Over the course of seven years, St. Philip’s Church has worked with an amazing array of organizations to bring their vision of community revitalization through the revitalization of a neighborhood park in the Anacostia Historic District. In the Spring of 2011, the groundbreaking was enthusiastically celebrated by all involved: The Anacostia Garden Club, Casey Trees, DC Commission on the Arts, Councilman Marion Barry, District Department of Transportation (DDOT), Green Spaces for DC, Main Street Anacostia and, of course, Father Lewis of St. Philip’s and the Friends of Old Market House Square Park.
The park is located in the median on 14th Street SE between U and V Streets and has been the centerpiece of the community since it was built in 1913. A vital neighborhood spot, it was showing its age. Neglect was resulting in the park becoming more of an eyesore than a gathering space. The project committee recognized and understood that historic preservation was key to revitalizing the space and they worked had to retain some of its unique and historic characteristics.
Today Old Market House Square includes a meditative/reading area, a kiosk with community info, a welcome sign for the Anacostia Historic District, specially commissioned public art and a community stage resulting in a dynamic public space. Residents can match wits on the built-in chess tables, read to children on colorful mushroom shaped seats or reflect quietly on the distinctive Nature Sacred-donated bench made from recycled 200-year-old pickle barrel wood. New lighting, benches, paths, handicap ramps, grass and trees were all added to enhance the space. DDOT installed new sidewalks, curbs and repaved the surrounding streets.
Old Market House Park adds quality of life in the Historic Anacostia neighborhood and is another example of what can be accomplished when city services, residents and community organizations work together. Well-kept parks such as this make neighborhoods feel safer, serve as a community gathering place and allows for residents the ability to enjoy the outdoors.
The restored park was designated the official 9/11 Memorial Site for Ward 8 adding yet another layer of meaning to the space and story.