The Not-So-Changed Face of the City
If you let yourself get caught up in the rhetoric of development and change, you might think Washington today would be unrecognizable to a refugee from the 1950s. But a gallery of pictures of the District now on display online demonstrates that large chunks of the cityscape look oddly similar to how they appeared half a century ago, if you can look past the cool mid-century cars.
The District transportation department has posted a slew of vintage photographs detailing what some commonly traveled spots around town looked like in the not so terribly distant past.
The intersection of Georgia and Missouri avenues NW was a tangled mess even then. Tenleytown was as sterile and bereft of urban life then as it is today (even after the investment of billions in the Metro system.)
On the other hand, N. Capitol Street without the extended health campus around Washington Hospital Center looks downright bucolic. And a remarkable number of the photos show steady traffic in one direction, but empty lanes in the other--a reminder that the District is no longer the sole or even the dominant job center in the region, so rush hour traffic no longer favors one direction over the other. And, man, does Connecticut Avenue NW look much more civilized and manageable with streetcars running down its center lanes.
But to my eye the most startling picture is that of the Key Bridge, with a very sparsely developed, low-rise Rosslyn in the foreground and Georgetown in the background. All of a sudden, you see that the Key Bridge was designed to be very much like the Memorial Bridge and even the Pennsylvania Avenue bridge over the Anacostia River--and those new roundabouts that the city is building at the foot of the Douglass Bridge and elsewhere are indeed a reiteration of what was once the primary means of controlling traffic along the city's rivers.
Have a look at the photos and add your observations and conclusions about the differences between then and now.
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