Streams and Springs

Names that appear in news accounts, on old maps, and in other records.



Bear Wallow Spring, Bear Pump

A spring at or near the intersection of 35th Street and Reservoir Road, most likely near the southwest corner. By 1889 there was a pump at this spring. (Georgetown Courier, April 3, 1869; Washington Star, Sept. 21, 1889)



The Branch

A stream that originated just east of Wisconsin Avenue, near Fulton Street, possibly in the spring that furnished the Georgetown Poor and Workhouse with its water, “always colder and better than Potomac water”.  (Georgetown Courier, July 13, 1872)

Its upper reaches––which had archeological significance––were filled in between 1890, when the streetcar barn was built, and 1965, after the Naval Observatory consolidated its circle. The stream now emerges into daylight below the Observatory, and passes behind the Georgetown Safeway and through Dumbarton Oaks and Montrose Parks.

The earliest reference found speaks of “the Great Branch of Rock Creek that leads to the Sawmill, thence to the Main Road”. Robert Barnard, who lived where the British Embassy is today, seems to have referred to the same stream as Spring Branch, and a later Georgetowner called it simply “the branch”.  The author of “Roadside Sketches”, on the other hand, called it Bridal Brook, a name which may be guessed to refer to the bridle path that followed it.  (Will of George Beall, March 15, 1780; Barnard to Corporation of Georgetown, 1832, ms., Historical Society of Washington; Gordon, Records of the Columbian Historical Society, 18:79; Washington Star, August 15, 1891)

For the better part of the 19th century this stream would have been periodically fouled by waste from slaughterhouses along Wisconsin Avenue, and from the tannery that operated where the Safeway is today. By 1900 those activities had declined considerably, but the odor of the Industrial Home School’s septic field was quite noticeable at the point where Observatory Lane crossed the branch. The superintendent of the Observatory, concerned that the diseases of orphans might infect his staff, complained repeatedly, but without effect. (District of Columbia Engineer Files)



College Run


College Run, 1874 (Georgetown University Archives)

College Run, 1874 (Georgetown University Archives)


This stream shows up well on Ellicot’s 1794 map, the 1887 Hopkins map, and the 1894 and 1903 Baist maps. Today it runs––more or less––under 37th Street, NW.

One branch of College Run originated north of the intersection of Tunlaw Road and 37th Street; the other near Huidekoper Place and Beecher Street. The two branches met near T and 37th, crossed Reservoir Road at about 38th. South of Reservoir Road, on its passage through the grounds of Georgetown College the stream was sometimes called Beech Brook. Here the stream was flanked by a woodland path called the Walks (possibly modeled on the Philosophenweg in Heidelberg). (Georgetown University, A Pictorial Review, Georgetown University Alumni Association, 1976, pp.61-3)

College Run reached the Potomac through what is now the Canal Road entrance to Georgetown University. (Georgetown Courier, September 19, 1874; “Roadside Sketches”, Star, July 25, August 8, 1891)

Between 1886 and 1907, the free flow of College Run was impeded by the interrupted work on the water supply tunnel––part of which runs under S street in Burleith––that connected the Distributing Reservoir, on MacArthur Boulevard, with the McMillan Reservoir, on North Capitol Street.

“H.W. Huidekoper has been informed that the filling of Thirty-ninth and T streets by private parties has stopped a natural water course, causing pools of water to collect. He is directed to restore the water course to its original condition or have a drain constructed.” (“District Building”, Washington Post, April 3, 1888, p.8)

Frederic W. Huidekoper brought in more than three million cubic yards of fill to eliminate the resulting pond at 37th between S and T Streets. The rest of College Run, channeled into storm drains under the northward extension of 37th street, gradually disappeared from view between 1891 and 1897.  (Star, August 15, 1891; Washington Post, October 24, 1939)

Margaret Woodward, a Hall Place resident since 1913, recalled the upper end of this stream as Schneider’s Run, andthat, as late as 1920, the area at the intersection of 37th and Tunlaw was swampy, and had plentiful frogs that she could hear her from her window on Hall Place on summer nights.  (Office of the Surveyor, County Books 8,10; Senate Report 409, “Extension of Thirty-seventh Street”, 52nd Congress, 1st Session, March 18, 1892;  Glover Park Gazette, February 2010, p.14.; see Margaret Woodward.)



Foundry Branch

The stream just west of Glover Park appears on Ellicot’s 1794 map as Deep Branch; in the beginning of the 20th century it was spoken of (at least once) as Deep Run, and  (at least once) as Tunlaw Brook(John Clagett Proctor, Star, June 29, 1919; Washington Herald, April 3, 1915, p.3)

The name by which this stream is known today was born in 1800, when Henry Foxall––defense contractor, Methodist preacher, and mayor of Georgetown––established the Columbian Foundry (1800-1854) near its mouth.

(Evening Star, April 13, 1893, p.3; Louis F. Gorr, “The Foxall-Columbia Foundry: An Early Defense Contractor in Georgetown”, CHS 48, 1971/72, pp.34–59; Madison Davis, “The Old Cannon Foundry Above Georgetown, D.C. and its first owner Henry Foxall”, CHS 11, 1908: Jane B. Donovan, Henry Foxall: Methodist, Industrialist, American, 2017)


Foxall’s Columbia Foundry (detail of a panorama of Georgetown, 1865, Library of Congress)

Foxall’s Columbia Foundry (detail of a panorama of Georgetown, 1865, Library of Congress)



 Carlton Fletcher

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