Description - Fort Dupont is one of the forts that are collectively known as the Civil War Defenses of Washington, or the "Fort Circle Parks."
Copyright: - US National Park Service
Fort Dupont Park
East of the Activity Center the land rises to a high ridge, where a bronze plaque on a boulder just off Alabama Avenue marks the site of Fort Dupont as "one of the, defenses begun in the fall of 1861." More than 100 years ago in the Civil War, the siege guns of Fort Dupont guarded the Eleventh Street Bridge over the Anacostia River near the Washington Navy Yard. Abraham Lincoln had no sooner taken the presidential oath to uphold the Union than war began. The capital city, says one history account, "was an island in a hostile sea," because it stood between the Confederacy and Maryland's doubtful loyalty. Engineers hastily set to work to fortify the high points of ground all around Washington. By the end of the war, 68 forts and 93 gun batteries formed a ring around the city.
This particular fort had six sides, each 100 feet long, protected by a deep moat and trees felled side by side with branches pointing outward. It was named for Flag Officer Samuel F. du Pont, who commanded the naval victory at Port Royal, South Carolina, in November 1861.
Although its garrison and guns never saw battle, Fort Dupont served as a lifeline of freedom. Runaway slaves found safety here before moving on to join the growing community of "contrabands" in Washington. The barracks and guns are gone, but the fort's earthworks can still be traced near the picnic area on Alabama Avenue.
In the 1930s, the National Capital Planning Commission acquired the old fort and surrounding land for recreation. An 18-hole golf course was constructed. But, as the city grew, golf gave way in 1970 to the sports complex along EIy Place that now includes tennis and basketball courts, athletic fields, and a softball diamond. An indoor ice rink offers skating all winter.
Where once the Civil War fort looked out over farmlands, city dwellers now grow vegetables in community garden plots.
- Fort Dupont Park is comprised of 376 rolling wooded acres that make up one of the largest parks in all of Washington. Among the traces of old roadways, oaks, beech, maples, and pipe cover the hillsides. Squirrels and rabbits find homes along with the night foragers - raccoons and opossums. The pink lady-slipper orchid blooms in quiet shade.
At the park's Activity Center, heart of much that goes on, park rangers lead workshops and walks. Neighboring schools bring young students for nature study and to learn about special people, cultural traditions, and holiday events. The center's showcases display uniforms and equipment of black soldiers who served the Union in the Civil War. Summer days are alive with children participating in a Junior Ranger program. Weekend jazz concerts, free to all, draw people to the lawns around the outdoor summer stage.
Recreation - Picnics, nature walks, Civil War programs, gardening, environmental education, music, skating, sports, and youth programs are among the varied seasonal activities. A hiker-biker trail circling the park offers a break from the city sounds.
Climate - Washington, D.C. experiences four distinct seasons. Winters can be bitterly cold or pleasantly mild while summers can be miserably hot and humid or agreeably warm. The average January temperature is 37 degrees F (3 degrees C). The average July temperature is 78 degrees F (26 degrees C). Spring and fall are pleasant times of the year to visit the area, temperatures are mild with low humidity.
From downtown Washington, DC drive east on Pennsylvania Ave., SE, and cross the Sousa Bridge. Turn left on Minnesota Ave. and proceed to Randle Circle. Turn right at the circle to the entrance at Fort Dupont Drive.