has become known locally for being home to an annual Fourth of July Doggie Parade. To promote the park, the Friends of Book Hill Park began this tradition in 2002. It is an “all-American” family-oriented event which has grown to include many area canines, who are judged for their good looks and talents in seven categories, as well as Best in Show. For the parade the canines and their owners descend down the park’s grand staircase and then parade down Wisconsin Avenue, All led by Uncle Sam. It’s not one of the city’s larger celebrations, but it is one of the most unusual ones.

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