In 1947, fifteen years after a towering temple to the memory of George Washington went up on the south side of Alexandria, an equally imposing structure was built on the north side of the historic district. Officials with Pepco and Braddock Light & Power dedicated a new power plant that hugged the Potomac shore at the terminus of N. Royal Street.
Appreciation for the coal-fired operation eventually gave way to snarls of disgust. It wasn’t so much the rumble of the train cars and the ugly stacks that annoyed nearby residents, as it was the dust the generation station sprinkled on nearby cars and property.
With the plant now closed, all eyes are on the redevelopment plans of the 25-acre site about a mile south of National Airport. As noted by the Washington Business Journal, the site could become an “innovation district,” with mixed use.
Along the property’s south side runs two de-activated railroad tracks. I have not found any plans for this 1000-foot-long stretch, but a while back a city spokesperson told me one idea is to pave it and make it a road for hotel shuttles in that part of the city.
Walking along this area yesterday, I had the idea that re-purposing these tracks and the rail bed should include a re-route of the bike path there (alternate of the Mount Vernon Trail). The current path is narrow and uneven.
I would also recommend a historical marker for Bellevue. The two-story country home demolished before this plant went up stood just to the north of this site. Portia Lee and William Hodgson called Bellevue home. The lovely spread of land held panoramic views of Washington, Maryland and the Alexandria seaport. In 1840, John Slater moved in and grew flowers, vegetables, and strawberries that were the talk of the town.
A marker by the apartments or on that part of Slaters Lane would have limited visibility. Placing it along this new path would be a much better spot. The city has documented the presence of the Dade Plantation and 19th century rural dwellings on the site of the plant. Archaeology could produce some rewarding results.
Although many Old Towners prayed for the day the power plant would close down, it did provide much needed electrical power. The Washington Post noted its turbo-powered generators had the capacity to supply power to the entire District of Columbia.
Preserving some of the rail track should also be considered.