McMillan Reservoir and Sand Filtration Site

Bounded by North Capitol Street, NW; Michigan Avenue, NW; First Street, NW, and Channing Street, NW

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The 1905 completion of the McMillan Reservoir Sand Filtration Site was a Washington public health milestone. Its innovative system of water purification, which relied on sand rather than chemicals, let to the elimination of typhoid epidemics and the reduction of many other communicable diseases in the city. The 25 acre site consists of regulator houses, sand bins, washers and underground sand filtration beds. A legacy of the City Beautiful Movement, the complex is an engineering wonder that served its original purpose until 1986. In 1906 Secretary of War William Howard Taft designated the site part of the McMillan Reservoir Park, a memorial to Senator James McMillan (R-Michigan). Conceived of as a large permanent reserve of open green space for the benefit of citizens, the site’s design and construction was the collaboration of pre-eminent civil engineers, urban planners, artists and architects including engineer Allen Hazen, planner and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., sculptor Herbert Adams and architect Charles Platt. The site is currently threatened with overdevelopment, despite being a local landmark and listed on the National Register.

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