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Malcolm X Park

Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park, is a diamond in the rough in Washington DC.  The site that became Malcolm X Park was once the home of Columbian College, predecessor organization to George Washington University.  The site was vacated by the college in 1910.  Construction for the park began in 1914, and twenty-two years later, in 1936, Meridian Hill was formally designated a park.  In 1969, a bill was introduced to Congress to formally rename the park in honor of civil rights leader Malcolm X.  The bill failed, but the park still carries the name informally.  During this same time, with the park’s beginning to show its age, Malcolm X Park became a dangerous place, particularly at night, gaining a reputation as a den of muggers and drug dealers.  However, in 1990, the “Friends of Meridian Hill”, a group comprised of local volunteers, began work to take back the park.  Crime was driven down 98%, and improvements were made to the park, making it shine once again.

Today, Malcolm X Park is considered relatively safe, and is a shining example of neoclassical park design.  Many cultural events are held in the park, including a drumming circle every Sunday where food is also served to the homeless.  Additionally, Malcolm X Park is a popular gathering site for many political demonstrations.

This set is comprised of material shot on two different days – May 11, 2005 and July 6, 2005.  I photographed the upper level of the park on May 11, and but owing to the fact that the fountains were not running on May 11, I returned on July 6 to photograph the lower level.


Entering the park from the rear at the corner of 16th and Euclid Streets NW, the most noticeable feature of the park from the street is the wall around the park's perimeter.

Entering the park from the rear at the corner of 16th and Euclid Streets NW, the most noticeable feature of the park from the street is the wall around the park’s perimeter.


The upper level of Malcolm X Park is a wide grassy mall, shaded by trees around the edges.

The upper level of Malcolm X Park is a wide grassy mall, shaded by trees around the edges.

The upper level of Malcolm X Park is a wide grassy mall, shaded by trees around the edges.


On this particular day, sprinklers were in place to water the grass.

On this particular day, sprinklers were in place to water the grass.


Malcolm X Park is situated in an area that's mostly residential. Quite a few apartment buildings are located on the streets surrounding the park (one to the east seen here), as well as Meridian Hill Hall, a dorm for Howard University.

Malcolm X Park is situated in an area that’s mostly residential.  Quite a few apartment buildings are located on the streets surrounding the park (one to the east seen here), as well as Meridian Hill Hall, a dorm for Howard University.


Benches line the sidewalks on both sides of the park. These benches recently underwent a restoration and as such, most are in extremely good condition. And with many covered by trees, they provide a nice shady spot to relax.

Benches line the sidewalks on both sides of the park.  These benches recently underwent a restoration and as such, most are in extremely good condition.  And with many covered by trees, they provide a nice shady spot to relax.

Benches line the sidewalks on both sides of the park. These benches recently underwent a restoration and as such, most are in extremely good condition. And with many covered by trees, they provide a nice shady spot to relax.


Four months after Inauguration Day, two benches still wore graffiti from the rally held in the park. One carries a penned message about George W. Bush, and the other carries a spray-painted anarchist symbol.  Four months after Inauguration Day, two benches still wore graffiti from the rally held in the park. One carries a penned message about George W. Bush, and the other carries a spray-painted anarchist symbol.

Four months after Inauguration Day, two benches still wore graffiti from the rally held in the park.  One carries a penned message about George W. Bush, and the other carries a spray-painted anarchist symbol.


Tall trees provide a tremendous amount of shade, forming a green canopy along the sides of the park.  Tall trees provide a tremendous amount of shade, forming a green canopy along the sides of the park.

Tall trees provide a tremendous amount of shade, forming a green canopy along the sides of the park.

Tall trees provide a tremendous amount of shade, forming a green canopy along the sides of the park.


During my visit, a group of children was practicing lacrosse on the upper level.

During my visit, a group of children was practicing lacrosse on the upper level.

During my visit, a group of children was practicing lacrosse on the upper level.


At the south end of the upper level, overlooking the fountains below, is Washington's only equestrienne statue, depicting Joan of Arc on horseback.  At the south end of the upper level, overlooking the fountains below, is Washington's only equestrienne statue, depicting Joan of Arc on horseback.

At the south end of the upper level, overlooking the fountains below, is Washington’s only equestrienne statue, depicting Joan of Arc on horseback.

At the south end of the upper level, overlooking the fountains below, is Washington's only equestrienne statue, depicting Joan of Arc on horseback.


Looking down to the lower level from Joan of Arc, we find the most distinctive feature of Malcolm X Park - a thirteen-tier Italian Renaissance-style fountain cascading down the hill for a total length of 90 feet.

Looking down to the lower level from Joan of Arc, we find the most distinctive feature of Malcolm X Park – a thirteen-tier Italian Renaissance-style fountain cascading down the hill for a total length of 90 feet.


At the top of the fountain is a small building, housing a set of public restrooms.

At the top of the fountain is a small building, housing a set of public restrooms.


The fountain begins here against the building, cascading down two levels to a small pool.

The fountain begins here against the building, cascading down two levels to a small pool.


The main cascade takes the water down thirteen steps all the way to the bottom.  The main cascade takes the water down thirteen steps all the way to the bottom.

The main cascade takes the water down thirteen steps all the way to the bottom.


Each level is about two feet below the one before it.  Each level is about two feet below the one before it.

Each level is about two feet below the one before it.

Each level is about two feet below the one before it.  Each level is about two feet below the one before it.


