Park is at the old divide between city and country

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Park is at the old divide between city and country

August 17, 1995
By Pamela Cressey

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Site plan of the King Street Gardens Park near the King Street Metro Station symbolizes the interface between the western natural landscape and eastern urban grid found here historically.
One afternoon in 1989 an artist walked into the Alexandria Archaeology Museum and started asking me exciting questions about Hooff's Run. This is not a run-of-the-mill experience. Few people even know the name Hooff's Run; fewer still ask questions of such specificity. Exactly where under King Street was Hooff's Run? Did urban development stop here historically and why? Could Hooff's Run be considered the interface between the historic urban grid and the rural/suburban natural landscape?

The artist is Buster Simpson, and this fall his public art project entitled King Street Gardens Park will be dedicated. Buster is a visual artist and member of the park design team, which includes visual artist Laura Sindell, architect Mark Spitzer and landscape architect Becca Hanson. Buster's research into the historic settlement pattern and ecology resulted in the winning proposal for the national design competition sponsored by the King Street Task Force in cooperation with the Alexandria Commission for the Arts.

Working with Buster and all the team was fascinating. They were able to take historical and archaeological information and transform it into public art design with reverberating symbols. What to do with a barren triangle sandwiched in between the King Street Metro, new office buildings, and more traffic lights than most intersections? King Street Gardens Park will bring height, greenery, and serenity to this flat land baking in the summer sun.

The western section of the park has already been planted as a sunken cattail marsh evoking the historic Hooff's Run which is now buried by asphalt. This is the natural non-urban setting which will meet the hard brick surfaces of the eastern park denoting the historic city grid. The brick will be covered by a trellis canopy with a hanging garden of honeysuckle, climbing roses, wisteria, jasmine and clematis.

Separating the marsh and hanging garden is a tall vine-covered topiary in an abstract curved shape. The curvilinear front was inspired by the front of the tricorn hats worn by George Washington and other Alexandria gentlemen in the 18th century. It should provide a noise, visual and sun buffer to people sitting under the hanging garden.

The bricks under the trellis are unique. Many of them will contain the inscribed signatures of the thousands of people who have contributed financially to the park. To date more than 2000 bricks have been purchased. These individuals and businesses have their names stamped or signatures sandblasted into the brick. You can also support the park by purchasing plain bricks.

Time is running out. You must buy your brick by September 4th. Call 703-684-4461 or go to Market Square on Saturdays. The park will be dedicated October 28.

Pamela Cressey is the Alexandria City Archaeologist.

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