Dumbarton Bridge and House

We are in between exhibitions at the moment, but in addition to the permanent collection, we have a special small exhibit about the construction of the Dumbarton Bridge.

Did you know that 100 years ago, as the bridge was being built, Dumbarton House was forced to move nearly the length of a football field? We commemorate this incredible and unprecedented feat with photos and newspaper articles about this iconic “Buffalo” Bridge.

After nearly a decade of petitioning by many prominent Georgetown women, the District Appropriation Act was finally approved March 2, 1911, providing for the construction of a bridge at Q Street and a park on Georgetwon Heights. Many residents had lobbied for the construction of a bridge, bit no one was as steadfast and determined a Miss Louisa Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse, who was born and raised in Dumbarton House (then known as Bellevue), wrote letters to the D.C. Commissioner and organizing committees as early as 1903, recommending an appropriation by Congress for the construction of a bridge across Rock Creek.

With the legislation passed, the design of the bridge was awarded to architect Glenn Brown and his son Bedford Brown IV. Brown designed a 342-foot long curved bridge with arches resembling an aqueduct, but also featuring iconic American symbols, including 4 large American bison and 56 hand-carved heads in the likenes of American Indians.

As bridge construction began in 1914; Bellevue became the newest point of contention. Negotiations on the location of the house took place from 1911 until the eventual move in 1915, when John Newbold owned the house. Ultimately, the central structure of the home was raised off its foundations, put on rollers, and over a number of weeks moved approximately 70yards north. The work is said to have been completed with the strength of a single white horse, pulling the house an imperceptible amount each day. The wings of the house were torn down and eventually reconstructed, in modified form.

The Buffalo Bridge, formally the Q Street Bridge, was alter renamed the Dumbarton Bridge and still stands strong today, a full century after it’s construction.