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The History of Marion Park

Marion Park is bounded by Fourth & Sixth Streets and at the intersection of E Street and South Carolina Avenue. It is named in honor of a distinguished soldier Francis Marion, the celebrated South Carolina state senator who served from 1782-1790 and earned the moniker "Swamp Fox" for his brilliant stealth tactics against the British during the Revolutionary War.

Marion Park was first established as open ground, dating back to the original plans for the city created by Pierre L'Enfant in 1791. Also included in updated plans from Andrew Ellicott, this area has served continuously as a park since its first improvements in 1885. One of the larger parks in the Capitol Hill area, dating back to 1764 (the tract of land was known as Houp's Addition,) was originally owned by Jonathan Slater. In 1791, Mr. Slater sold the tract to William Prout, who then had to turn over the land to the federal government soon after. Improvements that were made by 1886 gave the park an ornamental elegance in the vastly developing neighborhood. In the center of the park used to stand a large vase that was filled with tropical flowers every summer. The "Large Hilton Iron Vase" was used to direct the flow of traffic through the park due to the carriage paths that created beautiful patterns from a bird's eye view. In 1963, the vase was removed, and the traffic patterns were redirected outside of the boundaries of Marion Park. Dorothy Hawkins grew up beside the park at 515 E Street, SE, next door to her grandfather William Owens, a policeman who lived at 513 and was stationed at the Fifth Precinct across the park (now Substation (1-D-1). William also served at the White House.

As a child in the 1920's, Dorothy would take a table and chairs to the park for tea parties under the trees. On the corner at 423 Sixth Street is the former James Carbery House. Carbery served as a Navy Yard architect and engineer, and as an elected city Common Councilman (1826-1829.) He purchased the 1803 Federal style house in 1833 and lived there until his death. After Carbery's heirs sold the house in 1881, the tower was added and the roofline was altered. Before Carbery purchased the house, it was owned by Robert Alexander, architect of Christ Church, who lived there and later rented it to his friend and colleague, architect Benjamin H. Latrobe. The church and parsonage across the park were designed in 1883 for Mt. Jezreel Baptist Church by Calvin T.S. Brent, the first African American architect to practice in Washington. Built by freed slaves, the church is one of seven he designed, of which only three remain. It now houses Pleasant Lane Baptist Missionary Church.


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