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A previous post about the Great Falls and Old Dominion trolley line found discrepancies on early 20th century maps of it. The earliest maps routed the trolley through the old Prospect Hill village on Old Georgetown Pike, just west of today’s Madeira School. But today’s Old Dominion Drive follows the old trolley road bed, which intersects the Pike much farther west. This was either a map error, or the developers rerouted the trolley line in the early teens.
This early route would have run near the now-abandoned town of Matildaville, VA, the former site of Dickey’s Tavern (photo above, courtesy of DC Public Library). The expert on Matildaville seems to be Debbie Robison, so I looked her up and asked her opinion. She thinks it’s a map error. She noted a misspelling error that appeared on an early map and propagated to subsequent maps. She herself had seen no evidence of abandoned tracks or roadbed in the Matildaville area, though she didn’t search off-trail.
So the likely conclusion remains “map error.”
While studying maps of western McLean, Va, where I grew up, I uncovered a mystery.
In 1902, magnate John McLean and politician Stephen Elkins started building a trolley line from Washington, DC, to Great Falls Park (photo at left; see Wikipedia). The tracks show up on maps from 1904 until their removal in the 1930s. The roadbed became Old Dominion Drive, one of the “main streets” of McLean, Va.
Here’s the mystery: The earliest maps showing the tracks between McLean and Great Falls route them differently from today’s Old Dominion Drive. The older maps show the tracks crossing Georgetown Pike near Madeira School, at a village called “Prospect Hill.” The tracks then cross Difficult Run next to the Pike’s bridge. Starting in about 1915, maps show the tracks following today’s Old Dominion Drive.
Why did it change? Was the first map wrong? That seems most likely to me, but still pretty surprising. I’m asking around for evidence that the tracks might have moved. I doubt there is any, but it’s worth investigating. [See update in a newer post]
My neighborhood went through dramatic changes while I grew up. I was 10 miles from Washington, DC. Changes are even more dramatic since I left, about 40 years ago.
I went to the US Geological Survey and collected every map I could find of my neighborhood from 1890 through 1994. I lined them all up and made it into a video. It could be better, but it’s interesting.
I woke up at 5am this morning and decided there was no point in being up that early. I went back to sleep and dreamed of traffic.
It was snowing and I was in a 2-lane column of stuck traffic when some bozo goes speeding past in the narrow breakdown lane. Then the bozo’s car gets stuck in slushy mess just past where we are stopped. I get out of my car, feeling a sense of justice, and I walk over to the side of their car.
The other side is tipping into this pond that appeared by the side of the road. This being a dream, I give the car a gentle push and it tips right over into the lake.
This being Minnesota, I immediately wade into the lake, help the confused occupants from the car, apologizing the whole time.
It’s a couple of hapless 20somethings on their way to family Thanksgiving. Fortunately I wake up just as their Mom arrives to start yelling at me.
I first learned this song from my old friend, Tim Leonard. The song is a tradition in his family and is attributed to their distinguished ancestor, the Reverend Doctor Thornton Bancroft Penfield (1867-1958). The Reverend Doctor was born to missionaries in India but grew up in the US, graduating from Columbia in 1890.
He wrote a fair amount of poetry and had a sense of humor. He did time as class poet at Columbia and he edited various college publications. He also published a book of poems called The Four-Leaved Clover.