This city has any number of spots that are well known and heavily trafficked by locals and tourists alike. But there are also lesser known places that have a charm of their own, largely because they are not surrounded by idling tour buses and hordes of people snapping pictures. Rawlins Park, in Foggy Bottom, is just such a place. And as you will see from these photos, this is the best week of the year week to go there.
Major General John A. Rawlins
The park is named for Major General John A. Rawlins, an officer in the Union Army who served as an aide to General Ulysses S. Grant. Rawlins joined Grant’s staff in 1861 as a lieutenant and stayed with him through the entire Civil War. According to James M. Goode, in his comprehensive tome “Washington Sculpture,” the park was an oasis in a neighborhood of small Victorian townhomes until the 1950s when the historic homes were replaced by large office buildings. One lone survivor remains, the Octagon House located across the street at the corner of 18th and E Street NW.
Rawlins Park, Looking West, Early Morning (April 9, 2014)
But the park itself did survive, and despite its location between two multi-lane thoroughfares carrying thousands of cars each day to and from Virginia, it is still a charming oasis. It is lined on both sides with what I call tulip trees but what people (and there are many) who have more plant knowledge would call a hybrid magnolia. Two reflecting pools and a small central fountain complete the effect.
Looking East at Sunset (April 8, 2014)
And this is the week that those tulip trees are showing off. The pavement and reflecting pools are covered with the dropping petals from the large, tulip-shaped blooms and a few ducks practice take-offs and landings from time to time. There are plenty of benches under the trees and if the gaudy display doesn’t jolt your senses, there is a handy Starbucks across the street at the corner of 20th and E Street NW.
Looking West, Early Morning Fog (April 7, 2014)