Grand Construction Plans for Washington in 1906

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Bridge ("Memorial Bridge in honor of U.S. Grant"), Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Virginia. Perspective rendering & section
Bridge (“Memorial Bridge in honor of U.S. Grant”), Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Virginia. Perspective rendering & section

We’ve posted a couple stories about the unbuilt Grant Memorial Bridge, and did a little research this past weekend to find some more details about it. We came across a great article in The Baltimore Sun from July 30th, 1906, outline the upcoming plans for major construction projects in the city.

Washington, July 29.–In addition to the immense improvements now in course of construction in Washington, which were review  in THE SUN this morning, other superb buildings and bridges are projected and are likely to be realized in the not-far-distant future.

The proposed Memorial bridge across the Potomac river joining the North and the South is among the most pretentious of the prospects planned. There was a strong agitation in favor of the erection of this bridge several years ago, the idea being to have great arches in honor of Lincoln and Grant and other notables of the Civil War. The bridge is proposed largely as a memorial to Lincoln, for whom there is no proper monument in Washington. There are two Lincoln monuments here, one a candle-like marble shaft of old-fashioned design in front of the City Hall, and the other a bronze memorial in Lincoln Park, representing Lincoln beside a kneeling negro. Both of these statues are modest and well meant, but neither is adequate nor appropriate. Congress came near ordering the erection of the Lincoln Memorial Bridge a few years ago, but the agitation has since then subsided. The stonecutters of America have given a large stone to be placed as the corner-stone of this bridge whenever it is erected, and this great plinth has for several years rested on the inclosed Government lot adjoining the Lafayette Square Theater, opposite the Treasury Department. The memorial bridge project has probably been postponed indefinitely by the erection of the two new steel bridges across the Potomac.

Before many months work will commence on the group of fine buildings which the George Washington University is to erect on the site of the old Van Ness property, south of the Corcoran Art Gallery, at the entrance to the Potomac speedway. A large tract of land has been bought at that place from the Young Men’s Christian Association, which formerly had its athletic grounds near the old mansion and plans have been drawn for the University building in harmony with the Burnham plan for the beautification plan of Washington. There will be a series of disconnected buildings surrounding a great quadrangle which will be open to the south. The library, which will measure 74 by 158 feet, will cost $300,000, and a large administration building, in the nature of a memorial to George Washington, will be erected at a cost of $500,000. There will also be a collegiate clubhouse with an auditorium which will seat 1,200 persons and with a dining hall or commons costing $150,000.

The Agricultural Department building, or rather group of seven buildings around a central administration structure, will cost $4,500,000, and will stretch from Fourteenth to Twelfth streets along B street southwest, in the Mall. Two wings of the structure are now being built at a cost of $1,500,000 after plans prepared by Rankin, Kellogg & Crane, of Philadelphia. These wings will be used as laboratories, and ultimately a central administration building will be constructed.

Years ago the mammoth granite building for the State, War and Navy Departments was built, but all three of these departments are now cramped for space. The Navy Department is so crowded that some of its offices are in the Mills Building, and the overflow of the War Department is housed in the Lemon Building. The State Department is sandwiched between the War and Navy Departments in crowded quarters, and the idea is to erect a separate building for those who pilot and man the ship of state.

The permanent Government buildings already in Washington have cost in the vicinity of $56,000,000, exclusive of recent improvements. Mr. C. E. Kemper, of the office of the supervising architect of the Treasury, figured out some time ago that the old Government buildings in Washington have cost as follows:

costs of Washington buildings
costs of Washington buildings

The dome of the Capitol cost $1,047,291.89. The original cost of the White House when it was built was about $300,000.

Also, check out this piece we wrote a while back about Columbian College on Meridian Hill becoming George Washington University.

If you have a Proquest account and would like to read the full article, you can check it out here.

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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