Detail the bicycle track before Westminster Street was created
from Adolph Sachse’s birds-eye view of the nation’s capital, 1884
Due to file format issues, only recently have I been able to open most of the maps available in the Library of Congress’ American Memory Collection. Last night I found an interesting birds-eye view map of Washington, DC by Adolph Sachse that was published in 1884. Its a massive map that appears to be composed of six separate sheets and contains a listing of many of the businesses in Washington City as well as locations of various public & government buildings. In many ways the map acts like a geovisual address book (the phone had not been invented yet) because, at a glance, one can easily find services offered by local merchants. Judging by the branding in the upper right hand corner of the original map, it appears that the map was sponsored by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company, a major railroad company of the day.
According to my neighborhood’s official history, Westminster Street did not exist in 1884 and the birds-eye view above supports this claim. While not labeled in the image above, Parcel 362, as it was known on the original DC maps, was called also called “the old circus ground” and Athletic Park. It had a 150-foot long grand stand along T Street, which was built in 1883 (building permit number 1047) in preparation for the fifth national convention of the League of American Wheelmen, a national organization of bicyclists. The first American bicyclist to ever ride 100 miles on an outdoor track did it on that track in 1884. As someone who uses a bicycle as their primary means of urban transportation, I can only smile knowing that 121 years ago my residence was an outdoor bicycle race track. However, I laugh because I traveled with an exgirlfriend’s family circus when I was younger!
Below is a birds-eye view of the Westminster Neighborhood published by Microsoft, with imagery of Pictometry International. It features imagery that was taken in 2005 and when compared, you can see how much the area has changed in the last 121 years. The Athetic Park is gone and in it’s place are dozens of rowhouses that were built shortly after the map above was published. A unique and historically aware addition to the neighborhood is something you can see below in the playground on Westminster Street. No, it’s not because that is where I had my exhibit “North, South, East, Westminster“. Rather, if you look closely, you can see a small race track! A scaled reminder of what once was.