Exploring Theodore Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island is one of the more surprising presidential memorials in the Washington DC metro area. It sits in the middle of the Potomac River, across from the Lincoln Center and just downstream from Georgetown. This photograph was taken at the eastern end of the Island looking North into a large area of the swamp that covers a large part of the Island.

A short history of Theodore Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island has an interesting history. First occupied by the Nacotchtank Indians in the 1600s (who gave it its first recorded name “Anacostine”) it was later patented by Captain Randolph Brandt in 1682 as Anacostine Island.

After his death, the island passed to Brandt’s daughter and then to George Mason Ill in 1724. These families established a mansion on the island and even farmed on it. Occupation of the Island continued until a causeway was built connecting it to the mainland. The resulting stagnation of the water behind the causeway made the Island uninhabitable and the Island was abandoned, leaving the mansion and gardens to decay.

The mansion eventually fell victim to two fires which initially gutted the interior and then collapsed the roof. Theodore Roosevelt Island was also used for military purposes. During the American civil war, Union Soldiers were stationed there. Then during the war against Spain in 1898 the chemist Charles Edward Munroe conducted clandestine experiments in explosives for the government, which led to rumors of there being Spanish spies on the Island. During the 1930s a group of landscape architects designed and created a fitting memorial to the outdoorsy Theodore Roosevelt, building a forested landscape with miles of trails.

The island is small at about 90 square acres but remains a popular but pleasant place for walking. One area of the Island is set aside for a substantial granite memorial to the popular president Theodore Roosevelt. The rest of the island is made up of woodland, swamp, and trails. With the offending causeway long gone the Island is accessed via a bridge to the south.

To the north edge of the Island, along meandering boardwalk takes you through a large swamp. The area is interesting in as much as there are several unusual species of plants growing there. These were brought to the island when the grounds of the mansion were cultivated after the mansion was abandoned and eventually collapsed, the plants continued to establish themselves in the warm swampy waters of the Island.

This view, looking west across the island is a five exposure HDR composite. It captures the peaceful aspect of the Island which on a warm summers day provides an interesting walk and a little bit of presidential history.

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