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I Wonder: What Was Here Before the Campus?

As we continue to reimagine the current RFK Stadium-Armory Campus, you might be wondering what the area was like historically – a hundred years ago or more.

 Let’s take a look back to 1860, which is when the foundation for later development quite literally started. That’s when mudflats, barren areas without vegetation, began developing along both banks of the Anacostia River to create the landforms we know – and walk on – today.

By 1876, a pair of large mudflats appeared just south of where Benning Bridge is now. Within five years, streams had etched their way across the flats, providing an environment where a variety of plants – including American lotus, lily pads, and wild rice – could take root.

In 1898, the Army Corps of Engineers launched a program to dredge the Anacostia River to remove debris and sediment such as rocks and minerals from the bottom. These materials were used to build up the flats and turn them into dry land. The District hoped factories or warehouses would be constructed on this land – but around the turn of the 20th century, a commission organized by the U.S. Senate decided the commercial land wasn’t needed and instead suggested turning the former flatland into parks. Today the area is known as Anacostia Park.

It’s interesting to note that before the Army Corps of Engineers intervened, the area that later became the Kingman Park neighborhood was right on the shores of the Anacostia River. If you had lived there then, you probably would have had a waterfront view.