Last night at their Alexandria campus in Old Town, Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs hosted the final lecture of its “Conversations on the Public Realm in the D.C. Region.”
Paul Kelsch, Ph.D. (Associate Professor of LandscapeArchitecture) presented a talk titled “The Cultivation of the Potomac River Landscape.”
My antennae shot up on the third part of his talk. Kelsch discussed the beautification and commemorative efforts conducted by a handful of chapters, including the DAR, the Colonial Dames of America, and the D.C. Chapter of The United Daughters of the Confederacy (hearing about the latter produced puzzled looks and ironic chuckles). In 1932, they planted memorial trees and erected bronze tablets along the parkway.
I was also very pleased to hear Kelsch say he is working on a book on the Potomac River and its relationship to the GW Parkway. It’s so much needed because although the National Park Service’s HAER documents the story of the George Washington Memorial Parkway (a whopping 392 pages!), they were unable to determine how exactly the river route won out over the other two.
It was not the early favorite, but with hindsight, we can say it sure worked out great. The Potomac and its Washington partner make up one of the great landscapes in the world. Last night we gained insight to how and why.