A hundred years ago Rock Creek Park was just a park, a bucolic respite from city life, not a commuter route through the center of the city. The roads were narrow, winding, and inconvenient, occasionally even obliging travelers to ford the creek itself. The bridges, as we have seen, were designed to blend in to the rustic scenery, not expedite travel. One such bridge was along Beach Drive where the creek meets up with Piney Branch.
From these postcard views, it's very hard to picture where this bridge once stood; the surroundings seem to have changed so much. The view is facing north. Beach Drive runs down the center of the view and off to the lower left, and Piney Branch Parkway comes in from the bottom right. The bridge was built in 1900 with a rough gneiss stone finish at a cost of $600.
Stewart Bros. Photographers, courtesy of the National Park Service.
In 1950, the National Capital Park and Planning Commission decided that Rock Creek Park's infrastructure needed to be modernized to support the automobile age. One piece of the major construction effort that was undertaken as a result was the replacement of the nice little gneiss bridge with a much larger and not-as-nice structure. Work began in late 1958 and was completed by June 1959.
These two views show the intersection of Beach Drive and Piney Branch Parkway as it appeared shortly after completion of the new bridge in June 1959 (Photo by Stewart Bros. Photographers, courtesy of the National Park Service) and as it appears today.
Finally, here are three views from the bed of the Piney Branch, facing west toward the bridge.
Postcard published by Minnie E. Brooke in about 1910.
The new replacement bridge in June 1959. Photo by Stewart Bros. Photographers, courtesy of the National Park Service.
The bridge as it stands today.
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