The Potomac Gorge Below the Falls: Historic Resources Study of the Fort Marcy, Chain Bridge, Little Falls, Pimmit Run Area

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The Center for Heritage Resource Studies (CHRS) at the University of Maryland College Park has completed this historic resources study of the lower portion of the Potomac Gorge on behalf of the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP) under Task Agreement No. P11AT31053 of the Chesapeake Watershed Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (CESU), focusing on the area between Little Falls and the environs of Pimmit Run, Chain Bridge, and Fort Marcy associated with the Civil War defenses of Washington, DC The study encompasses resources on both sides of the Potomac, from ancient Native American contexts through to the completion of the parkway lanes on the eastern side of the Potomac, designated as Clara Barton Parkway during the 1980s. The resulting synthesis provides a historical database for interpretation of resources along the Potomac River below Little Falls. This study was conceived as a synthesis of available scholarship, and the focus is the area defined by the segment of the Potomac River and adjacent lands that fall between Little Falls and Chain Bridge. Pimmit Run enters the Potomac River just south of Chain Bridge, and Fort Marcy, a remarkable network of earthen fortifications associated with the Civil War Defenses of Washington, lies atop a bluff above Pimmit Run and the Virginia abutment of Chain Bridge. This set of landmarks – a crossroads of sorts – lies at the core of the study area. The partners in this study embrace a wider regional approach, arguing for the relevance of histories associated with the broader landscape of the Potomac to our account of historic resources within this tight little locality. Hence, the sites and features addressed in this historic resources study extend over several miles along both shores of the Potomac, from Sycamore Island and the stream valley associated with Walhonding Brook to the north, to the former location of the Little Italy community in the stream valley for Donaldson Run in Arlington County to the south. The cultural resources present within the study area hold historical significance and retain integrity sufficient to justify nomination to the National Register of Historic Places as a district of associated resources, unified by the cultural landscape of the Potomac Gorge, and the Potomac River crossing at Chain Bridge. This study describes these resources and their historical associations in detail, and provides a series of recommendations towards production of a National Register nomination, as well as further opportunities for public interpretation, and research.