Three birds use the edge of a step as an impromptu birdbath.

Three birds use the edge of a step as an impromptu birdbath.


Continuing down the fountain, water can be seen falling from one pool to the next.  Continuing down the fountain, water can be seen falling from one pool to the next.

Continuing down the fountain, water can be seen falling from one pool to the next.

Continuing down the fountain, water can be seen falling from one pool to the next.



Looking up towards the top of the fountain, the bigger picture becomes visible, allowing a view of much of the fountain.  Looking up towards the top of the fountain, the bigger picture becomes visible, allowing a view of much of the fountain.

Looking up towards the top of the fountain, the bigger picture becomes visible, allowing a view of much of the fountain.

Looking up towards the top of the fountain, the bigger picture becomes visible, allowing a view of much of the fountain.


While I was working on the lower level, a small girl kept running back and forth across the sidewalk past the top of the fountain. It must be a full-time job keeping up with her.  While I was working on the lower level, a small girl kept running back and forth across the sidewalk past the top of the fountain. It must be a full-time job keeping up with her.

While I was working on the lower level, a small girl kept running back and forth across the sidewalk past the top of the fountain.  It must be a full-time job keeping up with her.


The girl from above, as well as the two older boys she was with, take a moment to look down at the upper tiers of the fountain.

The girl from above, as well as the two older boys she was with, take a moment to look down at the upper tiers of the fountain.


Towards the bottom of the fountain, the sidewalks turn away from the cascade and go around the bottom pool. Just beyond where the sidewalks turn, fountains shoot water upwards.

Towards the bottom of the fountain, the sidewalks turn away from the cascade and go around the bottom pool.  Just beyond where the sidewalks turn, fountains shoot water upwards.


On the side walls near the bottom, classical figures spout water from their mouths into the main fountain.

On the side walls near the bottom, classical figures spout water from their mouths into the main fountain.


From the bottom of the fountain, the full majesty of its design can be seen, as water falls twice as far to the bottom pool.  From the bottom of the fountain, the full majesty of its design can be seen, as water falls twice as far to the bottom pool.

From the bottom of the fountain, the full majesty of its design can be seen, as water falls twice as far to the bottom pool.

From the bottom of the fountain, the full majesty of its design can be seen, as water falls twice as far to the bottom pool.


The bottom pool of the fountain is huge - a fitting end to the fountain.

The bottom pool of the fountain is huge – a fitting end to the fountain.


In niches on either side of the fountain, a figure stands watch.

In niches on either side of the fountain, a figure stands watch.


 


Beyond the bottom tier of the long cascade fountain is a reflecting pool, where jets of water shoot a foot or so up into the air.

Beyond the bottom tier of the long cascade fountain is a reflecting pool, where jets of water shoot a foot or so up into the air.

Beyond the bottom tier of the long cascade fountain is a reflecting pool, where jets of water shoot a foot or so up into the air.


A statue of Dante Alighieri stands dressed in classical attire on the east side of the park.  A statue of Dante Alighieri stands dressed in classical attire on the east side of the park.  A statue of Dante Alighieri stands dressed in classical attire on the east side of the park.

A statue of Dante Alighieri stands dressed in classical attire on the east side of the park.


South of the statue of Dante is a memorial to our fifteenth president, James Buchanan, with the statue of Buchanan flanked by classical figures.  South of the statue of Dante is a memorial to our fifteenth president, James Buchanan, with the statue of Buchanan flanked by classical figures.  South of the statue of Dante is a memorial to our fifteenth president, James Buchanan, with the statue of Buchanan flanked by classical figures.

South of the statue of Dante is a memorial to our fifteenth president, James Buchanan, with the statue of Buchanan flanked by classical figures.

Next to the female figure at left, the inscribed text provides the dates of his presidency in Roman numerals, while the inscribed text next to the male figure at right reads, "The incorruptible statesman whose walk was upon the mountain ranges of the law."  Next to the female figure at left, the inscribed text provides the dates of his presidency in Roman numerals, while the inscribed text next to the male figure at right reads, "The incorruptible statesman whose walk was upon the mountain ranges of the law."

Next to the female figure at left, the inscribed text provides the dates of his presidency in Roman numerals, while the inscribed text next to the male figure at right reads, “The incorruptible statesman whose walk was upon the mountain ranges of the law.”


At the very bottom of the park is a small retaining wall containing planters. This, however, is not the wall defining the boundary of the park.

At the very bottom of the park is a small retaining wall containing planters.  This, however, is not the wall defining the boundary of the park.


On signage at entrances to the park, the "Meridian Hill Park" name is used, as it is the official name, with no mention of the "Malcolm X Park" name.

On signage at entrances to the park, the “Meridian Hill Park” name is used, as it is the official name, with no mention of the “Malcolm X Park” name.


In keeping with the "Meridian Hill" concept (Thomas Jefferson had hoped that 16th Street in Washington, one of four "Washington meridians", would become the global Prime Meridian), a number of compasses are set into the sidewalks.

In keeping with the “Meridian Hill” concept (Thomas Jefferson had hoped that 16th Street in Washington, one of four “Washington meridians“, would become the global Prime Meridian), a number of compasses are set into the sidewalks.


And finally, at the very bottom of the park, the outside of the retaining wall and the planters contained on top of it can be seen.

And finally, at the very bottom of the park, the outside of the retaining wall and the planters contained on top of it can be seen.

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