Constitution Gardens

Revitalization on the Mall

One of my favorite parts of the National Mall is Constitution Gardens. The Trust for the National Mall calls it an oasis in the nation’s capital. It is one of the few parts that I feel is similar to Central Park with wandering paths, meadows, hills, and a small lake. Unfortunately, it does not have the care and maintenance that Central Park has, so it had fallen into a sad state by the time I discovered it.

Even in it’s disrepair, the gardens still offer a nice reprieve from the uniformity of the rest of the mall. I love walking down during lunchtime to stroll and watch the few other people who have discovered the quaint space. In addition, there is a small island, which has a memorial to the signers of the Declaration of Independence. However, one cannot help but imagine what the space would be like if people sought it out as part of their time on the Mall rather than merely stumbling upon it.

…so I did some research.

All of this is supposed to change in the coming years with a massive renovation project that will build new structures/areas that allow for more human interactions with the environment. The plans sound very cool with a pavilion/restaurant, outdoor amphitheater, and a space in the pond for an ice skating rink/model sailboat pond. These are all good things to look forward to, but it seems that the renovation is behind schedule. The first phase of the project was due to be completed in July 2016 and included, but were not limited to, the following:

  • Complete the north edge of the Gardens;
  • Revise the curb at 17th and Constitution;
  • Construct a stone garden wall along the north edge that wraps around the corner of 17th street;
  • Relocate, expand, and renovate the Lockkeeper’s House;
  • Construct the entry of the plaza;
  • Create a temporary plaza;
  • Install site lighting and temporary power at the plaza.

All of this was approved in October 2015 by the National Capital Planning Commission, and as far as I could tell in a recent visit, has barely been started. I am holding out hope that these changes will still be undertaken soon, but I was unable to find any update regarding the timeline of the project. However, there are some beautiful pictures on the Rogers Partners Architects+Urban Designers website.

One good thing I did discover at my latest visit is that the paths throughout the garden have been completely redone with asphalt and pretty gravel on top. In addition, a few of the paths have been widened. One detail I am missing from this recent project, is that the benches that used to line the paths have been removed. I hope new ones will be installed because it is nice to stroll and then sit to people watch for a bit.

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