Monday, July 26, 2010

Greenbelt Maryland, Lakes, Woods and the very active remnants of a workers near paradise community. US Socialist History

Greenbelt Maryland is an important historic site just outside the Beltway that best preserves and showcases an experiment in socialist living (the good kind). A tidy and very livable, planned worker community dating to Roosevelt's New Deal, WPA era. The community center and homes are well preserved and cherished by those who live there now. The highlight is the Art Deco meets Bauhaus style movie theater which still shows films.

The authentic coffee shop(s), grocery and other businesses are all interconnected by covered walkways, sparingly built but showcasing vibrant architecture. My favorite feature is the passageways which cross under roads, affording pedestrians a greater sense of safety and ease of movement. Something we should show more of today. Today's modern developments seem to give the important role to the car only.

If you're entering town from the West, be sure to pull off in Buddy Attick Park which has an extensive playground (but lousy parking I have to say). There's a great children's playground as well as a jewel of a small lake, reminiscent of a Minnesota beer commercial (Think Hamms @ 1973). The lake is surrounded by a very walkable sidewalk and trails which, if you wisely choose to circumnavigate, allows one to soak in some great woodland /wetland scenery and wildlife. It also boasts some of the best sunset views around town. A perfect place for a lovers stroll, or parents with the kids.

Construction on the Greenbelt project began with this lake on October 12, 1935. Originally a heavily wooded 23-acre valley cut by a stream, the lake required one year and over two hundred men to complete it. Because the federal government was interested in putting as many unemployed laborers to work as possible, much of the land was cleared by hand. Men hired by the federal government's Resettlement Administration pulled the trees out by their root, cleared the brush, and built a 22-foot dam on the east side of the lake. The dam now forms the eastern link of the path that encircles the lake.

The original plans for the lake included a bathhouse and boathouse. The boathouse was to include a dock with a boat rental and launch, sand beach, and changing facilities for bathers. The federal government never built the boathouse and other structures in the original plans due to budget constraints. In addition, health officials soon discovered that the lake contained bacteria that made the water unsafe for swimming. The lake has been closed to swimmers since July 1938. In former times local residents rented boats on the lake.

The park surrounding the lake is named after Albert "Buddy" Attick who helped to build Greenbelt and then became a lifelong employee of the city, serving as Director of Public Works for 23 years.

Greenbelt geographically lies both within and without the Beltway and is bisected by the Baltimore/Washington Parkway and the Beltway itself. Picture yourself a few miles due North and East of College Park Maryland.

Not only are the two attractions discussed a bit above worth checking out, but one can get even more wild in Greenbelt Regional Park, which is technically part of the National Park system and allows the DC visitor wishing to camp, the closet truly rustic camp site within the Beltway. The park has numerous small and large looping trails which are fairly well marked but in which I have nearly gotten lost jogging at sunset - not fun in the gloaming. I felt like the little girl in the ham suit from to Kill a Mockingbird...Anyway, visit this park in daylight and you'll enjoy comfortable but stimulating topography changes, gurgling streams and a variety of woodland - both pine and deciduous trees thrive on this reclaimed farm land.

Another nearby attraction is a haunted (supposedly) sanatorium/hospital which I've not checked out. OK, I'm a bit like Shaggy from Scooby Doo - I'm like, super chicken Scoobes! Besides, trespassing on the site is not allowed but the overgrown ruins are visible from the road. A NASA education is nearby too (haven't been).

Coming soon - a travel to the end of the road - The Old National Road, from DC to Brownsville PA - roadside and history heaven.....

1 comment:

  1. Great blog! My husband & I are traveling to DC today to visit my sister. I've done the museums every year that I visit, so we were looking for anything else to do. Thanks!