Favorite Neighborhood Spot: The National Arboretum

Library TakeoutTeens D.C.

Favorite Neighborhood Spot: The National Arboretum

Destineé writes about this spot perfect for learning about history, nature, or just taking some awesome Instagram photos

The Teen Council writes about their favorite local spots near where they live and work. In this piece, Destineé writes about the nature and history that can be discovered at the National Arboretum, located at 3501 New York Avenue NE. 

My favorite neighborhood spot would have to be the Arboretum. One wouldn’t guess that a historic park containing architectural history and plants from across the world would be hidden in Northeast. On a vacant Saturday, you could drive to the Arboretum and explore!  Earlier, I alluded to the park’s rich history. In the midst of rapid expansion in 1901, the Botanical Garden became less practical for people to leisurely enjoy nature. Congress made the decision to have a park dedicated to nature and botanical research. In 1927, Arboretum was established by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

“... [Aimed to] establish a research and educational facility devoted to studying plants and disseminating information to the American public.” 

Thomas Elias, 

Former director of the Arboretum 

The Arboretum also houses the National Capitol Columns—rustic, smooth structures that served the Capitol building in 1828. When the Capitol building sought expansion in 1958, the pillars were of no use, and were contemplated being destroyed. It wasn’t until Ethel Garret and Russell Page visited the Arboretum in 1984 and made the decision to move them there did the pillars find their home.

What was once 189 acres of land is now 446 acres. The Arboretum holds over 7,000 plant species and continues to top that number. Biologists at the Arboretum breed plants in their greenhouses. They then send those plants to different locales around the country. Those wanting to get involved can ask to intern, work or observe. 

“When I actually got an offer to work at the National Arboretum, and work in archiving, I was thinking, ‘That’s really good experience for any person in a history major.’” ~Katie Krulak, 

 Intern, Classical History Major 

Enjoy the Arboretum on a bike. Feeling the wind hit your face as you glide through the park is nothing but bliss. The scents you’ll smell from fresh shrubbery engulfs you like waves. Find the tallest hill in the park where, through the dark oak trees, you can see all of DC bustling below. Then race down that hill at full speed. You’ll never forget that adrenaline rush!  If you prefer more calming leisure, take your friends and hike through the Arboretum’s leafy trails and grassy hills. There are picturesque places all over the park, but some of the spots you’ll enjoy the most are the ones you can’t find on the map. Take time to read the labels of the plants around the park. Take in their thick, sweet scents. 

The Arboretum is literally for everyone. Your interests may be in uncovering local history. Perhaps you’re looking for a new spot for some Instagram photos. If you’re like me, you enjoy wandering through nature only to get absolutely lost. Regardless of your interests, the Arboretum will be a perfect spot for you!

Further reading: 
The United States National Arboretum, America's living museum : a guide to the major gardens and collections by Erik A. Neumann
Featured in: 
Walking Washington, D.C. : 30 treks to the newly revitalized capital's cultural icons, natural spectacles, urban treasures, and hidden gems  by Barbara J. Saffir.
The preliminary plan for the National Botanical Gardens and Arboretum is available to view on the library's DigDC digital archive.