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  photography by Diana Laurie

Volta Park's History

Volta Park’s rich history goes back to 1769. The park was originally a cemetery where nearly 3,000 people were buried, including soldiers from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and quite possibly the Civil War. They were laid to rest next to members of the neighboring Bridge Street Presbyterian Church. At the end of the 18th century, the bodies were interred, and the land was transformed into a park.

Over the years, Volta Park has been touched by history. Many believe that accused spy Alger Hiss visited the park while living on Volta Place in the 1930s. In the 1950s, John F. Kennedy played touch football there with his brothers. According to a letter addressed to a former neighbor, he first met his wife Jacqueline at a dinner party on Q Street, just west of the park.

By 1995, however, Volta Park had fallen on hard times: the park had grown dirty and dangerous, the run-down pool was closed, and the recreation center was boarded up. A group of concerned neighbors came together to save their park. Led by John Richardson, they formed the Friends of Volta Park and quickly got to work by cleaning up rubbish, planting flowers, and pruning trees. If you are interested in learning more details about the history of the revitalization of Volta Park, please check out the excellent interview of John Richardson conducted by Elizabeth Barentzen in 2009 for CAG's oral history project.

In 1996 the group officially entered into a partnership with the DC Department of Parks and Recreation to manage the park’s maintenance. It worked with the city to landscape the park, plant new gardens, install a new irrigation system, improve the playground, and replace the chain-link fencing with new ornamental fences. Since then, the Friends of Volta Park has been responsible for all landscape maintenance of the park’s grounds and gardens. It also worked closely with DC Councilman Jack Evans’s office to renovate and re-open the pool and recreation building in 2005.

Today, Volta Park has never looked better. Each year, thousands of families use the park’s playground, tennis courts, pool, baseball field, and gardens. Every spring, the park hosts the annual Volta Park Day celebration. And each summer, families gather at the park for the Citizen Association of Georgetown’s free family concerts. Volta Park’s public green space has become an oasis in the middle of Georgetown.

All this has been made possible by the hard work of the Friends of Volta Park and the thousands of friends, families, and businesses who have contributed to the park over the years.

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